"...In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or
brilliance. They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why not."

~ Anonymous
(taken from Matt Erbele's, It Takes Time to Get Good)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

To Half Dome and Beyooooooond!

My dad and I have been talking about going to Yosemite and hiking one of its most famous peaks, Half Dome, for years now. On Wednesday, it finally happened.

RBR and Dad de RBR, top of Half Dome. Pic taken with my cell phone and texted from there to my mom and hubby. Gotta love technology!

Now, to be clear, this is no 'let's take a walk in a beautiful national park, commune with nature, and collect some fucking wildflowers' type hike. This is 17 miles, round trip, of pure bad ass hiking (we did 21 miles, but we will get to that), where you not only climb 4800 vertical feet in the first 8.5 miles, but you are rewarded at the very end of that soul crushing ascent with a cable-assisted scramble up the face of a sheer granite rock, where one misstep can send you skittering down the rock face to sure death.

Oh, and there is a nice view.

Then you get to hike back down 4800 vertical feet.


The night before we stayed in a little town about 45 minutes outside of Yosemite called Oakhurst.

It is a very typical, nondescript, tiny, tourist dependent California town.These towns are characterized by one main road, which is always the highway to whatever large attraction they are sustained by, about 100 souvenir shops peddling assorted crap with the name of said attraction scrawled across it, a Subway sandwich shop, and a Starbucks.

They also usually have a collection of tiny, mediocre restaurants and an equally tiny, local population of tourist-dependent citizens that hate tourists. In this case, the term 'usually' applies, because I found that the people we met in Oakhurst were extremely friendly and this little joint...

L.O.V.E this logo! They were a seafood restaurant that also specialized in wedding cakes. Freaking awesome.

...had great service, and even greater food. I had crab cakes (duh!) and grilled lemon chicken with a mango salsa. Delish! It was a happy little surprise for someone that is rarely happily surprised by tacky tourist towns.

Morning of the hike

What you will first notice about the world famous Yosemite National Park at 4:30 am is that it is very, very dark.

I never realized, as a city girl, how heavily I rely on light pollution. The signage in the park is apparently designed to be viewed in the light of day and by people that already know exactly where everything is in the park, i.e. it is uber helpful.This lead to my father and I driving aimlessly throughout the park trying to figure out where the fuck to park.

Half Dome is arguably one of the biggest attractions of Yosemite. An image of it's peak is the park's logo for Christ's sake. So really? Not one fucking sign directing you to the trail head to Half Dome?


Anyway, we got parked and started the hike to the trail head. Two miles later we arrived at the trail head. Not a huge deal at 6 am. Significantly huger deal at 7:00 pm after hiking all fucking day. I am just saying...

The Ascent

For me, this hike started like almost every trail run I do. I was huffing and puffing, my legs burning, and I kept thinking "Holy shit. I am screwed. I can not do this. What am I doing out here?!" But after a couple of miles I found my stride and started to enjoy myself and my surroundings.

To say Yosemite is stunning is the understatement of the year.

Happy Isles. We needed a potty stop on our expedition just to get to the goddamn trail head, and no, this is not the trail head to Half Dome.

My dad was hardcore from the get go. He is 67, looks 57, and acts 47 (Tops. I may being generous there in the "acts" category, but I digress...) He powered up the trail like it is flat, embarrassing men half his age. He continued to do this throughout the day. Several people even asked him, "Do you mind if I ask how old you are?" Translation: "Just how old is this dude that is handing me my ass on this fucking trail?" I trotted along behind him like a puppy trying to not get dropped.

Vernal Falls

Trying to capture the beauty and grandeur of Yosemite with a $100, hot pink, point and shoot camera is like trying to fit my ass in size 6 skinny jeans. It is not possible and in the attempt you end up with something really unfortunate.

Therefore, my pictures will be mostly sucky and of things I liked and images to help me remember the trip. If you want to see breathtaking Yosemite pics, try Google images there are about 10 trillion.

Dad in cool rock formation along the Mist trail that ascends Vernal Falls. Like the cool "mist" effect on the lens? Mad skills.

