Tag Archives: Half Dome

Climbing Half Dome With Holes In My Socks ©

Preparing to climb Half Dome with Shinazy

Oh, would my mom disapprove of me having holes in my socks.

half domeI remember my mom hanging laundry and inspecting my clothes for anything requiring repair: a missing button, a detached hem, a hole in a sock.  Because my appearance was important to her, I always left the house wearing well cared-for clothes.

Given my upbringing, where clothes represented more than cloth covering skin, it would be inconceivable to see what I wear to go for a run or hike. This morning several of us met at my place to discuss our next adventure.  We were off to hike in the coastal mountains above the town of Pescadero.  My home is a shoe-free zone, so everyone leaves their shoes at my front door.

As we congregated in my living room, chatting about our upcoming trek, Sandy remarked, “Oh, I’m so glad someone else has holes in their socks.”

Our eyes dropped in unison to observe our assemblage of shoeless feet.  It was true – each of our feet was enveloped in what could only be described – at best – as ‘well-ventilated’ socks.  It was in that moment we realized: these weren’t mere remnants of well-worn pieces of cotton-poly and silk-wool blends.  They were the results of actions and efforts, of steps and journeys taken, of goals actualized and achieved.  These socks were the indisputable evidence attesting to the activism of their owners.  They belonged to a group of Bitchin’ Ol’ Boomer Babes who started walking together a year ago.

This year we decide, tick tock, we better attend to our Bucket Lists.

half domeItem #1: Climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

But alas, as it usually is when attempting feats of greatness, our spirits were willing, but our flesh … needed some help!

Between the three of us, we encompassed the full range of inactive, aging babes.  I was recovering from a back injury.  Sandy had been inactive since finishing the Gold Coast Marathon 2 years before.  And, 3 years ago, Bobbi walked 2 miles.

To accomplish our goal – without hurting ourselves in the process – we needed to “train”… the kind of put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-over-and-over-again type of training, sustained with perseverance, determination, and an occasional massage at the local day spa.

Our plan was simple:  Go longer and longer distances, adding steps and hills to emulate the Yosemite Valley terrain.  We scheduled walks on flat ground along the bay, then the undulating path at Sawyer Camp Trail, next up and down the mountains near the coast.  We did 1 mile, then 2, 3 . . . 8, 9 . . . 14 . . . 18.

Our walking began in late fall through local neighborhoods, admiring the Christmas decorations as we trudged past, dashing through mud and laughing all the way.  We forged ahead during the record-breaking rainfall during a stormy Northern California winter.  We saw the fog lift and felt the sun shine.  Watched banana slugs mosey along on the trail and listened to the tap-tap-tap of woodpeckers on trees.

half domeWe held Half Dome Climb strategy meetings on what became Taco Tuesdays.  Searched the web for descriptions and pictures of the climb.  Read books.  Watched videos.  As the months-to-train became weeks-to-train became days-to-train, we fixed our eyes on the Half Dome webcam hoping to see the snow melt.

On the day we were to climb Half Dome the snow was still on the ground, which meant no cables.  No cables equaled no climbing.  Yet, we went to Yosemite anyway and climbed to the base of the dome.  We named this adventure our “Reconnaissance Trip.”

Returning home, we realized, during our many months of training we became physically stronger and mentally confident, embarking on each hike with holes in our socks.

I think Mom would approve.

photos courtesy  CraigSunter_Click64 and Bobbi Rankin

Hike Half Dome Alone ©

Hike to Half Dome with Shinazy

hike

Last year three of us decided to climb the Half Dome Cables.  We trained and then went online to capture our permits – first come, first get.  We watched the webcam and saw the snow slowly melt, too slow to install the cables – no cables, no climb.  But we decided to hike anyway just to see a record water flow; we wanted to experience everything … but the cables.

During that 12-hour hike, we stopped at every sight.  After catching our breath from the altitude and the beauty, we took pictures of waterfalls, rocks, rainbows, valleys.  We travelled together, encouraging each other to continue, sharing our thoughts as comrades.   All this togetherness enriched our experience.

This year, with a lighter snowfall, the cables were installed on scheduled.  Our luck held, permits from the Lottery arrived and our group swelled to five.

