Saturday, August 12, 2006

Half Dome (AKA Jenni's Yosemite Death March)

On Wednesday afternoon, my friend Aaron and I took a break from our dive bar tour of San Francisco and headed to Yosemite for a quick camping trip. I'm happy to report that it was absolutely gorgeous and we managed to avoid any encounters with bears (although some little creature did manage to get into the apples and marshmallows, very thoughtfully taking a few bites out of each one!). We successfully set up camp in the dark, put the stuff in the bear locker and went to sleep.

Thursday morning we got up bright and early, packed our backpacks, got some much-needed coffee, and headed out for Half Dome! We were thinking about going to Mt. Whitney, but reconsidered when we saw the following sign:

Shortly after we started, we came upon Vernal Falls...

And after a pretty good elevation gain, we got a beautiful view of the Nevada Falls and the Valley...

We stopped for a rest at the top of the falls, and tried to fend off the squirrels as we ate our trail mix and tuna salad...

We circled Half Dome for what felt like forever, and then finally made the climb to the saddle at the base of the dome itself.

Aaron and I were both pleased to be done with the nasty climb up to the base! See how happy he looks???

At about noon, I made the final ascent up the cables to the top of Half Dome. Aaron decided to hang out and wait for me at the bottom (not a big fan of heights!). That was probably a good thing because this was quite possibly the scariest experience of my life (which I noticed when I made the mistake of looking behind me when I was halfway to the top and realized that there was NOTHING behind me for several hundred feet! Bad idea.)

But some nice people in front of me help me avoid having a panic attack, and I made it to the top, which was totally worth it!

I met a few cool people at the top, who were nice enough to take a picture for me as we joked about how close we could get to the edge before we totally freaked out. I sat and contemplated life for a few minutes (good spot for doing such things!), ate a packet of Sharkies, and then headed back.

This guy who was in front of me on the way up, and who had also left friends down at the bottom, offered to go back down the cables in front of me so that there would at least be someone there. Although it wasn't nearly as scary going back down, I very much appreciated the gesture! So then we headed back down the cables...

It was slow going back down, so I took a few pictures while I was waiting for people to pass me on their way up. Most of them looked like they were scared shitless, probably the way I looked on my way up!

I met Aaron back at the saddle and we made our way back down. It was MUCH faster than our trip up the mountain, as you might imagine! We took the same route down until we got to the top of Nevada Falls, and then we decided to try the Mist Trail down past the waterfalls rather than taking the long way around. Despite the shorter trail, it probably actually took longer because of all the stairs and tourists, but the falls were pretty!

We didn't get wet at the bottom of Nevada Falls, but we got a nice, cool mist (and a rainbow!) at the base of Vernal Falls.

By the time we'd reached the bottom of Vernal Falls we were more than ready to be done, and not too long after that, we were back at the trailhead. We got hot dogs and cold beverages at the snack stand (I think anything would have been good at that point, after living off of trail mix, beef jerky, and tuna for the previous nine hours!) and then headed back to the campsite.

We took a short nap and made dinner (soup and chicken apple sausages) and then went back to Yosemite Valley to shower at one of the other campsites. Somehow we both missed the signs about the cost of the showers, and no one seemed to be monitoring the area, so we each got a $5 shower for free! Thank God, because we desperately needed it...I don't think I've ever been that dirty in my life! On the way into the Valley, we were treated to one more pleasant surprise...a beautiful view of El Capitan and Half Dome at sunset...

Back at the campsite we made a huge campfire, kicked back with a couple of beers, made a S'more, and took a much-deserved rest! It was a tiring day, but well worth it!