Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
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Today we talk Yosemite nomenclature. When many people go up the final rise just before Half Dome, they look at Sub Dome and think it is called “Quarter Dome.” Heck, I did too. Makes sense…you go up the quarter to get to the half, right? The truth is that there are a cluster of smaller domes below Cloud’s Rest. These domes were clearly under the glaciers and were carved by the action of the ice grinding slowly away at the granite. If you have a good topo map, this terrain is labeled “quarter domes.” They are hard to get to. The Tenaya Canyon is treacherous and not recommended for hikers. The smooth granite and steep banks make this a dumb move.
When I wrote my award worthy book, I queried the Wilderness Rangers on this. They call it “Sub Dome”. But it isn’t labeled on any maps I’ve seen. Guess you can’t name every pebble in the park. It is important to be consistent, for emergency rescue if nothing else. Hate to send a rescue team to the real quarter domes because you thought the route up to Half Dome was called Quarter Dome. So spread the word – it’s Sub Dome, not Quarter Dome. Other names I’ve heard are Devil’s Staircase or the Grand Staircase or the shoulder or the Knee Grinder. It’s a man-made switchback built in 1919, that goes up 400 vertical feet and is often not even mentioned in talks about Half Dome. The steps are narrow and I contend that it is can be as hard as the actual cables in difficulty. They were actually “improved” in 2005 and the route was often closed on weekdays. Honestly, I could not tell the difference. I highly recommend hiking poles to go up and down. If one was to fall I think the odds are great here. Be careful.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “The warden threw a party in the county jail. The prison band was there and they began to wail. The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing. You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing.” – Jailhouse Rock, Elvis Presley
*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com