Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Halfdome and Lost Lake (Climbing Halfdome) - Yosemite National Park, California (August 2007)

Ok, so in my previous post, I wrote something to the effect that I was done climbing mountains for a while, but apparently, that was a lie. I'll tell you why.

I received a short voicemail from a friend in northern California last week with a statement along the lines of "I don't know what you're doing this weekend, but I think you should come to Yosemite, that's what I think." Along with that statement, it was implied that I should get in touch with two individuals in my area (Southern California) who would be making the drive up that weekend.

Since I'm currently doing little other than study for physical therapy boards, I decided to take the voicemail's advice and see what adventure Yosemite held in store for me. This would not be my first trip, but it would be the first opportunity I'd had to do actual rockclimbing there, and as a rockclimber, to go to Yosemite and not climb is bordering on sacrilege.

Upon contacting the voice from the voicemail for further information, it was determined that there was a probable ascent of Halfdome in the works. The route would be Snake Dike, which is a classic 8-pitch (a pitch = 200 feet) route, rated 5.7R (R = runout) on the south face of the mountain. It's an easy climb, but psychologically difficult due to having little protection for the lead climber. There can be as much as 100 feet between bolts, and a fall from 100 feet above your last protection equals a 200 foot drop. Thankfully, I'm not a lead climber, so I wouldn't have to worry about that.

So, after contacting the two friends I'd be riding up with, and determining that we would leave around 9:00 Friday morning to get to Yosemite in the early evening, we got on the road around 11:00 Friday morning. Our start was a little later than planned, but no harm done, as we still managed to meet our other party and do a couple of short climbs in the valley that evening.

We then proceeded to our campsite, which had been procured by the voice from the voicemail after he put our names on a waiting list earlier in the day. We'd been #10 on the list, and still managed to sneak in for a spot. So we made a little pasta for supper, threw out a tarp, and set out to sleep under the stars with a 5AM start ahead of us in the morning. As we were lying there, I saw the most impressive falling star I've ever seen (this was the weekend of the Perseid meteor showers, so the one I saw must have been an early one). Looking up at the sky through scattered shadowy evergreens, I realized that I could suddenly see all of the trees as if it were midday. I looked to my left over halfdome, and saw the source of the light, which was a giant fireball flying slowly down toward the horizon. Prior to that, any falling stars I had seen consisted of tiny dots quickly streaking across the sky. This one was much better than that, especially given the circumstances and location of its siting.

Anyway, we woke up very early the next morning to pack up camp and get on the trail. Unfortunately, this upset a rather irritable grouch which was tent-camping in the site next to us. In spite of our best efforts to remain quiet, we had managed to wake him up, and he angrily called out, "Are you about finished yet?" with the implication that we should have been done before we started.

We replied that we were leaving and sorry to have awoken him, at which point he remarked that it was too late for that now. Since it was too late for us to feel sorry for having awoken him, I immediately stopped, and continued about my business. As I was brushing my teeth in the camp restroom, he scowled his way in to relieve himself. I left and finished loading my things in the car, and while doing so, noticed him return to his campsite and lean against a tree so he could commence scowling at us as we pulled away.

One of the realities of camping in a large campground in the middle of summer in one of the most popular national parks in the world is that there are other people. Lots of them. Other people have different schedules from your own. Deal with it. If you can't, then you better take up backpacking in the backcountry. I may pity da' foo, but I won't pity you.

So our group convened at the start of the trail:

We proceeded up past Vernal Falls:

We veered off the main trail just before reaching Nevada Falls, and headed out on the approach route through a side canyon:

We eventually reached Lost Lake, which seemed to me more a meadow than a lake:

From there, we went around to the left to finish our 6-mile approach to the climb. You can see Snake Dike below with a couple of climbers on it:

Then, we headed up:

Eventually, we did make the summit:

And walked down the cables, which, having done it now, I really think is not something inexperienced climbers should be attempting en masse, as is generally the case (I found out after we got back that a tourist had taken a fatal fall in June, sliding from the top of the cables down and off the left side of the picture below):

From that point, it's a nine mile hike back to the cars, and my feet were suffering in a new pair of approach shoes that hadn't been broken in. As a result, I was definitely the slowest of our group, and ended up with multiple blisters on both feet. I had two on the tops of the 4th digits of each foot, one large one on the balls of both feet, one on the bottom of each big toe, and one on the side of my left heel. Fortunately, only the ones on my 4th digits opened, and the others have since healed.

All in all, it was an epic adventure, and I thoroughly recommend, for those who are able, climbing, rather than hiking, Halfdome.


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Friday, September 26, 2008  

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