Half Dome — Page 6

Hikers Ascend Sub Dome

Sub Dome

Up, up, up we go, until at last we emerge from Little Yosemite Valley's forested interior and gain the exposed spine of Half Dome's east ridge. The transition is abrupt.

The ground simply gives way to a massive 3600' drop into Tenaya Canyon, below Half Dome's sheer north face. Now Half Dome itself comes into view, so Bill and I decide to stop for lunch, enjoying airplane views beneath our feet as we munch happily on sandwiches, grapes, and potato chips.

Half Dome Appears Tenaya Canyon Overlook Climbing Sub Dome Approaching the Cables

It's a good place to take a break.

Half Dome's summit remains over a thousand vertical feet above, and we're both feeling a little worn from the climb thus far.

From here on up, exposure in one or more directions will be a constant companion. The trail will follow Half Dome's east ridge up Sub Dome, which will take us to a precarious landing at the base of Half Dome's east face—the start of the cables.

First, however, there is the climb up Sub Dome to be dealt with.

Bill and I resume hiking. The trail steepens considerably when we reach Sub Dome's granite staircase.

And if you're feeling a little alarmed by the angle here, you're not alone. The steepness combined with the empty air both north and south make it feel as if a fall here would send you off into space—a sentiment which will be true soon enough.

Lines of people work their way up the stairs, pausing regularly either to cope with fatigue or the growing sense of exposure.

I make my way slowly upward, timing my breathing to my steps, stopping now and then to sip from my water bottle. The view, if you can manage to admire it, grows ever-more expansive.

Half Dome is the centerpiece not just of Yosemite Valley but much of Yosemite National Park itself, with commanding 360° views of the region. Already, we can trace much of our ascent route through Little Yosemite Valley to the south. To the east, we see the crest of the High Sierra, and the Cathedral Range. To the north is the mind-bending drop into Tenaya Canyon.

Higher we go. This part of Half Dome Trail doesn't waste much time with switchbacks. Mostly it's just a pure climb up granite blocks arranged into rough steps that always seem to mismatch my stride. Despite my fatigue I'm beginning to get excited. Soon, we will crest Sub Dome's staircase, and all eyes will on Half Dome itself, and the final leg of our ascent.

next: The Cables

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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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