Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

< Previous | List | Next > Hiking Yosemite's Half Dome, taking Mist Trail past Vernal and Nevada Falls before chickening out at the cables with the top in sight.

Our cabin tent in Curry Village I woke up bright and early, probably on account of still being used to a different time zone. So with R- still sleeping, there was little for me to do but get dressed and go sit outside - we were looking ahead at a lot of hiking that day, so there was no way I would do any useless walking around. So I sat around, exchanged hellos with people passing by who were sufficiently awake to acknowledge me, and was momentarily entertained by the image of the tent walls expanding and collapsing to the sound of some guy snoring (maybe I'm watching too many cartoons). An hour later, we went to take our respective showers and had some breakfast.

Shortly after 9am, a bus took us to Happy Isles, the trailhead to the High Sierra Loop Trail. This took us up Mist Trail. It gets its name from the mist that the Vernal and Nevada Falls form in spring, and virtually showers people who walk up the slippy irregular stone steps. Still, in summer and fall that isn't likely to happen, so we could concentrate on gaining elevation.

A moss-covered tree on Hald Dome Trail It turned out I was the faster uphill walker, so I had more chances to stop for a picture every now and then. The light is not all that good in the morning, with the sun standing over the two waterfalls, so I told myself I would take more pictures as we descended around sunset.

We took a first short break at the top of Nevada Falls, after 2.5 miles. This was a good opportunity to unzip the legs from my cargo pants, and thus transform them into shorts.

After 2.5 more miles, we were in Little Yosemite Valley. This part of the trail is mostly flat, so we were making better progress. This was the first time the final part of the trail up Half Dome was visible - and needless to say, it looked intimidating.

We weren't making much progress, and at 3pm were still looking ahead at the final two climbs on granite - the first being very steep, but manageable, and the second being the famous 45° incline that's mention on so many other sites.

To cut a long story short, by the time we had mastered the first climb, R- was too tired to press on, and I was thinking "there's no way I'm doing this" on account of my distinct dislike of heights - especially when there's so many people around. (As a general rule, I don't trust anyone in this respect - in my mind, it seems entirely too easy (and probable) for someone else to slip, cause me to lose my grip as well, and we both tumble down a thousand feet.)

The final part of Half Dome Trail: a 45-degree uphill climb over granite At around 4:30, we turned around a few hundred feet of elevation from our planned destination, and walked back down. Here, it became apparent that R- was quicker hiking downhill than I was... pretty much the opposite of what we witnessed on the way up.

Needless to say, we wouldn't make it all the way down until after sunset. And indeed, the sun had set while we were still in Little Yosemite Valley, so that by the time we reached the two falls, it had gone dark. Luckily, we had planned ahead, and were both equipped with flashlights that allowed us to descent in a controlled manner - unlike the many people we met who were clearly not prepared, and consequently were stumbling down rather than walking down. I didn't envy them in the slightest, but there were entirely too many to say "join us, we'll light up the way".

When we arrived at Happy Isles, we were lucky enough to still catch a bus, even though they weren't supposed to run this late. We didn't complain about that.

Back at Curry Village, we decided to get pizzas, and I managed to down an entire pitcher of Coke and be sound asleep less than half an hour after that.

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Written 20 March 2004