Granite rock steps up Vernal Falls. You go up 0.5 miles and climb 600 granite steps. (No, I did not count them, even I am not that much of a nerd. I got that from the website)

You will note that there are a lot of pictures from this section. As you remember, picture taking is often used by me as an excuse to stop. This time it was also a great time to stuff my heart, that was now beating in my mouth, back down into my chest where it belonged.

A perspective shot from 'almost' the top of the falls. Those little dots along the edge of the rock are people coming up. (click picture to enlarge if you want or you can trust me) We are only about 1 mile from the trail head at this point. Yeah, we still have have over 7 more miles of climb and about 3800 more feet of vertical gain left to do.

I had to keep reminding myself that literally hundreds of people a day, do this hike so it was very unlikely I would get lost in the wilderness and left to become bear food. I had to keep reminding myself of this because there are many times on this trail, where it no longer looks like a trail. It looks like a pile of rocks, or a big flat sheet of granite, but a discernible trail? No.

Subsequently, the ONLY time I was leading the way, we got lost (yes, my trail navigating privileges were revoked immediately after my dad figured out where to go, but sadly, not before I led 4 other hikers astray with us. Oops. My bad.)

Cool picture of Nevada falls from the "Umm, I don't think this is the trail" trail.

Dad navigating back to the actual trail, thus ending my reign as Leader of the Lost.

Beautiful rock formations at the top of Nevada Falls. Again, ridiculous to try to capture the beauty of this with my camera, but, take my word for it, it was amazing.

Once at the top of Nevada Falls the scenery changes to a Redwood forest with soft, sandy redwood trails and decidedly less evil terrain.

Massive fallen redwood tree root ball, with embedded sandstone rock (possibly only cool to biology teachers and the great unwashed masses of the biology world, ecologists)

Stand of burned redwood trees These redwood forests are a fire dependent ecosystem and the majority of these fires are started by lightning strikes.

Well, at least it was less evil for a little while. You are still climbing and if you had not just suffered so terribly for the last 4 miles you would be calling it grueling, but comparatively it was much better.

Much better hiking until you get to the sub-dome.

Yes, the sub-dome, that NO ONE fucking talks about. I read about 10 day hike reports about Half Dome and no one even mentioned the goddamn sub-dome.

The sub-dome is, as the name suggests, the dome prior to the big dome that everyone does talk about in their day hike reports. It is steep, scary and does not have cables to help you up.

The TWO domes.

From about half way up the sub-dome. Uh, yeah, the sub -dome is fucking steep. Someone ought to mention that.

It was at this time I seriously started to doubt I would be brave enough to climb the cables to the top on the big dome. Hell, I was not sure I was willing to finish the stupid sub dome. I saw several people that did not. It was not that the climbing was all the physically hard on the sub dome, (although it would not ever be mistaken for easy) it was steep, narrow, uneven, slippery, and a fall would mean death or at the very least, life altering injury.

I am not sure if you are aware of this, but I am not a big fan of death or life altering injuries for me or my loved ones. I am kind of a puss that way.

The Cables

DISCLAIMER: I will preface this section with the fact that I am afraid of heights. It may come off as if I am advising against climbing the cables. I am just offering a different view of the climb than I have read previously. My Dad has done Half Dome three times now and LOVES it. He is not afraid of it at all and recommends it to anyone that it fit enough to do it.

However, if you do try to climb it and fall to your death you can not sue my Dad just because he is a badass and made the climb three times, while you went skittering off the mou
ntain to become a pile of goo on the valley floor.

End of disclaimer.

We finally made it to the top of the sub-dome and I talked Dad into taking a break to eat some lunch. There was a line for the cables and I was in NO hurry to do them.

The cables. All the little ant looking things are people. What, in the name of all that is holy, am I doing here?

Top of the sub-dome. Cool as a cucumber, Dad, is taking a break while RBR is gnawing off the tips of her fingers trying to figure out how to tell her dad that she has just hiked over 10 miles to get to the base of Half Dome and is now going to chicken out on the last 400 feet.

