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Half Dome '08

16.59 miles; +6197 vertical feet elevation
May 28-30, 2008
Dave Sholer, Jared Atkins, Brad Steiner 


May 28th

We arrived in Yosemite around noon to muddy ground and off-and-on sprinkles. We set up a tent at the backpackers' site ($5/person/night) and headed to the visitor center area to walk around and eat. The original plans for the trip was to summit Half Dome and continue to near Lake Merced. The next day was to cross over Reds Peak Pass, followed by hiking out and up to Glacier Pt. It was a ~60 mile/3 day loop that looked pretty sweet. The main problem was the snow pack. It was a lighter year, but there was still quite a bit with the snow level estimated at 7000ft (it was actually closer to 8500ft). This meant that Red Peaks Pass (elev. 11,500ft) was all but uncrossable with our lightweight gear. Plus, there was a miscommunication in other gear among the 3 of us which left the 3 of us splitting the load of a ~8lb tent. Jared and Dave also brought along their new shelters to try them out in the weather. So...long story shorter, we ended up totally slashing the trip down to a modest Half Dome accent.

We got to sleep before sunset to prepare for an early rise the next morning. It rained a good amount during the night.

May 29th

We awoke around 5am, broke camp, hiked to Jared's truck (parked at the trailhead lot), left some extra gear, and continued on to the Happy Isle trailhead. We started hiking somewhere around 6:45am. The Mist Trail was definitely misty as never quite seen before, with the falls gushing like crazy.  We got to the base of the cables around 12:30pm and to the summit somewhere around 1pm. We ended up carrying our overly full packs up to the summit. There were quite a few thunder-like clouds in the sky, which is never good on top of Half Dome.  We only stayed on top for about 25 minutes before heading back down. We decided to find a legal place to camp as close to the top as possible. We found a place that was probably about 1/2 mile or less from the top. We made camp about 120 ft from the trail. It was a pretty crappy place. When Brad suggested we go check out some cliff down the way, we finally followed and found the best campsite ever.  It was a flat spot right on the edge of a cliff that faced out to the far eastern (empty part of) Yosemite Valley. It was amazing.

The only thing we were lacking was water. We had plenty for the day, but we decided that we would head back up to Half Dome in the morning (possibly for sunrise). Obviously, there is no water from Little Yosemite Valley all the way to the summit of Half Dome. There are some creeks off from the JMT junction, but nothing closer. We decided to build a fire and melt some snow from the many snow packs still around. We had a system of melting/filtering that took a couple hours. It was ingenious, we thought! Then we tasted the water. First, it tasted like snow, which we thought odd. Maybe some substance associated with the snow in that form...which of course happens to be small enough to not be filtered out. Then, the water had a distinct SMOKE aftertaste. Just like taking a whife from the firepit. There must have been some sort of charred particles less than 0.22 microns that fell on the snow as we were melting it. All the same, it was water, so it worked.

We got some light showers around 4pm as a series of clouds passed over. Fortunately, it cleared after about 20 minutes or less. We tried making a Vigo Rice & Beans for dinner. Unfortunately, we had a package that required cooking it for 30 minutes--so we ate some very crunchy rice. We went to sleep after watching the beautiful sunset and putting out the fire completely.

May 30th

It was a very cold night. We woke up with a good amount of frost covering all over the shelters. It was around 26 degrees at 6am when Dave got up to enjoy the empty, pre-sunrise valley.  The sunrise over Cloud's Rest looked pretty sweet.  This time we weren't going to take our fully-loaded packs up to the top again. We got back up on top of Half Dome before 10am and enjoyed a nearly-empty top. There were about 3 other people on top when we arrived. Jared had a fun experience with the jerky bag. We stayed on top for almost 2 hours before heading back down to camp. We were going to stick around for another day, but changed our minds. The snow had really limited what we could go and see. We got back down to our camp, ran into a big 6+ft. rattler about 20 ft from our shelters, and packed up. We got back down to Happy Isle trailhead in about 3 hours. We drove straight up to Glacier Pt where we enjoyed the view of the Half Dome summit we had been on just hours before. We headed down to Oakdale where we had dinner before retrieving Dave's car in Manteca. We got back to our respective homes after midnight.