By John P. DeGrazio
“The Bucket List” was a buddy film with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson about completing a list of things you want to do before you die, or more poetically, kick the bucket. Surprisingly, the Half Dome hike was not on their bucket list, but Jack and Morgan are more than welcome to call us anytime. This hike is on the list of thousands of people in real life. We receive several calls each year from travelers who want to see Yosemite National Park for a variety of reasons. They all want to explore the many areas of the park and surround themselves with the beauty of nature. Some wish to take relaxing walks with their family, others want to learn in a photography class from a professional photographer in a land made famous by Ansel Adams, and a good percentage of our clients want to challenge themselves in ways they never imagined.
Most bucket list adventurists who sign up for this full day hike are well aware of the challenges for the day and often exclaim not only how happy they were to complete the task of reaching the summit, but also how it would be difficult to imagine ever doing it again. They check Half Dome off their bucket list and are ready for the next life changing event. Some of those who adamantly claim it will be their only time on the peak eventually return, however. There’s just something about Half Dome.
Julie and Julie set out on a girls’ trip to Yosemite in May 2011. One Julie was about to turn fifty, and their goal was a to spend some quality time in California and reach the summit of Half Dome together. They had done research on the hike and found it to be a perfect bucket list adventure. They were both from Texas and didn’t have much to compare it to in the Lone Star State but they began a training program. Training for this trip is vitally important for anyone wishing to be successful on this hike. Although there are not many options to train in elevation in Texas, it is essential to build arm strength, leg strength, and endurance through several exercises. Running is a popular training method, as is cycling, along with many other cardio activities. Hiking hills or even climbing the steps of your apartment or office building can also simulate walking uphill for this trek. To train for this hike, you are advised to engage in these activities 3-4 times per week in the 3-6 months leading up to your hike. Arm strength also should not be ignored. Weight training is helpful, but consistently doing push ups and/or pull ups in the months leading up to the hike would also be extremely beneficial. This is a trip that must be taken seriously and those who prepare are rewarded while those who do not greatly reduce their chance for success.
The Julies were well prepared, and we moved through the trail methodically that day. The snow covered Sub Dome was a different story altogether. This part of the hike that should only be attempted by those who are very confident or guided in conditions like these. Julie and Julie were both. We were equipped with hiking poles and traction devices for our feet. Unwavering, we worked as a team while we traversed the snow up the steep dome until we reached the cables which were completely free of snow or ice. Once on the cables, the friends again relied on each other to provide motivation to complete the difficult task and rejoiced on the summit. The reward was great, and it was a true wilderness experience as we were the only ones on top that day. They both shared how they pulled from each other’s strengths when times were most challenging. After all, sticking together is what good waffles do.
Buddy trips are so important, and there’s no better person to share an experience with than someone who has made the same efforts you have. Looking back at old photos, it’s always fun to remember adventures with buddies from all different times of my life. I’m sure the Julies will always remember this trip with fondness.
Here are a few other buddy films to consider:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thelma and Louise, Bonnie and Clyde, Dumb and Dumber, I Love You Man, Bridesmaids
YExplore Lead Adventure Guide John P. DeGrazio has reached the summit of Half Dome more than 100 times. In this series, he will share stories from some of the most interesting journeys along the trail of Yosemite’s most popular peak. He will reflect on some of the most inspirational moments he has shared with hundreds of others while achieving their lifelong dreams. John will also share tips on how to properly prepare for such a long, arduous trek while providing insights on how to successfully complete this quest. He’ll also discuss changes to this hike he has witnessed throughout the years as well as many interesting encounters along the way.