Well, you saw the lead in picture so you know that I did not chicken out (100% ego. It is probably the only reason I have accomplished anything in my life) and I made it to the top. It took us 45 minutes to get to the top because of all the people.

I will tell you that I almost cried once about two-thirds of the way up, but the all consuming fear that crying would distract me from holding on for dear life kept the tears from falling. I will also tell you I did not look around to "enjoy the view" while climbing, nor did I watch as the 3 water bottles that popped out of the packs of people above me skittered off the mountain. It was fucking terrifying.

There are many people that will tell you that the pictures of the cables are optical illusions and that it are not as steep as it appears and I will tell you that those people are FULL OF SHIT, and that the climb up those cables is just as steep as, if not steeper than, it fucking appears in the photographs.

At the top

Now, this is the point in the post where everyone gets misty eyed and says "Oh my God! It was sooooo worth it! I have never seen anything so beautiful in all my days! Who among us wouldn't climb those cables 1000 times over to see the majesty of the Yosemite Valley from the top of Half Dome?"

Umm... *raises hand* I wouldn't.

Frankly, it is just as beautiful from below the fucking sub dome. IMHO.

I am glad I did it, because it I have a sense of accomplishment at overcoming a fear (although, I think it is a completely rational fear and I would be hard pressed to climb them again and sure as shit would not let my kids, if I had any, climb it unless I did not like them for some reason. Again, IMHO)

RBR and Dear Old Dad on the piece of rock called the Devil's Diving Board. Note the seriously apprehensive body language I am sporting

Dad's picture of a super socialized marmot that works the tourists for Powerbars and Cheetos at the top of Half Dome (to be exact it is a Hoary marmot, Marmota caligata, but don't call him that, he just has low self esteem and is looking for love and acceptance. Stop being so judgey.)

Coming back down the cables was sheer terror. There were two by fours against the rock, suspended across the poles that held the cables to create "steps" to rest on. Going down I just stared at the rock in front to me and moved from board to board. I did not look around or talk to anyone. I just focused on getting to the next board and finally I was done.

Then I had to go down the sub dome, which I was equally thrilled by, but eventually I was over the "if you fuck up you will surely die" part of the hike and could relax a little.

Just 10 miles to go to get back to the car.


The descent

It is almost as hard coming back down 4800 vertical feet in 8.5 miles as it was climbing it. We took exactly ZERO pictures and talked sparingly. Also, because we gave water to fellow hikers, we ran out about 3 long, hard miles from the nearest water. (There is a life lesson, kiddos.)

This is the real endurance part of hiking Half Dome. It is technical, painful, exhausting, and let me say, rock formations, redwoods, and waterfalls lose their luster after 12 hours of hiking.

All in all, I had a great time. I am really lucky that my Dad is not just an amazing dad, he is a really fun, amazing person that I enjoy hanging out with.

I have not made it easy to be my Dad, but I am eternally grateful that he has looked past everything and is still willing to spend 12-13 hours being silly and laughing maniacally, while simultaneously being tortured, in a national park with me.


Jo Lynn said...

Those steps were killer, I remember!
I chickened out on the sub-dome. I was totally prepared to do the cables, I had read all I needed to about them. Nobody warned me about the sub-dome and it took me down. To my knees. Hugging the rock. Maybe now that I know it's there, I will try again to make it to the top. Maybe.
Your dad looks GREAT! ;)

Diana said...

I think I'd rather jump out of a plane than do this hike!!
Congrats on what sounds like a beautiful day....awesome pics!

Lisa said...

Great hike report! I love the honesty of it all. I appreciate the reminder of the steepness of the mist trail. We had considered going there with our kids and it might be too tough of a hike. I'll definitely keep the sub-dome in mind if we consider this trip. And WON'T bring my kids.

I think your dad and my dad would be great friends. He would LOVE this hike!

Turbo Photographs said...

