Half Dome // yose
After spending my summer in Chicago, I came back home with a void from not having spent time in the mountains. Luckily, a friend of mine happened to win some Half Dome lottery and we were set to go at the end of September. We had both done it before, so we though, "Hey, why not hike through the night to catch the sunrise?"
Day 0 - A night full of stars
We left Sunday, after church and got to the valley at around 10pm. When we got out of the car, we were greeted with a night sky full of stars and the milky way. I immediately began taking long exposures and watched climbers' headlamps illuminate part of El Capitan.
Miles hiked: 0 // Trip morale: high
Day 1 - Taking it easy
It was so surreal that I was actually in Yosemite; for the first time this year! I'm pretty sure I had been to Yosemite over 10 times last year, so it felt so good to be back. The goals of today were to relax, but spend some time up in elevation, so that I can acclimate to prevent altitude sickness. After roaming the meadows of the valley, we made our way up to Glacier Point and gazed upon the goal of our hike the following day. Then, we hiked to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point for sunset. Sunsets at Taft Point are amazing and I happened to run into @Benjhaisch, who was shooting an elopement. After the sun had set, we made our way back down to the valley, set our alarms to 12:20am, and tried to catch some sleep in the car
Miles hiked: 5 mi. // Trip Morale: still pretty high
Day 2 - Miles, Hours, Elevation
I got absolutely no sleep. It's probably because I can never sleep in the car. So when the alarm finally went off, it was a huge relief to start getting ready for our hike.
We first went through our gears: water, trekking poles, headlamps, food, all things that you'd find in an REI catalog. I've had plenty of trips where I've overpacked, and by this point, I've learned from enough experience to lighten my load. Then we munched on some food, drank some super-early "morning" coffee, stashed all things smelly into the bear boxes, and began our hike. By then, it was 2am, still dark out, but surprisingly warm out.
The first 3 miles were a breeze. Crushed it all under an hour. I normally average 2 miles an hour, so when my friend told me we had just did 3 miles, I felt pretty elated. Small victories. But right after this point, the lack of sleep started to hit. We had just crossed a bridge to hike up Nevada Falls and were making our way up. At some point, the trail wasn't so clear and we found a path that was clearly a "trail," but it felt like we had just U-turned. I didn't think much of it, but it felt odd that we were going downhill...and not going up switchbacks, which I knew we were supposed to. Because it was so dark, we don't get to see too many landmarks, so it was hard to tell if we were actually going the right or wrong way. And that's when we came to the bridge that we had crossed earlier. We had turned around and hiked our way back down to Vernall Falls. Our morales had taken a hit, not just because we had hiked our way down, but that this put us on a tighter schedule to make it to Half Dome by sunrise.
We slowly made our way back up to Nevada Falls, making sure we stayed on trail. Soon, we passed Little Yosemite Valley and began our way up to the Sub Dome. By each minute, we were getting tired from the physical exertion and the lack of sleep. It also didn't help that we both knew how tough the Sub Dome was going to be. If you hate working out and hate the StairMaster even more, the Sub Dome is StairMaster set at the max level. We were moving at the slowest pace ever, one step at a time and taking a break every minute. And then, the dome plateaued, and the cables became visible. A momentary relief.
At the cables, we were the 3rd party there. The other 2 had just started their ascent up the cables. We later found out that they had backpacked overnight at Little Yosemite Valley and only had to hike 4 miles to get here. You can tell from the photo below that the sun was definitely getting ready to come out and there was no longer a need for headlamps. We fueled up with some energy jelly beans, put on our gloves and made our way up the cables. Honestly, the cables aren't that bad, it's actually not even that scary, it's just pretty damn exhausting. And when I got to the top, a bit before the sunrise, I didn't feel accomplished right away, more exhausted. I waited for the sun to come out behind the Sierras, and just as it did, my friend had finished the cables, just in time to begin his birthday celebration.
Photo taking ensued, and we were surprised to find out that there's cell phone coverage at the top, which led to my friend FaceTiming his family, and me posting a pic on Insta. What was once an idea, finally became reality. A reality that completely wrecked our bodies. lol. We had been popping Ibuprofen regularly and we would need to keep it up for the hike down, because now our knees would be taking a beating. And they did their magic. The 7 miles down went by quick and we were back in the valley, at Half Dome village, devouring a pizza and beers.
Miles hiked: over 15 // trip morale: all over the place, mood swings
By night time, I knew for sure that I had swelling in both my right hip and knee. Walking like a normal person was impossible, as we were both waddling around. By the way, my friend just turned 34 and I had turned 27 the previous week. I hadn't hiked all summer and it was good to know that my body was still capable of hiking something like the Half Dome, despite our bodies taking a huge toll. It's a special hike and we did it in a unique way that we know not many people get to do. This is definitely something that I highly recommend to everyone and if you have any questions for me, feel free to reach out!