Half Dome — Page 12

Hikers on the Mist Trail


Expectation, I've learned, is a funny thing: the more you anticipate being dazzled, the more likely you are to be disappointed. So maybe it's best to think of Yosemite as just another place.

For those who've never been, come with no preconceived notions, no expectations, and let this place make whatever impression it will upon you. Whatever you do, just make sure you end up visiting at least once in your lifetime.

Tourists at Glacier Point Mariposa Grove Redwoods El Capitan Yosemite Valley Meadow & Path

Climbing Half Dome today, I sense I've just barely begun to explore Yosemite National Park. That's a deficiency I resolve right now to remedy.

And there is more here than just cutting-edge climbing walls. Enjoy the many short hikes throughout the area. Drive to Tioga Pass, or Glacier Point. Visit one of the giant Redwood Groves.

For a more leisurely day, rent a bicycle and circle around the valley floor on the bike path at your own pace. Or just settle in at one of the picnic areas and fix up a barbecue.

Whatever kind of adventure you're looking for, be it razor's-edge or easy chair, you've got a good chance of finding it here.

Humans have enjoyed Yosemite Valley for tens of thousands of years. It's not hard to imagine ancient peoples looking up at those big granite walls and being just as inspired as I am today.

That's one of the unique aspects of Yosemite—for all its wild grandeur, it is also a remarkably habitable place, perfect for a camping trip with the kids.

As I make my way back to Curry Village, I recognize faces I've seen high on Half Dome. From the look of them, they're as excited to have been atop Half Dome as I am.

Bill arrives back down at camp a little over an hour after me. We compare notes, happily reliving the highlights of the day, such as peering over Half Dome's north face, or flirting with Nevada Falls. Half Dome and its crazy cables seem just about perfect in this moment, and when I finally settle my tired body into bed that night, I am exhausted but thoroughly satisfied.

Alas, at four a.m., Bill and I will be woken yet again by our tent neighbor's alarm clock. Tonight, however, there is no one inside the tent to take the call. Father and son, we will later learn, got stuck in the dark high on the trail, spending a scary night above Nevada Falls. Whatever experience they were expecting to have on Half Dome, that likely wasn't it.

Their story is unfortunately not as rare as it ought to be. Most people will get up and down the cables just fine, of course, but some won't, and maybe someday the park service will say enough and have done with the entire business. It would be a perfectly reasonable decision to pull the cables for good, but I myself hope it never happens. Not everything is meant to be safe, and some horizons are worth expanding.

About SierraDescents

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.

Pray for snow.