OMG I'm going to Yosemite in October. It's been on my "I wanna go" list for years and I'm so excited I can't stand it. Your pics are beautiful!!!! So so glad I am following your blog and got to see this. Let me know if you have any tips for our trip!

One Crazy Penguin said...

This is now officially on my to do before I die list. The pictures are truly beautiful. I can't imagine how incredible it is in reality if the pictures don't do it justice!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Well, I guess it stands to reason that your Dad, too, would be purdy and look about 20 years younger than he actually is. He's 17 years older than I am and looks at least five years younger.

I hate your fucking Dad. But don't tell him I said that because he looks as though he he could kick my ass, which is not much of an accomplishment, so why bother, RBR-Dad?

Beautiful pix and VERY well-told story, B*tch! I wanna go there!

Gotta love technology!

O, man, I do! In fact, if technology were here right now? I'd gently lay her down, rub her shoulders, back and buttocks, slowly, slowly, because this is not about my needs, and I'd say, "Hey, baby, am I getting at all your good spots? Just tell me what you want, and I'll do it, because lots of people SAY they love you, but to show you how much I love you I'm willing to degrade myself in ways that got the people of Sodom and Gomorrah bitch-smote by God, because I'm not all talk, like, say, that RBR chick, because when has she ever taken you to the heights of ecstasy, or should I say 'ex-Stacey'?"

Then I'd show her the greatest 30¹ seconds of her life!

So don't go preaching to me about how to love technology! Technology is still so sore from my lovin' she can barely walk!1!
¹ Counting seconds in base 5, here, naturally. I'm good, but I'm not a machine.

Ginny M said...

Beautiful pics... you and your dad are hardcore! Great memories for both of you :)

Christi said...

Congratulations to both of you! I have to say I don't know if I would seek that climb out. I am terrified of heights as well. I think I will live this vicariously through you.

Kate Geisen said...

"Trying to capture the beauty and grandeur of Yosemite with a $100, hot pink, point and shoot camera is like trying to fit my ass in size 6 skinny jeans. It is not possible and in the attempt you end up with something really unfortunate." ~RBR

Hands down the funniest thing I've read all week. And sadly, so appropriate for my own life. Which, seriously, would be over if I ever managed to snap a pair of size 6 jeans (skinny or now) around my waist/hips. My body would be cut in half.

The pictures are great, and the picture of the climb made me want to throw up. I'm so impressed with you standing out on that ledge with your dad. My husband and I went hiking in the Smokies about 10 years ago, and hiked up to the Chimneys. I'm sure it's nowhere near as high as Half Dome, but there was no picture of us standing together at the top because I refused to actually STAND there. A fall would have easily led to serious injury or death and I wasn't giving gravity any extra chances at me. Meanwhile, all these 9-year old looking kids were scampering about like mountain goats. Their parents must not have liked them much.

Shelly said...

Love this story! I did this hike with DH 25 years ago, and the image of those cables is still burned onto my retinas. All the way up on those cables I kept thinking, "how the f**&^k am I going to get down?" But somehow I did. Yosemite is a very beautiful place, hope to get back there.

trailturtle said...

Brilliant report! I have been wanting to take my hubby to do this very hike. It's now moved up the priority list. Thanks for all of the pics and useful info about this hike. Good for you for getting that pic of you and your dad on that "diving board" despite your fear of heights...you will treasure it. My hubby hates heights, too, but I hope I can get him to do the same thing. My Avatar is of me on the edge of a cliff over the Colorado River in the Grand canyon, and I have about 50 other locations of edge sitting/standing/jumping pics, so I HAVE to get one there! Have fun tomorrow on the trail running again... Ann

Indi said...

Awesome, awesome hike! What beautiful views and what a great adventure with your dad :)

Neil Zee said...

that pic of the cable people going up is one of my favorites on these here blogs... awesome!

C said...

The photo of the cable climb = my freaking nightmare. I am not a coordinated individual so that would not have ended well for me.

Re: photo of the rock formation near Nevada Falls -- is it just me or does it look like the rock is mooning us? Seriously, I see a booty and ass-crack and everything.