On hike day, as sunrise removed the evening we set boot to trail.  Within 5 minutes the group split, taller Half Dome hikers with longer strides pulled away.  Then my quicker pace had me increasing the distance from the other short-hiker.  Now, I was alone.  I was hiking the same trail as last year, but with only one set of eyes – mine, and this made it a different path.

If asked, I would say I’d never been there.  Last year, Vernal Fall was a fire-hose pounding my black-plastic-garbage-bag poncho.  I knew there were 600 steps carved into the granite cliffside, but I could only ‘see’ them with my feet as I clung to the wet stonewall.  But this year, there was only a modest spray and I could see the steepness and the uneveness and the majesty of each step.

That 2,000-foot climb is rewarded by the flat, hot, and sandy Little Yosemite Valley.  Previously the Merced River roared, drowning all sound.  Now, I could hear birds and I thought I could even hear a squirrel rolling a pinecone.

As I continued, the solitude allowed my mind to see oddities.  In a wide sandy trail why are all the pinecones resting exactly in the middle?  Why do people stay on the sandy path instead of hiking on the firmly packed game trail that runs along side?  And, on and on my mind wandered.

When alone in the forest there’s no sense of time.  One minute I’m blinking my eyes to wake-up and the next I’m blinking because Half Dome just materialized.  Five hours had passed, but no fatigue just excitement.  The goal of this hike was before me; it was time to climb the 45-degree incline of the massive granite slope called Half Dome, and not alone, I had the seed of memories . . . and my camera.

photo by glennwilliams

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Half Dome Reality ©

Bobbi Rankin at Half Dome

half domeHalf Dome became a reality to me this summer.  That awemanousness  (my new word) of a mountain is indescribable.  Or I could say a mastodon of a mountain.  That giant rock that sits among the clouds 8’000 feet above sea level and 4’000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor, the distance I climbed.  This hike was on my bucket list and the reality is I can now cross it off.

This was nothing I had ever experienced before.  The training was necessary to make this climb and have the feel of fulfillment and not the anguish of defeat.  I say that because being prepared elevates the anxiety, fear and problems that can occur if you aren’t in shape for this “ mother of all hikes”.  And that’s the reality of this hike.

We started early and got back late.  We had plenty of energy bars and electrolytes to drink.  The energy needed for this hike is the most important ingredient along with physical training.

Nature at its best is how many describe Yosemite.  The wonder and majesty of the granite mountains are breath taking.  The trail to Half Dome is sprinkled throughout with winding tree covered trails, many stairs that are chipped into the granite and beautiful waterfalls.  The Merced River pushes it roaring waters over the cliffs at Vernal and Nevada Falls – such a sight to behold.

When I finally arrived at the base of Sub Dome I’m not sure I’m ready for this untethered climb of over 800 granite cut stairs.   As I have come to realize, not much is said about the Sub Dome.  I now know it is harder to climb than the cables of the Half Dome.  I climb the Sub and get to the base of Half Dome.  I pause to take in the enormity of this next phase of the trip and reflect on how far I have come.   As I look around, I realize that this vast wilderness is there for my pleasure, I respect that and I’m grateful for the experience so far.

What lay ahead is my goal.  Where I’ve come from, is my journey.  Along with me on this journey was Rick, or more fondly referred to as “Mr. Half Dome”. This trip was his 32 in ten years and I felt the privilege of him sharing the stories and folk lore of the trail, the mountain and giving me the grand tour.

The cables were the next adventure waiting for me to grab hold of.  And grab I did climbing almost straight up 800 feet to the top.  I felt the reality of my journey the minute my feet touched the top of the Dome.  At the top, I’d come 4’000 feet to be part of and experience something that was so much bigger than I could have imagined when I had looked up at it from the Valley floor.  There I was eye to eye with the tops of the neighboring mountains taking in that mystical, majestic and spiritual moment.  One I’ll never forget.

In my world this was a reality that was so tangible and mystical that it took my breath away.  In my world this was the hike legends are made of.   In my world I am preparing to do this again next summer.

The reality is…I can.

photo by Mr. Half Dome

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