My group woke at 5:30 a.m. to do the climb. The man leading the team said in his experience many areas get congested during the hike. Therefore, an earlier start time makes for getting through the hike more smoothly. It was rough getting up so early in the cold, but in the end, it was worth it. The scenery is stunning throughout the entire hike. From start to finish you will see many waterfalls and scenic overlooks. Even if you don’t make it all the way to Half Dome, the hike up to the base of subdome alone makes the journey worthwhile. For me, the most physically challenging part of the trek was subdome. It feels almost vertical. You have to traverse to do the climb. It is the only part I needed to take a moment to catch my breath. If you take it slow, it is very doable for most skill sets, but it is where things get intense. Also, it is where you start to realize how much elevation you have gained.
After sub-dome are the cables. People do freak out on the cables. I try to be patient but in front of me was a man who had to coax his girlfriend the entire way up the cables. It backed the line up tremendously. You are going to be up high. If you are afraid of heights, you need to mentally prepare yourself. Go on a few other hikes where you will engage your fear of heights. I encourage you to conquer your fears, but not at the expense of making a long line of people back down the cables. It is high, it is scary, and if you climb with common sense, you will be fine. I used a safety harness. I was the only one from my group to do so. Having that extra bit of protection was a mental boost. I felt safer, so I was able to move faster. I am scared of heights, but I was fine.
A woman in our group began to panic upon seeing the cables. She took this time to confess she had a paralyzing fear of heights. Our guide had led many people up Half Dome and was able to talk her through her fears. She got on the cables and made the climb. If you do have a fear of heights this climb is very doable, but mental preparation is necessary.
At the top, I was graced with one of the most beautiful views I have ever had the privilege to experience.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a man I will call, “The Writer.” I wanted to be the first one from my group to make it back. I wanted the bragging rights. So I started my descent in a slow jog, when I heard, “not that way.” I gave a head nod to the man giving me the advice. Within a few feet, I heard once again, “nope.” After a few more tries I said, “why don’t I stick with you.” Side note: I have zero sense of direction. Running down to camp the trail would split into a defined path or walk into a cliff face. For some reason, I would inevitably choose the cliff face.
The Writer and his companion accompanied me for a few hours as we made our way downhill. I have only lightly kept in touch with him since the hike, but I love the fact that my adventures keep bringing fascinating people into my life. And a thank you to The Writer for saving me the humiliation of getting lost on a path with a clearly defined trail.
Of all the things I have accomplished, Half Dome is one of my favorites. I highly recommend taking on this challenge if you are looking for a new goal. Obtain a permit, then get out on the trails and experience the beauty that California has to offer.