First Half Dome Ascent of the Season: Wednesday Wanderings in Yosemite 5.21.14
By John P. DeGrazio
Your first doing something is always a wonderful feeling. A first time riding a bike or a first kiss are probably two popular life events that come to mind. What about your first time hiking to the top of a mountain? That is a thrill that stays with you for a lifetime. I remember my first time ascending Half Dome with my lifetime friends Ed and Ram. We were joined that day on the summit by our friends Rod and Dave, and the lore from that journey grows every time we tell the tales. That trip sparked my passion for starting YExplore, and every time I lead trips to hike Half Dome, I am sure to prepare my guests for the journey in the best way possible. Which is of course, in many way opposite of how we did it that first time. Hey, you always learn from your mistakes.
I was on the Half Dome summit this past weekend for the very first time of the year with a new friend, Tosan. Tosan was scheduled to enjoy a three day backpack on the North Rim of Yosemite Valley when he received my call late last week. The Half Dome cables were set up a week early this year and the NPS decided to generously allow hikers a chance to obtain permits during a special weeklong window. “How would you like to hike up Half Dome?” I recall asking Tosan. Considering he was in the middle of a life-changing decision at work, he replied “I’ll have to call you back”. Before we hung up, Tosan realized the opportunity that was presented to him and added “Wait a minute. That’s the peak so many people come to Yosemite to see, right?” After I confirmed, he excitedly requested that I try to obtain the permits.
After several phone calls to the wilderness office and our guide Elspie, we were able to obtain the special passes. Thank you Elspie for 1. being in the Valley at the absolute right time, and 2. for taking a moment to make the necessary arrangements for us. We hiked up the John Muir Trail to our camp and were not certain we would be making the summit attempt until late in the afternoon when Tosan, in a John Muir moment, decided he would not be able to live with himself if he didn’t at least try.
We woke at the crack of dawn to start our day at first light with very few people on the trail. Actually, we were awoken by a black bear at about 2am because someone in the Little Yosemite Valley backpackers’ camp did not properly store their food. This bear was playing soccer with an uncovered bear canister, and I’m almost positive it may have even hit my tent. I awoke to some snorting and crunching but knew not to disturb the beast. Kidding aside, this is a serious issue and that bear has a lower chance of survival because of human negligence. That bear ate everything in that container, now has a taste for human food, and will likely equate humans to a food source. Please be certain to secure all food, trash, and any other scented items in a properly closed bear canister or bear locker that are available at some select campgrounds including LYV.
On the way to Subdome, I asked Tosan if he’d like to participate in a Half Dome safety video I have been wanting to publish for a few years. He was a more than willing participant, and I don’t think he was aware that obligated him to make the summit. No pressure though, really. He was a great role model for the video which I am quite happy with seeing the result. I believe it shows some important steps to take for everyone attempting this hike with a focus on what to do once you reach the Subdome. The hike was an astounding success, and we were able to enjoy our peaches on the peak. Where will you enjoy your next Can-O-Peaches?