half dome – yosemite

I’m alive!

This was it. The big kahuna of hikes, the longest and hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Dad and I drove up to Yosemite on Wednesday night. With the late start and some traffic, it was pitch black by the time we hit the Manteca area. Safe to say that driving down into Yosemite Valley was a challenge. On the plus side, we didn’t have to pay the entrance fees because the Ranger stations were closed. We stayed at the Yosemite Valley Lodge inside the park – sufficient and clean, with good hot water (so important), but also pretty warm and stuffy. You definitely pay for the convenience, that’s for sure. Worth it though, to only have to drive 5-10 minutes to get back to your hotel room. For us, it cost around $250+ per night, but we were lucky and got a 2nd floor room with high ceilings.

We hit the trail around 5:30AM the next morning, after maybe 3-4 hours of sleep. We were pretty zombified. The first several miles passed in a haze, because I don’t remember climbing up so far in the dark. But being able to reach the views around sunrise was wonderful – the pit stop at Nevada Falls was my absolute favorite part of the hike. The waterfalls, the rocks, the colors – certainly happiness-inducing. More details and learnings below.

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The Route

We took the John Muir trail both ways. It’s supposed to be less steep and less dangerous slippery than the Mist trail, but I don’t know that this was the best idea, because the distance was such a struggle. Dad’s GPS showed a 20+ mile round trip, contrary to what the Internet blogs say. In my head, the trip is divided into a few parts:

  • Uphill on a paved path – easiest part to traverse, but fairly steep for a mile or two.
  • Huge switchbacks – fairly steep, lots of rocks to step through.
  • Nevada Falls – around the 4 mile mark, perfect for a break and water refill.
  • Pine trees/forest – flats through the valley after the falls, then steep uphill through forested area toward the Subdome. This was probably the hardest part.
  • Subdome – pure rock, with stones for stairs. Definitely on the more dangerous side.
  • Cables/half dome – pretty self-explanatory.

Clothes

I bought these REI hiking tights a few days ago. They’re a little too big for me (I bought size S and usually wear size S in Adidas/Nike), but they did just nicely on the hike. As someone who doesn’t like wearing hiking pants, these worked just fine. The best part were the deep pockets on both thighs. My phone went in one with easy access the entire time.

Sock liners are your friend. I’ve never double-socked anything for any hike in my life, but this method saved my skin literally. No blisters, not even a hot spot. I wore these REI liners, and then pulled on a pair of Darn Tough merino socks over them.

Everything else was your normal athletic wear: Express run tank, random sports bra, and a North Face zip pullover for the morning chill.

Gear

These Ahnu Sugarpine boots were the best. I only broke them in once on a 10-mile hike to Tomales Point, and they performed wonderfully. Tons of grip from the Vibram soles, and they did just fine on the smooth granite along the cables. I normally wear size 7.5 and have a 8.5 in these to accommodate the thick socks.

I had hiking poles on this trip, but I probably only used them 1/3 of the time. Just a personal preference, though they did help a lot in some spots. I just felt more cumbersome with them more often than not. They certainly helped on the downhill though, for stability and balance.

I carried this Camelbak with a 2L reservoir. At 18L, it was a teeny bit small but Dad carried this 32L Kelty Redwing and anything extra we needed, including the water filter.

Also, this Nike hat. Saved my face, along with this sunscreen.

Food/Water

Definitely needed at least a 2-3L reservoir for hands-free hydration. I also carried a 24oz metal water bottle as backup, which helped a ton. For food, we brought a sandwich for lunch at the top of the dome. I also carried a couple Kind bars, and a couple of those almond butter sandwich biscuits. Electrolyte gel packs and gummy chews are also your friend. They certainly helped as far as preventing cramps and the like.

