By now you are probably wondering … did she really make it to Half Dome? Is she just keeping us in suspense? Will there be a PART FOUR like a bad sequel to a good movie? Well … you will soon find out! Hold your horses.
At this point on the John Muir Trail, our group decided to take a lunch break, enjoy the falls and take a gander of the surrounding area enjoying the break from the heavy packs and feeling the cool breeze of 80 degrees to cool the sweat on our brows. The first thing I noticed, who couldn’t?, was another mountain known as Liberty Cap.
How did this mountain gets its name you might wonder? I did and this is some of the information I found …. ”
LIBERTY CAP has had four other names, Mt. Frances, Gwin’s Peak, Bellow’s Butte (after a Boston clergyman) and Mt. Broderick. It is the glaciated peak on the north side of the Merced River next to Nevada Fall. When Governor Leland Stanford was visiting Yosemite in 1865, he and James Hutchings visited Nevada Fall. The Governor proclaimed his dislike for all of the names, and, looking at an old fashioned half dollar, supposedly produced by Hutchings, he saw the resemblance between the peak and the cap of liberty on the coin and decided that CAP OF LIBERTY was more appropriate. The name Mt. Broderick was then given to the smaller peak northwest from it.
The Indian name was “Mah-ta”, translated as meaning “martyr mountain”.
By now, I looked up and thought, “Well, this looks like a convenient mountain to climb, we are already here and that would save us any further hiking.” Apparently, no one else agreed and besides our guide informed us that the required pass that you have to have to traverse any of the mountains by foot and the pass we had was specific to Half Dome.
So onward and upward! The group continued on where we hiked another two miles to our base camp at Little Yosemite Campground. There we set up our tents for the night, collected water from the river (I used a Swayer Water Filter) and most of us decided to go swimming before the evening set in. We found ourselves swimming with a garter snake and a rattlesnake who decidedly kept to themselves. As a group we decided we would get up at 4:30 a.m. and head out by 5:00 to hike the last 2.5 miles UP to Half Dome.
Now you must remember that we started our hike on the Valley Floor at 3500 feet elevation. In 8.5 miles by the time we were at the top of Half Dome we would have traversed 5000 feet in elevation.
Now you see BEFORE we could actually traverse Half Dome, we would have to face the mountain’s little brother, Sub Dome. Hurtling Sub Dome, which consists of hundreds of large climbing stone steps and dozens of switchbacks, was the daunting part. I couldn’t even stop to think about it. If I had come this far, travelled this high up, up, up … I would step each step praying to make it to the top which would be the base of Half Dome, the REWARD!
The above photo is the last part of Sub Dome … the stone steps become just large, long plates of upward sloping granite we have to walk up. Is Half Dome ahead of us? I can’t even look up anymore. The wind begins to blow loudly and the assistant, Lindsay, reminds us, “The wind is our friend. He will not blow you off the mountain. He just sounds loud.”
After scaling up the steps and slopes of Sub Dome, our group decides to take one last break before approaching the cabled walls of Half Dome…
One detail, important that it is, on this particular leg of the journey, we left our big packs at base camp and just had to tote our day packs of water and snacks up … Thank Heaven for small favors!
Now, you might think that the Bears are the ONLY scavengers around who look for human food … not so! The local Blue Jays LOVE backpackers and all their goodies. Even getting so close they beg like a dog at a dining room table.
NOW HALF DOME … what I have been looking forward to … 500 Feet from the base of Sub Dome to the top of Half Dome at an 80% incline with two metal cables. Poles every 20 feet or so drilled into the granite with planks of wood mounted to the base of the poles to provide climbers with foot rests. In some spaces the granite has become slippery and slick even with good climbing shoes due to all the people who have climbed the mountain’s side. Traffic going up the cables and down the cables go on at the same time. Etiquette suggests that if you are pulling yourself up, double grip on the right side of the cables, and if coming down, double grip on the left side of the cables.
We arrived early enough that no storms were approaching but clouds were building in the east. You don’t want to be on the cables nor on the top of the mountain if a monsoon hits. The cables become lightening electrical conduits and the rain turns the already slippery surface of the granite into a slide.
I AM READY!
Of course, I don’t have any photos of me directly on the cables … uhm, “look ma, no hands!” … although I am a daredevil, I erred on the side of caution and put my camera away while I was pulling myself up the cables … Did I make it!
Do you see that tiny blue-shirted dot on the very corner of the Half Dome’s cliff wall? Yep! That’s me! Woot Woot! I did it! Rock ON!
Good thing my mom didn’t know exactly where I was in this moment or she may have been having a heart attack! Hi MOM! Besides the adventure back down the cables, there was one last challenge to face … can you guess?
No, not the weather. …. No, not the air at this elevation …
There is a toll to be paid at the top of Half Dome. Can you believe it?! A toll … wanna know who collects the tolls?
I know, right? The Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel. Their toll? Well, what else? FOOD! I turned my back for one minute and found one inside my day pack trying to run off with my almonds!
You may be thinking that this is the end of the adventure. Not so!
I mean … I still have the hike back down, the torrential monsoon that hit us hard, the hike back and the drive back to town …. still some grueling adventures to come.
Thank you for being on my journey with me!