Yosemite National Park Part II
Sunday Oct. 1 – Monday Oct. 2
I was not in a big hurry to break camp this morning as we only planned to hike about 4 miles to the Little Yosemite Valley backpacker’s Campground. We left camp by mid-morning and took the Yosemite Valley shuttle to the Mist Trail Trailhead.
The first two miles of the trail climbed steeply uphill towards Vernal Falls. This is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park and was really crowded. It was easy to see why though – the 317-foot waterfall was absolutely spectacular.
At the top of the falls we paused for a snack and to people watch. Posted signs warned visitors from swimming in the pools at the top of the falls, as folks have been swept over the falls to their deaths, but people were doing it anyway. Most hikers turned around at this point so the crowds thinned out as we continued hiking towards Nevada Falls. At 594 Feet, Nevada Falls was even more impressive than Vernal Falls. I could feel the mist from the falls from quite a distance away (I guess this is why it’s called the “Mist Trail”). It was breath-taking.
After pausing for a bit at the top of the Nevada Falls, we continued onwards towards Half Dome. The trail finally flattened it out at this point and it was an easy walk towards the Little Yosemite Valley Campground. We set up camp and spent a pleasant evening hanging out with other campers around a communal campfire. It was another cold night as we had climbed to an elevation of 6100 feet. I was starting to wish I had packed some additional layers.
We were on the trail by 8:00 am the following morning towards Half Dome. I left my tent set up back at the campground so my pack was unusually light. It was a beautiful sunny day. I was starting to get a bit nervous the closer we got to Half Dome – I’ve never climbed anything like this before.
The climbing really began when we reached the base of the subdome. The path began up the subdome following a series of steps cut into the rock, but soon the steps disappeared and I had to just scrabble up to the top.
My jaw dropped when I saw the cables scaling the rock towards the top of Half Dome. I had heard about the cables before of course, but seeing them in person was entirely another story. There’s absolutely no way I would have gone up those cables if I was by myself. Thankfully my hiking buddy Box was with me and with his encouragement (and because I didn’t want to look like a total wimp) we headed towards the cables. Gloves are required to climb the cables and I had a pair with me, but I found a better pair of gloves in a pile at the base of the cables.
Climbing the cables up Half Dome is easily the single scariest thing I have done in my life. Without the aid of cables, climbing the remaining 400 vertical feet to the summit would have been impossible without some serious rock-climbing expertise. We climbed slowly and took lots of breaks, as the climb was tiring both physically and mentally. I resolved not to look down and kept my eyes on my feet and on the climbers above me the entire time.
When we reached the top I was utterly exhausted. My adrenaline had been racing the entire time and I was feeling ravenous and shaky. Box eagerly raced over to the edge of the summit but I couldn’t do it. I made a bee line towards the center, as far away from any edges or drop offs as possible, and wolfed down a granola bar and packet of spam. When my pulse finally slowed about 20 minutes later, I walked carefully towards the edge and we took some pictures.
By the time we were ready to head back down, it was much more crowded on the summit. A solid stream of at least 30 or 40 people were on the cables making their way up as we went down. We had to awkwardly but carefully pass each person, usually with an armpit in the face or an elbow in the butt, as we climbed down. I was less scared on the way back down – I figured if I made it up I could make it back down again. Although Box kept telling stories about how most climbing accidents happen on the way down and that didn’t really help the situation…
Once we made it off the cables, climbing down subdome and hiking back down to Little Yosemite Valley was fairly easy. Box decided to pack up and climb back down to Yosemite Valley as he wasn’t finished with his PCT hike yet and wanted to get back to the trail. I planned to stay another couple of nights in the backcountry, so I decided to use Little Yosemite Valley as my base camp for another hike tomorrow to Clouds Rest.
As I made dinner, I noticed my throat was getting a little sore. By the time I got into bed, my throat was on fire and I was absolutely miserable. I was freezing and racked with chills so I broke into my emergency supply of hand warmers and put them in my gloves and socks. (I also put a couple down the back of my pants as my butt cheeks were cold too). Thankfully I had cell reception, so I streamed a couple Netflix shows to help take my mind off my misery as I drifted off to sleep.
It looked like I would need to get out of the backcountry tomorrow and head back to civilization.