Yosemite’s 81-Year Old Hiking Machine

Today I’d like to tell you a story about 81-year old Richard S. (name withheld to keep the women from contacting him). I met him at the Yosemite Lodge Mountain Room bar last year. He was set on hiking Half Dome for his 4th time. The first time was about 40 years ago with his son, who was then in High School. Fast forward to this last August. Son is now 54 and dad is pushing 82

This is great. I hear from many who say they are having their 40th or 50th or 60th birthday and wonder if it’s late to make it up the cables. NO!!  Just do it!  I’ll turn the mic over to Dick for the play by play.  

In March, we failed at the Cable lottery. We  wanted to climb on Saturday, August 4 (my birthday is August 6), so we put in 3 bids in the 2-day mini-lottery on Aug. 2, and were were rejected on all 3 tries.  Then next day, Aug 3 we again put in 3 bids, and we won permits for Aug 4. We decided to do an acclimatization hike on Aug. 3. We elected the Mist Trail to Nevada Fall, and take the John Muir Trail down.  In retrospect, this hike was a bit too strenuous–and, as you suggested in your book, you shouldn’t do anything too hard immediately before Half Dome. 

On this particular hike, I realized when I had to take many stops just going up the steps to Vernal, that it was highly unlikely that I would summit H.D.  I also felt the same on the last slog to Nevada.  But among the sights was something even you, perhaps had not seen. Coming down from near the top of Nevada Fall on the Mist Trail, was a hiker with backpack, climbing poles, and those funny 5-toed shoes which he had STRAPPED to his BACKPACK–and he was descending in BARE FEET 

Going down the John Muir, I felt pain in my big toes on each and every step. I thought I had adequately evaluated and broken in my hiking boots in previous hikes in the San Jose are, but I was wrong.  (I now have the black big toes to prove that).  I resolved to return said shoes on my return to Saratoga, and to use my trail shoes with Vibram soles but of course,  no ankle support)

 We left Yosemite Lodge at the Falls at 4:00 A.M., Sunday August 5. and drove to Glacier Point.  Started hiking the Panorama at shortly after 5:00 A.M.  Got down to the Illilouette Falls bridge in a couple of hours, and David actually saw the tiny trickle of water  (which cannot be seen from the Happy Isles–Vernal Fall bridge trail at this drought time of year).  We made it to the top of Nevada in 3+ hours.  And I felt good and strong –unlike my last 3 times climbing the Mist to that point.  So I was greatly encouraged. 

Eating and drinking well.  After Little Yosemite Valley, I began to feel the need to stop more and more frequently–the same experience I had 2 years previously.  Never got to your Little Spring before I felt we had to turn around at 1:30 P.M.  Although I was disappointed not to summit, nevertheless, noting that I was by far the oldest climber on the trail that day, I had a certain sense of pride in what I did accomplish. 

We completed the down slog on the John Muir (for the second time in 3 days!) just after 6, and got to the Lodge by 7.  You probably know that the shuttle from Happy Isles to Yosemite Lodge takes a full hour.  To say that we were exhausted is a gross understatement. 

My son David did summit–and he spent an entire hour on top.  He returned to the hotel at 9:00 P.M., and immediately said to me: “congratulations, you made it!” — when I replied that I didn’t understand what he meant, he said that the reason he got on top, was due to my urging, purchasing some equipment (and the 2d edition of your book), and general encouragement. 

So, all in all, this was a satisfactory experience.  And it is possible that my next attempt will be a long, long time in the future.

Dick – this is great motivation for us all. Let’s do it again in 2013!!

Other news:

1. The Yosemite Conservancy’s Fall Gathering will be held on September 29 down in Wawona. See the registration page.

 2. On Wednesday Sept 19, from 5:30 – 8 PM there will be a temporary closure of El Portal Road (Highway 140) between Cascade Creek and Pohono Bridge, and from Cascade Creek on the Big Oak Flat Road to the Big Oak Flat Road/El Portal Rd junction. The roads will be closed in order to remove a large boulder from the slope above El Portal Road, just west of the El Portal Road/Big Oak Flat Road junction.

3. A 9th person was reported stricken by the hantavirus and has recovered. 230,00 notices have been sent to visitors who have stay in Curry.

4. I’ll be hiking Half Dome this weekend. Blog may be late depending on wifi at Curry.

Unrelated thought worth quoting :An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” – Ghandi

MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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2 Responses to Yosemite’s 81-Year Old Hiking Machine

  1. Tom says:

    Yo Rick- where will you be carbin’ up Friday night? (I think you mentioned you where hiking Sat?). I’ll be in the Park.

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