Hiking the Half Dome
September 1st, 2015
It's been nearly a whole year since I summited the half dome in Yosemite Valley National Park. One of my favorite hiking adventures of all time, below is the journal entry that I wrote after the hike.
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California. Look familiar? That's because it's a default desktop wallpaper for Apple computers and it was the inspiration for the North Face logo.
It's currently 3:28AM and I want to record my thoughts and experiences before I forget them. Up until now, I have not had the chance to get on my computer. Seldom does that happen to people, but it seems to happen to me quite often. I'm one of those kinds of people that could probably not use the internet unless they had to.
My alarm went off at 5:30AM. The sounds of my neighbors woke me up many times throughout the night. When I finally fell into a deep sleep at 2 AM, I had to leave for the hike. During the night I had many dreams that I wish I could've written down.
I dressed and set out with my parents at 6AM, eating my cold turkey sandwich on the way.
Our first stop was Happy Isles Nature Center, a.k.a. a shuttle bus stop. The first part was only three-quarters of a mile or 1.2km. After crossing the Happy Isles Bridge, I parted ways with my parents and took the Mist Trail leading to Vernal Falls, then Nevada Falls.
Along the way, I met many people. At first, it felt weird being greeted by and greeting everyone I met on the trail. Later, it became instinctual for me. I realized that it was usually the casual American day hikers that greeted me back. The hardcore hikers were too focused, and the foreigners were probably alien to being greeted by strangers all the time.
The first two waterfalls were only the beginning. The real hike was little Yosemite Valley (approx. 4 miles). During this time, I was almost completely alone, having an abundant amount of time to think and sing and do whatever I wanted
I remember having many interesting thoughts.
What was especially interesting was how during the hike I began to remember so many things from my past. Recalling specific moments, such as waking up in the morning before dawn every day during military camp, and hiking Mirror Lake in Oregon as a child. It felt euphoric. It was like a rollercoaster of emotions.
I did meet a guy on the way back who seemed to be on the same schedule as me. We reached the top at the same time, and after resting separately we ended up coming down at the same time.
We traveled fast. There weren't that many people on the trail, yet we were still passing people every ten minutes. We never introduced ourselves to each other, but we chatted plenty on the descent, as a result, I learned many things about him. Before living in Utah and doing research in biotech, he attended Baylor College of Medicine in Texas to pursue his Ph.D. in microbiology. He did research on HIV for 5 years. He attended Oregon State University for his undergraduate studies where he double majored in environmental engineering as well as something else. Additionally, he introduced himself to me as an avid gamer. Although the game I played the most at the time was League of Legends, we talked about his favorites such as Deadspace and Dark Souls. He told me that he used to be a marathon runner. A while back, he quit his job to relax for a while before having some surgeries. He'd been traveling across the states on a goal to tour all the national parks. Although it may seem somewhat arbitrary and insignificant, I couldn't help but notice that he had the same pose as me of a pic when I posed for a picture on top of Mt. Fuji. One knee kneeling, with one elbow draping down on the other. From that act, I thought I could relate to him somehow in personality. Also, while descending the cables, I realized we had much in common. Not where we lived and where we were from but also in personality. It was pretty great. Talking to him for the first time was natural and not awkward at all. It felt as if we had been friends for a long time.
On the way back, I chose the John Muir Trail instead of the Mist Trail in an attempt for some change in scenery. That was when I split up with my travel friend. It was the right choice. I got a surplus of more splendid sights and even got the chance to rest and wash my feet near a stream. It was chill. With 4 miles left, I ran out of water. That meant no food either because my energy snacks actually dehydrate you. Some nice travelers saved me though by throwing me a water bottle.
By the time I got down, I wasn't even that ecstatic to have made it to the top of the Half Dome and to have completed the adventure. I was too exhausted. Looking at the pictures I took seemed unnaturally serene to me. It felt the Mt. Fuji hike. It's like life. After trekking so far and persevering so much, you make it to the top. But then, you don't even feel accomplished because after a while it becomes who you are. If you spend 20 years of your life becoming rich (no matter much money that is), and you finally become rich, you may hurrah one time, but then after that, that feeling of accomplishment fades and you label yourself as "rich" and move onto other things.
Anyways, after hiking I was soo tired. My dad congratulated me, yet I ignored him. Too tired. On the way down I even stopped saying hi to people. Anyways, I took a shower, ate and immediately went to sleep. Didn't even move my stuff off of my bed.
Overall, this adventure was an amazing experience. Compared to Mt. Fuji, it was easier. When I hiked Mt. Fuji, I was operating on an all-nighter, improper food, less water, a more drastic range of temperatures it was in the middle of the night. Additionally, people surrounding me were complaining every five minutes.
As for the Half Dome, I had more rest, preparation, equipment, a Camelbak, it was during the daytime and nobody to complain to me. It was me. I noticed that when you are alone, you don't complain. Not only is it because I have nobody really to complain to, but I also toughen up. It's like I'm competing against a better version of myself. Whenever I complain I noticed that half the time it's to fit in because everyone else around me is complaining as well. One of my friends, Max, does a great job of not complaining when a workout gets tough. For lack of proper terms, he mans up, like me when I am alone. I guess I have to stop learning from the bad habits of others and be myself. At the start of the hike, I thought this hike was going to be harder than Mt. Fuji because I had to hike it alone. But I was wrong. It was WAY easier because I was alone. Nobody to slow me down, to mess up my pacing and to disturb me from my thoughts. If I wanted to talk to people, I could still talk to people on the way. What I did was entirely up to me and I didn't even have to stay with them the entire way.
Now Half Dome was completely chill. I had an amazing hike. Unless I find the right partner, it might be better I hike alone. It seems that sometimes other people you back. Plus, the alone time was extra special. Talking to my travel pal, the descent went by in a blink of an eye.
Well now that this hike is over, I don't know what else is in store for me this summer. Nothing can compare to this hike. I also only have seven days left until school starts! Holy cow time goes by fast. I can't believe it's the first of September today already. That leaves me with only three more days until I check-in!
Wow. Four more days until school. The summer that I graduated from high school is reaching the end and my next step is college.
Well, peace out. Yosemite National Park has been the shit.
In comparison with Mt. Fuji, the Half Dome hike was a hike through the true wilderness, while Fuji was a hike in a barren wasteland. To be more accurate, it was a hike up a volcanic mountain covered in rocks and dirt.
Half Dome hike stats:
15-miles round trip (24km)
Elevation gain 4800ft (1463m)
Average time: 11 hours My time: 9 hours
Half Dome cables distance: 400ft (122m)
When people discuss the Half Dome hike, the cables are always the main point of interest. It's the crux of the hike, and usually the most challenging. But, I enjoyed the cables very much. It was because I was having such a blast that it didn't feel challenging at all for me. Sure, it was slippery, and I even slipped a couple of times, but if you aren't afraid of heights and have a decent amount of upper-body strength, it's a piece of cake. Another contributing factor that made it easy for me was that there was a traffic jam on the cables, so I took a break every few steps. It forced me to make pace and made the whole thing much easier. Oh, and for gloves, I had a pair of Black Diamond Craig Climbing Gloves that I got from Amazon for $20. They were quite handy (pun intended). I saw some people climbing without gloves. Now that's crazy.
At least people don't die on Mt. Fuji though. People die each year on the Half Dome. I guess that makes Half Dome quite the hike.