Earlier in August, myself and 5 others embarked on a one day summit of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Below are some of my favorite images from the day along with route info and some tips and tricks.
We arose at 3 am on Wednesday morning, got dressed, drank coffee, ate a bar, and hit the road. Camping at Crane Flat, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the trail head. By the time we parked and got our gear ready, it was 4:15 am. Parking in August in Yosemite is a bit of a bear, but we found a spot about 3/4 miles from the trail head.
TIP: Start before Sunrise, the trail is less crowded and more importantly the cables will be less crowded.
We took the Mist Trail up past Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. I would highly recommend doing this trail on the way up. This trail gets extremely crowded, but at 4 am, we had the trail to ourselves. Prepare to get a little wet, and take your time as it can be slippery.
TIP: Mist Trail in the morning before it gets crowded.
At the top of the Mist Trail, you connect with the Half Dome Trail. This trail you need a permit to hike. You can enter the lottery here. We got our permits in the preseason lottery, but there is a daily drawing as well. The Half Dome trail runs along the Merced River and the first mile or so is fairly flat. The last place to fill up water is from the Merced, so I would recommend topping off before you begin climbing your way up to the dome.
TIP: Bring water filtration device, easier and lighter than packing all your water.
The Half Dome Trail leads you up the backside of the mountain on your way to the granite stair case of Sub Dome. You leave the cover of the trees here and begin your ascent up Sub Dome. The stairs are steep and most of the time very narrow. Take your time here as you are almost at the cables.
Once we got to the top of Sub Dome you finally see the cables up close. I am not going to lie, they scared the living daylight out of me. While sitting there with our squad, we all almost turned around. We were tired and it looked like we had to walk straight up a wall to get to the top. The good news is we all decided to give the cables a shot. Once we got on the cables, they were not as bad as they looked. Still a little scary though.
TIP: Cables are not as bad as they look. Bring gloves. Keep at least one hand on the cables at all times.
The top was an amazing victory. We could see all of Yosemite Valley. We ate lunch, took a shot of bourbon, looked over unbelievably steep cliffs, took a short nap and then mustered the strength to head down. There was a traffic jam on the cables on the way down. It terrified some in our group having to sit on the side of a cliff for almost 45 minutes. But if this happens to you, don't panic and just take it one board at a time. You will eventually make it down.
We decided to take the Muir Trail back instead of the Mist Trail. It is a bit longer, but you get some incredible views of Half Dome and Nevada Falls. Plus the Mist Trail is very crowded in the afternoon and probably would have taken longer even though it is a shorter distance.
TIP: Definitely take the Muir Trail on the way back.
We finished the hike in about 14 hours and our multiple fitness tracking apps had us at anywhere from 18-22 miles. This is longer than the estimates I read, but based on our different data sources, this is what our team settled on for overall distance. Our car being so far from the trail head definitely added 2 or so miles. Elevation gain was around 4,500 ft.
- Hydration Pack - Osprey 36L, bigger than you need, but I bring a lot of gear.
- Hiking Poles - Really helpful, especially on the way down.
- Water Filtration - I use a Sawyer squeeze system. It works great.
- Gloves - a must for the cables, I used deer skin gardening gloves.
- Hat, Sunglasses, Sunscreen
- Binoculars - not necessary, but nice to have.
- Sandwich, Bars, Victory flask of Bourbon
- Extra Socks - We didn't get wet on the Mist Trail, but a sock change really helped some of our squad.
- Micro Towel - we took a dip in the Merced on the way down, nice to dry the feet especially before putting the boots back on.
Predawn looking up Merced River.
Four Macleod Brothers at top of Vernal Falls.
Matt next to Nevada Falls.
Half Dome Trail at Sunrise.
Chris just before Sub Dome. Getting a little tired.
Granite Stair Case of Sub Dome.
Half Dome Cables.
Summit Squad minus Caitlin.
Top of Half Dome.
Looking down Yosemite Valley on Top of Half Dome.
As close as I will get to the edge.
Matt dangles his feet over the edge. His shorts were permanently stained ;-).
Looking back at Nevada Falls from the Muir Trail with Half Dome in the distance.