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The Cables on Half Dome


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Well, we made it! For my friend's 60th birthday we decided to climb the cables on Half Dome in Yosemite. Our planning started in early 2013 when we submitted our requested dates - and alternate dates to the lottery. They only allow 300 people a day on Half Dome. A person can request one date and six alternate dates. So out of the 28 possible dates (we had 2 other friends submit dates for us too), we were awarded two dates. July 13 and a date in September.

The day finally arrived, after much anxiety and excitement. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I watched numerous YouTube videos and alternately reassured myself--and freaked myself out!

We stayed in Curry Village - about a mile from the trail head. Curry Village is where several people last year came down with the Hanta Virus and died. I referred to it as Home Sweet Hanta virus Home! LOL.

So the day of the hike, we got up in the dark and started hiking about 4:40 am. We wanted to beat the crowds to the cables - and the round trip is said to take between 10 and 12 hours. We climbed up the Mist Trail as the sun rose. The water falls, Vernal and Nevada, were beautiful. The power in the flow of the water is not to be taken lightly as there were warning signs posted throughout the trail telling of the recent June death of a teenager who was swept over. Once we passed Nevada Falls, we entered little Yosemite Valley where the Merced River runs and this is also the last stop for water. We were fine going up but knew to stop on the way back down and filter water so we had enough to make the trip back to camp.

Once past little Yosemite Valley - where the backpacker camp and a wilderness ranger station is tucked away - we started up the switchbacks that led to the sub-dome. 600 hundred some-odd steps up the sub-dome. Some of the narrow steps felt like they were almost 2 feet high. Up and up we went. Near the top of the sub-dome, the trail and steps disappeared and one had to walk up a slippery granite slope - no trail in sight and no hand holds. This was scarier to me than the actual cables!

We reached the saddle and came in full view of the cables about 9:30 am. We had hiked about 7 miles so far with an elevation gain of over 4000 feet. We put on our our rubber gloves (there was a pile of gloves at the base of the cables discarded by previous hikers for others to use but the forest service hates this pile and asked that everyone pack out what they brought in), we secured our packs, switched on the Go Pro, donned our tiaras (yes, Tiaras!!) and up the cables we went.

Pull! We were very focused on the task at hand because it took all our attention - and upper body strength to pull our ourselves up. The granite is VERY slick and our boots slid out from under us several times. Luckily, when we were headed up, there were only about 6 other people on the cables.

Once we reached the apex about 25 minutes later, we saw that there were at least 20 other people already at the top. The top of Half Dome is HUGE! Like several football fields huge. We spent about an hour on top, eating lunch, high-fiving each other, calling home to say we made it [great cell service on top], taking pictures and dangling our legs off the edge. Coming back down the cables, there was quite a long line of people coming up and down, but everyone was very polite - asking if they could pass, or resting while we passed. The cables are only 3 feet wide, so two people really had to squeeze to get by at the same time. I came down kinda sideways and my GPS popped out of its holder and went bouncing all the wayyyyyy downnnnn. FORE! Hope I didn't take out a climber.

Jubilant over our accomplishment, we hiked back, stopping at the Merced River to filter more water, and to dip our feet, eat more food (I ate a lot), taking the John Muir trail back to Curry Village. The Muir is recommended because its less steep (a horse trail) and not so many people - even though it added an couple more miles. We got back to camp just after 6pm - and hiked a total of about 18 miles. With this milestone under our belt, I am left to wonder what I will do for MY 60th birthday. Perhaps Mt Whitney!!

Half Dome as seen from the valley floor. See the little 'visor' or lip on the edge of the dome? That's where we sat and dangled our legs over.

The Pile-O Gloves

Me sitting on the very edge.

The top of Half Dome is BIG!

Jubilant and successful at the bottom of the cables after climbing up and down.

Liberty Cap as seen from the John Muir trail on the way back.







Edited by TollerMom
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Aaron Zagrodnick

Glad to hear that the trip was a success. (Other than the GPS!) Looks like an amazing view from the top.

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  • 2 months later...
  • 8 months later...

Sounds like you enjoyed your trip! I've done half dome three times and have seen a few "things" fall off the dome. I've always wanted to circumnavigate the base of half dome and see what kind of interesting things one would find down there!

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Walking Enigma

At its steepest on the cables, what would you say is the steepest that you are with obviously 90o being vertical?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Steep enough that your feet are sliding out from under you and you are looking up at the guy above you. The slope is about 45-50 percent.

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Sounds like you enjoyed your trip! I've done half dome three times and have seen a few "things" fall off the dome. I've always wanted to circumnavigate the base of half dome and see what kind of interesting things one would find down there!

Let me know if you find my GPS! :-)

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