Early in the summer of 2002, my then-boss, Bob, invited me to join a group planning to hike from the Yosemite Valley floor to the top of Half Dome. Bob had made the hike several times before. He had two friends, Dick and Rob, who would be joining him. I thought it sounded like fun and accepted the invitation. Throughout the summer, Bob, Dick, and Rob trained by hiking in Almaden-Quicksilver County Park in south San Jose, CA. I joined them a couple of times, but mostly I trained by riding my bicycle to work a couple of times each week and hiking to geocaches.
The day finally arrived for the trip. The we drove to Yosemite on Sunday, September 29. We stayed at the Yosemite Lodge Hotel within clear sight of Yosemite Falls, which was dry that time of year.
Early on the morning of September 30, we set out, starting the hike just before 8:00am. From our parking space, the trail is about seven miles long. It climbs from 4,000 feet on the valley floor to 8,800 feet at the summit of Half Dome. We hiked from the Happy Isles trail head up past Vernal Falls, Emerald Pool and Nevada Falls without seeing more than half-a-dozen other hikers. We hiked through Little Yosemite Valley, then around behind Half Dome. At Little Yosemite Valley, we saw campers starting their ascent to Half Dome. We envied them the freshness and energy they had from staying the night 2,500 feet above our starting point.
We ate lunch within sight of the final ascent. We saw more and more other hikers as we ate lunch and headed to the steep switchbacks that lead to the summit. Park workers were in the process of maintaining the step-blocks that make up the switchbacks. They held up a big group of hikers in front of us, reopening the trail just as we got there. As a result, we followed about thirty other hikers up the switchbacks, then up the cables that make the final five-hundred-foot climb possible.
We reached the summit around 1:45pm, nearly six hours after leaving the car. We spent fifty minutes walking around the huge area on top of the dome. The views were terrific, though partially obscured from the smoke of a managed fire burning on the valley floor near El Capitain. I took GPS readings for a “virtual” geocache at the summit.
At 2:35pm, we headed back down the cables and began the hike back to the valley floor. We retraced the same trails we had used on the way up, but the afternoon sunlight gave the views a new look. Our tired legs didn’t take us as quickly has we had thought they would. We made it back to the car just after sunset, at 6:55pm. Tired, but proud of our achievement, we drove back to the hotel, spruced up just a bit, then headed to the cafeteria for dinner. We all crashed early.
The next morning, we checked out of the hotel at 9:30 and drove back to San Jose.