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Ascent of Half Dome on 2010-06-16

Climber: Gregor Wakefield

Others in Party:Marcus Wakefield
Date:Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Half Dome
    Elevation:8840 ft / 2694 m

Ascent Trip Report

Took John Muir Trail from Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley on Tuesday morning and stayed the night in Little Yosemite Valley Wilderness Campground at 6100 feet.

Little Yosemite Valley is 3.5 miles from the cables.

Reached the Half Dome summit via the cable route on Wednesday morning and then returned to Little Yosemite Valley Campground before descending back into the valley via the Mist Trail on Thursday morning.

It's my personal opinion that it's much easier to follow the John Muir Trail on the way up, and the Mist Trail on the way down. This is because the John Muir Trail, although a longer hike, is a much easier climb. The Mist Trail is absolutely beautiful and should not be missed, but it's a brutal never-ending rock staircase and is far more enjoyable if descending.

I would also suggest that the trip is made much more enjoyable if stretched to at least two days by spending the night in Little Yosemite Valley; especially if using the Mist Trail on the ascent. Few people are in the mood for the long hike back after climbing miles of steep stairs.

A good trail map is important as the signs in Yosemite can be extremely confusing. There are several points where you're forced to go left or right, but there is either no sign, or none of the signs have Half Dome or Little Yosemite Valley listed. The best example is at the split between the John Muir Trail and the Mist Trail where the sign on the left says ... "Nevada Falls, via the Mist Trail" and the sign on the right says ... "Half Dome." Our original plan was to take the Mist Trail all the way up, but we followed the sign to the right that said "Half Dome" and later found out it was the John Muir Trail. We lucked out and it ended up being a much easier path up, but it's quite a bit longer and we were a bit upset until realizing how lucky we were after taking the Mist Trail on the way down. It's possible that the Yosemite staff has done this on purpose, knowing that the easiest way up is the John Muir Trail, but it still seems like common sense to have Half Dome listed on both signs.

Signs are also extremely confusing when coming into Little Yosemite Campground. You come to a "Y" where the sign says "Little Yosemite Campground", and then gives no indication which way to go. The sign makes it appear that you are already in the campground, but there is nothing there. We later found out, AFTER arriving at the campground another mile up the trail, that both directions take you to the campground, but on opposite sides. We hiked that mile extremely paranoid that we had somehow missed the camping area. A note on the sign indicating that the campground is another mile up the trail with arrows pointing either direction would have been extremely helpful.

Other than the issues with the signs, the trip was amazing and the climb up the cables is not nearly as tough as it looks. There is a "first hump" made up of a twisting rock staircase that leads to the bottom of the cables that is far tougher than the cables themselves.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Route:John Muir Trail
    Trailhead:Happy Isles Trailhead  
Descent Statistics
    Route:Mist Trail
    Trailhead:Happy Isles Trailhead  

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