Yosemite National Park: Hiking Half Dome

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This was the goal. I started running to achieve these things:

  1. To be a leaner and stronger
  2. To have greater stamina
  3. To hike Half Dome

Half Dome is a symbol of Yosemite National Park and is a challenge my partner and I set ourselves for our trip to America. The hike would take at least 16 hours. We would leave our tent in the valley at Curry Village at 5am and start the hike along part of the John Muir trail to the top of Nevada Falls and across Little Yosemite Valley.

To hike Half Dome you need to first enter the permit lottery before your trip. There are a limited number of permits per day and they are allocated randomly through the lottery. We had to submit several date preferences but we were successful in our first choice. Our goal was to reach the cables at Half Dome for midday. We had read that if we could be descending Half Dome after lunch, we would make it back to the valley in good time.

We had read a lot of blog posts about ascending Half Dome and watched lots of YouTube videos of the cables. The way to get to the top is by pulling yourself up a chain, free hand. Other hikers are moving down the cables as you are moving up, in single file. There are planks of wood every so often to stand on to take a moment.

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When we hit the cables, at around midday, it was busy. So the movement up was slow. This meant that you had to take your time, but you also had to stand and hold on at 1,400m above the valley floor!

What we didn’t anticipate was what came before Half Dome though. This area is the sub-dome. It’s just past the permit entrance but before you reach the cables. This is a granite staircase which navigates a dome shaped rock face before you get to Half Dome. This was hard work and the most hair raising of all.

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I am definitely more of a social hiker than I am a social runner! The most surprising part of the Half Dome was the friendliness of everyone around you. The time spent on the cables, around 45 minutes to go up and 30 minutes to come down, was very entertaining! Everyone around me was chatting, having a good time. The whole hike was very friendly too. On the route down, we met Heather from Vancouver Island. Our last 3 hours of the hike was with her and we spent the night eating pizza with her too (and a day by the pool the following day!)

 

I was very impressed with the strength on my knees. On any hikes I’ve done in the past, including Scafell Pike in the preparation for Half Dome, my knees would hurt on the descent. For Half Dome, they were strong and no pains at all. This is huge gains from those early days running when my knees gave in and I used the 7 Minute Work Out app.

I also had good pace and good stamina. Yes it was a long day, over 16 hours, but I felt strong and in shape.

So what is next for running? I guess I have to step up my distance when I get home!