Yosemite National Park is a must-see destination. Within the park, hiking Half Dome is known to be an arduous hike that challenges many hikers. 5 years ago I heard about this trail and knew I had to do it. Hikers prepare and train for this trek. Here's how I prepared and how the strenuous, monumental journey was for me and my Dome Crew.
Getting a permit - The final stretch hiking up the half dome is on a narrow set of cables up the side of a cliff, no big deal. Because of this, there is a limit of hikers allowed on the cables per day and you have to get a permit. There isn't a way to sneak around without a permit as a Ranger sits at the base of the cliff and checks in everyone. Three of us applied for a permit with the preseason lottery system. One permit can hold up to 6 people but we all applied to ensure our chances of getting an invitation. One out of us three received an acceptance email for a permit!
Getting a campsite - The next challenge was reserving a campsite. Due to covid, only one campground, Upper Pines, is open right now. They opened reservable spots in June and we all were refreshing our browsers seconds before the release time. I was able to get a campsite, my other two friends couldn't. Talk about stressful!
Training - I read a lot of articles about physical training. The key training pieces I'm glad I worked on was a lot of squats and arm lifts. The hike has a lot of steps and pulling your body weight almost vertically on the cables.
Packing day packs - Afternoon before the hike we packed our hiking bags. The most important item to pack is water; I brought a 3L bladder and two big water bottles filled with Liquid I.V. hydration multiplier. Brought extra socks as we heard the falls can get you wet. I packed more snacks than necessary (next time I will strategically pack meals and hour breaks). Also brought trekking poles, hat, head lamp, First-Aid kit, sunscreen and tech gear to capture content (GoPro, iPhone 11 Pro Max).
Finding Trailhead - Because we were starting our hike in the dark, the night before we walked to the Trailhead, Happy Isles. We wanted to know exactly where to go the next morning. We were camping in the 3rd loop at Upper Pines so the trailhead was only 1/2 mile away which was super convenient.
THE HALF DOME HIKE - July 26, 2020
From research and our experience, here's how we made the journey and conquered half dome!
I woke up at 3am to allow myself time to eat breakfast, wake up, have coffee and drink two water bottles to hydrate. Honestly I couldn't sleep much anyway because I was so anxious to get started.
Our goal was to leave between 4-5am. We were trekking by 4:30am so we were right on track!
We began the Half Dome hike at Happy Isles Trailhead.
Yes, we hiked for a while in the dark. Never done this before and I thought it was cool! Our head lamps gave us plenty of light. It was fun to turn them off during breaks and say hello to the stars.
First pit stop was Vernal Falls Footbridge for a quick water fill up (drinking station) and bathroom break.
We began the climb up stairs alongside Vernal Falls. This is where they said we would get really wet. Luckily, the falls didn't have as much water so we stayed dry (didn't need our backup socks)! I was very happy the steps weren't wet which could've been dangerous in the dark. We could see the falls just at the top as the sky became brighter.
Next up was climbing alongside Nevada Falls. By this time the sky was waking up so we could see more of our surroundings.
After both of the falls we took a longer break at the final bathroom station on the trail (from now on, nature was our bathroom station).
The next scenery was through forest trees which kept us shaded as the sun peaked above the mountains. This is where we started to see views of Half Dome and Sub Dome closer and moments of adrenaline started to run through my veins.
When we made it to the base of Sub Dome, it was lunch time! We needed to rest and get ready for more steep steps, many as high as two feet. This is where we checked in with our Ranger and he gave us serious precautions and safety measures. Sub Dome and Half Dome are no walk in the park - it's ok to not do it.
We all persevered and got through the ass-burner steps. This was a personal favorite part of the trek as I saw the gorgeous valley surrounding us (I was too nervous to bust out the phone for pictures).
At the top, we made it to the base of Half Dome. Adrenaline happening? You know it. I looked up and realized how steep the cables were, you couldn't even see the top because they jetted over the cliff. I put on my gloves (gardener grippy gloves), started my GoPro and told myself I'm just climbing up a ladder. I hollered at Adam, "we need to go!" before I psyched myself out. When we got to the start of the cables we screamed as loud as we could to get us pumping!
The Half Dome cables climb was so steep I pulled myself up more with my upper body strength than by walking up. Collin behind me shouted every now and then, "you got this Trina!" I didn't look back or down once, I just kept pulling myself up with a lot of working out grunts. Luckily, there wasn't a lot of people on the cables so we could keep moving and stop every 10 feet on the wood planks to take a breath. The next thing I knew, I was at the very top! It took about 20 minutes to climb up. As I looked back and around my body was shaking and filled with accomplishment.
After our top of Half Dome pictures, the time had come now to climb back down the cables. Many people do this differently (facing downward, facing upward). I personally went sideways to use my arms for both resistance and grip. By this time the height didn't scare me and I liked looking down at the amazing view. It took longer going down since now we had to wait and leapfrog around other climbers. Just hanging on a cliff for minutes at a time before moving.
And then, the excitement was over and time to do the most fun part, continue looping down 8 miles to home base (I say sarcastically). My legs were already weak from all the incline. This is where the challenge really set in. We looped back down until we got to Nevada Falls and had to take the John Muir Trail so there was less traffic (Covid distancing safety). It was nice to see the full loop but man was I tired.
About 4 miles left going down I ran out of water. I definitely could've used 5L but lesson learned for the next day long hike.
Thank goodness for my trekking poles to help support me up and down the trails. Yes, they may look dorky but they were handy!
17 miles round trip
12 hours total (4:30am to 4:30pm)
5,000 ft elevation gain reaching 8,846 ft above sea level
Our accomplishment: "Winning is the journey and our friendship is the prize." Loren Perry (fellow Dome Crew hiker)
This was the longest and most strenuous hike all of us have done. Congrats to the Dome Crew taking on this challenge!