The Cables

Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. But you’re also so tired that adrenaline just pushes you through and you don’t really have a chance to think too much beyond making it to the next set of poles/planks for a rest. Like everyone else says, gloves are so important. Unfortunately, I was wearing leather gardening gloves and these were not the best choice. They actually slipped a lot on the metal cables, which also led to a couple scary moments. The rock was very, very steep about midway up, and at one point I started getting tired. Mind over matter is definitely a thing, and I powered through to the top. Also randomly passed some guys from UCSD BTEC days on their way down – of all the places, ha.

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All in all, super proud of ourselves. It was all kinds of exhausting, exhilarating, and insane scary. It was quite hazy and ashy due to forest fires in the region, which was a bummer for the views at the top. We also saw all a manner of wildlife, including a mummy deer and her two baby deers, squirrels, fat chipmunks, and even a bear on the trail! The trip back was probably the longest return hikes I’ve ever experienced. You definitely need stamina to make it back down to the valley. I also busted my hip flexor muscles on the way up, so coming down was a super struggle for me personally. I pretty much limped my way down at least 8 miles. Three days later, I’m still quite sore.

Cheers to adventures and family time. Gods know we need it more than ever.

hello (again)

You know what they say – third fourth what-number-again time’s the charm. I don’t know how many blogs I’ve started and abandoned over the years (two WordPress’s, a Tumblr, my own websites) but I’m going to make an effort this time for the foreseeable future. Why? Well, because Dad has a bucket list. On that list: Half Dome.

14-16 miles, 4800 ft gain, and those cables. Yep, the cables.

Guess who gets to climb it with dear old Dad?

I’ve set my little countdown widget to the right on this page >>

This is my concerted effort, my dedicated mission, to get in shape enough so as not to suffer a horrible painful demise or be unable to haul my body weight up to the top of that rather iconic granite rock formation.

I’ve been better these last couple years about exercising, going out for weekend hikes, trying to eat healthy (why yes, I voluntarily eat low-sugar oatmeal for breakfast now – my 13 year old self would never have imagined). But I’m still out of shape. I’ve never hiked more than 10 miles at once, I can’t run more than 1.5 miles without stopping, and I absolutely struggle when it comes to severe elevation gain. I also don’t have much upper body strength. On the flip side, I did manage to hike up to Takstang (Tiger’s Nest) in January, and I managed to keep myself from being swept downriver in the middle of the ย Hawaiian jungle by clinging to slippery wet boulders last July.ย So really, I’m probably approximately average in terms of fitness. Maybe below average.

yep, below average.

The Formula:

Half Dome survival = Outdoor hikes + HIIT + runs + body weight/upper body

The Plan:

Outdoor hikes – nothing beats real life practice. The idea is to break in my boots, and work up my mileage to around 10+ miles. I only have so many weekends left to do this, so I’ve looked up hikes around the Bay Area that I want to tackle over the next 7+ weeks. I have a bum right ankle sometimes, so I’ll need to be careful. In order:

Castle Rock State Park – 5.5 mi, 1000 ft gain
Mission Peak – 5.6 mi, 2200 ft gain
Mitchell Canyon-Eagle Peak Loop, Mount Diablo – 7.8 mi, 2200 ft gain
Black Mountain – 9.4 mi, 2300 ft gain
Waterfall Loop @ Big Basin – 11 mi, 2000xx ft gain

+1-2 easier trail-run types if my body can handle it (maybe)

HIIT – for the first time in my life, I spent money on a workout training plan thing. After watching a friend complete it via Instagram posts, I decided to try the PIIT28 workouts to get my HIITs in. This should serve to up my heart rate, overall body strength, and help keep me on a schedule. I probably won’t stick to it for 28 straight days, but I’ll try.

Runs – instead of doing the PIIT28 stretch warm-ups, I’ll probably substitute a mile run at least half the time to keep some sort of low-intensity movement on the day-to-day.

Body weight / upper body – for days when PIIT doesn’t focus on upper body strength, I’ll add in some weights, push-ups, tricep exercises, and whatever will help make sure I make it up that rock.

I’ll document thoughts, progress, feelings, and failures over the next 50 or so days in this spot. Day 1 starts tomorrow.

Wish me luck! I definitely need it.

N