Beyond the Half Dome

OMG… the alarm is very loud as it rings in our ears at 0545. Ouch! Having packed last night and with brekkie (curry dinner left overs 🙂 ) packed too, to munch when we reach the top, we set off on the hike around 0613.

We don’t see a sole. Lots of squirrels and bambi’s, but no people … not until we have a clear view of the sub dome. Then we can’t believe it, there’s nearly a dozen bodies DESCENDING the Half Dome!!! It’s barely 0800. What time must they have set off? Good effort! They’ll certainly have seen sunrise up top. It was dark when we left the campsite, we were walking nearly half an hour before it was light enough/our eyes adjusted to do without our torches. These guys must have walked the whole way up in the dark!!!

[Half Dome for those of you who don’t know, is a huge granite rock, in the park that stands nearly 5,000ft from the valley floor and was 1st ascended in 1875]

It’s 0845 when we reach the top (2hr30 it’s taken us from the midway campsite). We chat to the guys on their way down. There are 2 groups. The first is a group of 4, they left from the bottom in the early hours and were 1st up. The second, we lost count, maybe 8, maybe 10, they left it empty, so when we got there we had it to ourselves. Well for 20 minutes anyway, when we were joined by a guy … his mate couldn’t manage the cables, got vertigo 🙁 … he tells us they ran from the bottom, took them 3hr20!!!! Woh! He’s a local guy and he’s climbed this about 20 times already.

After lots of photo’s we settle down and have brekkie (on our own again) and enjoy the view and silence……

When we’ve had our fill we take our time going down, taking more photo’s on the way, managing to get nearly all the way to the bottom of the cables before anyone else arrives to climb up.

When they do it’s a bit tricky to pass each other. Especially when we meet a family with a very scared teenage daughter between them. They’re all clipped on to the cables with slings and caribiners, (in fact nearly everyone we pass are clipped on, we aren’t… hhmm) but she freaks quite a bit at the prospect of getting up past us coming down…. We find a safe spot to sit on the vertical slab bracing ourselves against the uprights and let them pass in their own time. Tip: there’s a stack of gloves at the bottom of the cables climb that anyone is free to use, you don’t need them on the way up, but they really help on the way down.

After we’re safely off the Half Dome we pass a lot of people on the way down but no where near the 300 who supposedly have passes each day. We also come across a Ranger at bottom of sub dome checking permits.

And, we see a snake, a garter snake we think, harmless …. But still no bears. Back at the campsite we pack up our tent and the rest of our food we left in the bearbox, then we head for the river for a water resupply that we have to treat and leave 30 minutes before drinking.

It’s now 1230 and we decide to walk back to the waterfall before having lunch, guessing this’ll take 30 minutes, the time the water needs. Again we see no one till we get to the waterfall, the campsite is near deserted and there’s no one on the trail.  At the top of the waterfall – “Nevada Falls” it’s pretty busy with lunchers but after this we take a different route down, avoiding most of the day trippers till near the bottom, it’s not quite as scenic, but that said we do get a great view of the falls from a distance

There’s still mullets wearing flip-flops and inappropriate footwear! We reach the bottom around at 1512, having taken 2hr10 to descend!

We go find the car, we parked in the middle of the car park this time, away from all foliage – couldn’t risk it a second time, and get on the road. Not wanting to get caught up in end of day traffic leaving the park we don’t hang about. Just two stops, one for a fizzy drink and one for a photo of El Capitan on way out.

After a slight detour/wild goose chase trying to find an REI, we finally arrive back at basecamp Waddington’s around 2030. Where we give them a low-down on the trip in exchange for some of Angie’s Pasta dish, then it’s a shower and beddi-byes …zzzzzz

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