So you reached the top of Half Dome. You even got the revered TShirt. For your next venture I challenge you to get to the top of the “Yosemite Portland Cement Company” Incline. Say what??
This was perhaps the hardest hike I have ever done. The “Online” is located 11 miles west of El Portal between the Ferguson Rockfall and Briceburg. Old maps will show it as “Emory.” There is no settlement there, just the Merced, then the Railroad track bed, then a step 2,000 ft hill. In 1928 the Yosemite Portland Cement Company began mining limestone in the hills – a critical component of concrete.
To get the mineral down and to market, the company opened a rail line set at 41 degrees to transport limestone from the upper hills down to trains at the Merced River. Picture a reail track going from the train bed up almost to the top of the ridge.
There were two standard gauge rails to allow carts carrying 13 tons of ore. A 230 HP motor operated a cable system to hoist the cars up in 4 minutes. The Great Depression sunk the market for cement and the plant gradually faded away with Henry Kaiser bouight it out in 1944; partially to remove competition from his own operations.
You will see several remnant buildings on the north side of the Merced. You can look high and at 2300 feet you will make out a grey concrete block. How to go? OK, I’ll share it with you. Park your car at a wide bend southwest. Put on TEVAs and use your poles to get across the river. It’s low this time of year. You will see a few buildings left over form when Hwy 140 was built in the1920’s. (No trespassing.) Go to the left of the buildings and traverse through the trees. Not too hard – but just wait. You will be able to see the concrete block as you get higher.
Keep going higher. You’ll see a tree-filled gully between you and a manzanita field. Get through this – good luck. It’s very dense and I got stuck for a while. Make your way to the left of the manzanita and up to the block. It’s steep and hard.
You can see that the block was the anchor for the rail & cables. Neat.
Bring 3 quarts of water. I almost ran out. I was alone and kinda felt that I could have been a statistic. “Man found on mountains hillside.”
Next time you’re on Highway 140 stop and look at the Incline. It’s near an old billboard promoting Savage’s Trading Post. By the way there are 2 more Inclines – one near El Portal and one near the Cedar Lodge. Hmmmmm – maybe???
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” – The world’s most interesting man.
*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com