Half Dome — Page 10

Yosemite Trail Sign

The Mist Trail

From the base of the cables to Curry Village is a long way down. Assuming an average pace, hikers should allow 5-6 hours for the descent to avoid having to hike back in darkness.

And as I'm speeding downward, my thoughts remain on my neighbors, the time of day, and their terribly slow pace. I'm running the numbers and regretting not taking a moment to ask them if they realize the day is getting late. Do they have headlamps? Jackets? Food? Enough water?

The Mist Trail - Steep Steps A Rapid Descent Yosemite's Iconic Nevada Falls The Trail to Vernal Falls

Such trailside advice is typically not appreciated, but still, I'd feel better if I'd said something.

Hopefully they'll abandon the cables and turn back soon.

As for myself, I'm absolutely parched when I finally reach water at the base of Half Dome Trail's switchbacks.

I peel off my shirt, wet my head, and filter some water, which I immediately drink. This looks like a good place to rest, and so I do, sitting down in the shade to cool off a bit.

From here, I've got about a mile of mostly flat travel back across Yosemite Valley to the top of Nevada Falls, where I will descend via the Mist Trail.

Unlike my ascent route, the meandering John Muir Trail, the Mist Trail is steep and short, providing by far the quickest route up or down.

Also unlike the John Muir Trail, the Mist Trail travels right up against both Nevada and Vernal Falls, giving the trail its name (it can be very wet, particularly in Spring).

Back in motion, I cross the sandy section of Little Yosemite Valley. At the junction to the Mist Trail I turn right, heading down. Right from the start, the Mist Trail drops steeply via granite steps in a shaded nook.

Soon, I emerge from beneath the trees into sunlight and in-you-face views of Nevada Falls.

I nearly land on my back as I'm gawking while walking—it's hard to look away from the spectacle of nearby Nevada Falls.

I'm not the only one who's taken by the view of the falls. Roving gangs of photographers lurk about, many with heavy tripods on their shoulders. Probably setting long exposures to blur the rushing water, I reckon. Meanwhile, for me, tired legs, slick granite, and grand scenery make for a tricky combination. I resolve to watch my steps.

The Mist Trail continues its aggressive descent, traveling just north of the mighty falls, down, down, down. Though it may be a little scandalous to suggest it, I'm beginning to think that by leaving the Mist Trail for the end of today's Half Dome adventure, I've saved the best for last. And we've yet to reach Vernal Falls, which lies just ahead...

next: Vernal Falls

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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