When I woke up in the morning to hike Half Dome, I was seriously procrastinating the whole hiking thing. I was ready to go, but I was also extremely nervous about the whole thing, and I kept coming up with tasks for myself to do that just could not wait. Like organizing my car. And deciding what to wear. Obviously essential.
I finally departed my campsite at 9AM, which meant I didn’t start on the 18-mile trail until close to 10AM. Feeling spright and energetic, I power-hiked through rivers of denim and Nikon and fanny pack wearing tourists. Two miles down! Four miles down! Wait…I should be at four miles. Where was that sign post?
I had taken a quick unplanned mile detour that was straight uphill (in an effort to catch another young, muscle-y hiker who was my age… always a bad life choice), but had the fortune of meeting a nice Swedish banker to steer me back to the right path. It was not my fortune that he was a slow hiker and the mile downhill added an additional hour to my time. I had four miles to the cables, and it was already after 1:00.
I hauled another two miles to a ranger who, after scanning me with his piercing blue eyes and checking my permit, told me I was cutting it close with daylight, but that I should be okay if I had a flashlight. I glanced down to my iPhone, nervously nodded, and back to the trail I went.
At that point, I realized that I had about a liter and a half of water left…which had to last another eight miles for the return trip. I started rationing, taking smaller and smaller sips, but that meant hiking got real hard, real fast. The last two miles were yet again straight uphill. My legs were burning as the elevation steeply climbed and my breaths turned into gasps of thin air.
The last half mile before the cables were steps carved into the granite, like a really large and expensive countertop of torture. Each “staircase” got steeper and the steps larger, until they faded into a steep face of sparkly volcanic rock. The only way to go was up, and the cables were looming. I scrambled up the face…and there they were.
Half Dome still looked enormous, and the cables looked so small at the top. This was only 400 meters or so, right? It looked like two miles. But I had made it this far. I was going to make it to the top.
I set up the first cables. The first three were easy. It was like really steep hiking with handrails.
Then…they got steeper. I had to rest on the wood plank every ten feet, then literally use nothing but my arms to pull me up to the next set of poles as my feet scrambled to get traction. The wind picked up near the top and pulled me from side to side.
I looked down. Terrible idea.I was in the middle of a vertical face with a long fall to the bottom. I tightened my grip on the cable.
The top got nearer and nearer until finally, I released the last cable and looked around.
Wow. I felt like I was on the top of the world. Every mile I had hiked that day, every drop of sweat I had left on those granite steps was all worth it for this omnipotent view. I had conquered this national park’s Everest.
I sat down, had the best Snickers bar I’ve ever had, and tightened my straps. It was after 5:00 and I had eight miles to hike before it got dark at 7:30.
I had to hike the last two miles in the dark with less than half a liter of water, and it was a little scary without penpal around to scare away bears, but I somehow (somewhat deliriously) made it back to the trailhead. I guzzled water for a solid ten minutes and then sat in a catatonic trance on the shuttle bus back to my car. I did it.
That was the best night of sleep I’ve ever gotten–fitting for the best hike I’d ever done. And that was only Yosemite, day one.
Next stop? Tuolomne Meadows.
Want to see frolicsome meadows before next week’s post? Click here. Also, are you following @kelsapoodle on Instagram yet? : )