A Winter Celebration on Yosemite Valley’s Highest Peak
By John P. DeGrazio
Lasting friendships are built through wilderness adventures. Last week I hiked to the top of Half Dome with a group of three other friends. Some in our group had never met which always makes for fun times of sharing many great stories and lots of food. Pat supplied us with a 10 pound bag of trail mix along the way.
It was David’s Birthday so he brought the birthday cake that we devoured atop the rock, and I shared some Belgian chocolate in honor of our winter achievement. Casey shared her brilliant charm. You owe us on the next one, Casey.
The day started slightly later than anticipated as we were supposed to pick up Casey at the parking lot near the Foresta turnoff. We pulled up and saw her car but no Casey. She was walking on the Big Oak Flat Rd toward the Valley looking like someone who had missed her ride. Perhaps her expectations were low since the previous week was the first time we met, and we were running about ten minutes late due to my faulty time calculations. She hopped in, and we were on our way.
The hike began in warm morning light with above average February temperatures. By the time we reached the waterfalls, we were stripped down to our t-shirts. Once we reached the saddle at Sub Dome, the winds picked up and the fun began. I am barely audible in the video above, but the gusts fortunately subsided as we climbed the cables.
We shared in our usual revelry on top of Half Dome and were excited because we thought we were the last group to summit before the storm. Another solo hiker had come down shortly before we approached Sub Dome. To our surprise, there were three others sliding up the cables on our descent. We were slightly disappointed with this traffic jam, but we got over it in a hurry. The rest of our day was filled with laughter and trash.
We kept ourselves entertained on the previous week’s hike by counting Casey’s riches along the Old Coulterville Road. The cents added up as she accumulated cans and bottles on our hike. This time, it was my turn as we found several odd trail treasures that I kept stuffing in my pack. Two items really stood out. I found an old chewed up glove between two granite boulders. Marmots love salt and will eat anything covered in sweat. That is one reason it’s important not to leave any gloves at the base of the cables. We are always happy to oblige the Yosemite rangers when they ask us to help haul away this pile of trash.
The second item really angered our group because three of us are climbers, and we found a golf club at the true summit. Why would someone bring a golf club to the top of Half Dome? To hit a golf ball, of course. This is about the worst idea possible as a way to celebrate your accomplishment. Besides endangering any animal down below Half Dome in the area of Mirror Lake, launching these projectiles from nearly 5000 feet above the Valley can also cause potential death to any climbers below, especially if the golfer suffers from the shanks. So if that’s your Callaway 8 iron that I found, please don’t make such a reckless mistake in the future.
We were each a bit sad to part ways. Our sorrow was tempered by promises of future adventures together and some fine dining. Pat and I carpooled back to Sonora and stopped in at Emberz for an exceptional meal. I couldn’t resist the Philly Cheesesteak. Next stop, Hetch Hetchy. Until then, remember this wonderful quote from Theodor Seuss Geisel.