I once had to excavate archaeological material out of a tree root ball. Got some good stuff out of it, but sadly the roots took it all out of archaeological context. Eh, better than nothing.

Willie said...

OK now I am totally jealous of where you live and all the cool things that surround you. That sounds like a wonderful day.

I'm shocked that you got lost on the trail! You? Lost? I suppose only a loving father would give you the benefit of the doubt and let you lead because the rest of us who've read your posts for the last few years sure as hell wouldn't let you lead us anywhere!

What is it that you say... {smooches}?

Love the horny marmot picture. I've never heard of a marmot let alone a horny one.

Kendra said...

Loved the hike report! Thanks for the honest assessment - I am scared of heights too so it's nice to get the real scoop!

Keith said...

I would love to do that hike, cables and all. But there is no force on earth that would get my wife up there. Great photos!

SteveQ said...

Okay, I'm about to write about my excursion to the puddle at the start of the Mississippi and you go out to Yosemite! Way to steal my thunder, girl!

I kept thinking, looking at that one photo, "Why not get away from the cable and clamber up unaided? It's faster and you don't have to look up at people's butts all the way." There is, of course, the falling bit, but that's a small price.

Aka Alice said...

I think you have successfully convinced me not to do that particular hike. Don't feel bad. Really. I'm a bigger wuss than you say you are (cuz you're NOT), and am easily swayed by fear of heights and my own lack of coordination.

But I LOVE the pix and that you went there with your dad. That does ROCK! (forgive me :-)

Lindsay said...

that is so cool! your dad is one tough, crazy dude.

is it possible to look off to the left while climbing the cables? umm cause i could hardly walk across the walkway that spans over the sidewalk below on level 3 at the mall at hollywood/highland. woo 3 stories high! i am brave, i know.

great pics, though i do wish you had one from the cables...

Isela said...

This is so cool! A full day of adventure with your Dad, it is so neat! He is one adventure guy for sure.

I think I would have stayed in the sub-dome, actually, I probably would have stayed below it.

That picture on the Devil's Diving Board--priceless!!!

And this line: 100% ego. It is probably the only reason I have accomplished anything in my life... I think I am going to make it part of my life now :)

Formulaic said...

Scared shitless! That is me looking at your pics. They are awesome but they look freaking impossible.

Did you see any kids on the cables?

21 miles all trail?! BADASS!

Regina said...

Speechless. Wow. I am afraid of heights as well. Terrified would probably be a more appropriate description.

That is so great you did this with your Dad and he is such a badass! Big props for pops.

How in the hell did you get that photo of the two of you way out on that ledge?! I gotta know!

TooeleTwins said...

Oh, Hell. F'in. no.
one of the most dangerous hikes in the world.
good for you, but no thanks.

Unknown said...

You are HARD. CORE. I would never be able to get to the top. Ever.

Lauren said...

I hate to tell you this, but maybe your dad is trying to tell you something:
"I would be hard pressed to climb them again and sure as shit would not let my kids, if I had any, climb it unless I did not like them for some reason. "

This climb looks amazing. I've always wanted to go to Yosemite. I'm not sure I have the courage or ability to climb this, but I'll at least consider it if I make it out that way.

SteveQ said...

You're right, my last race report does have some of your typical commentary! Good grief, what's the world coming to... me posting pictures can't be far off.

SteveQ said...

And how'd you get the picture on The Diving Board?

Jill said...

Wow! I've admired the beauty of Yosemite from pics but never knew the technical toughness of climbing the thing. Kudos to you! And I'd be right with you on the freak factor rope climbing to the top. I'd love to do it one day though...maybe on my next trip to CA! Great job, girl...that's totally amazing. And oh, as a geology teacher, I loved the tree roots in sandstone, too! :)

Deb said...

Your Dad is kinda hawt.

Herself, the GeekGirl said...

Overcoming your fear is HUGE. Good job. I didn't used to be afraid of heights, but I'm growing into it. Something to do with actually liking my life now.

I see that someone is impatiently flicking lights on an off. Gotta go...