Ascent of Half Dome on 2017-08-21

Climber: Floyd Greenwood

Others in Party:Family
Date:Monday, August 21, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Bus
Peak:Half Dome
    Elevation:8840 ft / 2694 m

Ascent Trip Report

Entered 3/18/2018. A multi-day backpacking trip in Yosemite with family.

We began in Yosemite Valley, parked in the backpackers parking lot below Glacier Point, and took a bus that afternoon to Tuolumne Meadows where we stayed in a designated campground with other backpackers. We met one solo hiker who was currently hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail (traveling north) and two guys who were beginning their hike from there to Mt. Whitney. That would be an amazing trip to do someday.

We woke up early the next morning to catch a bus from Tuolumne Meadows to Tenaya Lake and the Sunrise Lakes (what I think it is) or the Pack Trail (as it is labeled on CalTopo maps). By then it was about 9:30 in the morning. The first day was tough making our way up the steep slope toward Sunrise Lakes. We were not yet used to the altitude and I was short of breath often. I did not have this issue elsewhere on the trip. It was really sunny too so we were guzzling our water. Once we made it to the trail junction to Sunrise Lakes we ate lunch and continued on the Pack Trail (not what it is called, not towards Sunrise Lakes) and camped in a wooded area a mile or so later. People had definitely camped there before. We got there early. It was only 2:30. So we took our time setting up camp and started a fire.

We were super lucky to have gotten there early because about an hour after we arrived it began to hail. The hail pellets approached the size of golf balls and I was beginning to get soaked so I eventually made my way into the tent. A couple of hours later the precipitation stopped briefly (still cloudy) leaving our camp soaked. There was a small bare peak behind our campsite (opposite from the trail) so we decided to climb as far as we could. A combination of lightning/thunder and slippery rocks forced us to turn back, but not without a beautiful sunset as the sun dipped below the mountains in the foreground. We continued to see and hear day hikers pass by, even into the dark. We saw one day hiker with a tiny pack and no headlamp walking as fast as they could towards the Sunrise Lakes trailhead. Those hikers were a testament to how important it is to be prepared, no matter how trivial you think the hike may be.

The next morning things began to dry quickly. We continued to make our way past lakes and rock slides and forested sections until we began climbing Clouds Rest. Throughout the climb we could look out to fabulous views of the surroundings. Unfortunately, as the day pressed on, smoke filled the valleys below and gave us limited views, but still nothing short of excellent, from the summit. The open rock faces near the top and small width of the trail definitely gave it a 'knife edge' feel. After spending about a half-hour on Clouds Rest, we descended a number of switchbacks until reaching the John Muir Trail. We followed it for a little over a mile, giving stunning views of the backside of Half Dome. Then we found a secluded campsite about 200 feet from the Half Dome trailhead. The nearest water was about a half-mile away so we ended up making a couple of trips there.

The next morning as early as we could we made our way up the Half Dome Trail. We and all the other hikers expected to see a ranger at the base of the dome itself, but no ranger was there because they were helping people in a town near the southern border of the park evacuate from the latest forest fire. When we reached the cable section of the climb you could see an ant line of people trying to get up and down a small path probably meant for a single person. The cable climb reached more than 60 degrees at one point! The views from the top were great aside from all the smoke. Clouds Rest was visible as well as El Capitan until it eventually faded into the smoke. We stayed a second night at the same campsite. Our site overlooked Little Yosemite Valley. Vogelsang Peak was a distinct feature in the distance. The star gazing was also nice, but it did get cold standing out there.

The third day was a ton of descending. We made our way into Little Yosemite Valley and then down further into Yosemite Valley, passing by Nevada Falls, Emerald Pool, and Vernal Falls. Once we reached Emerald Pool, mobs of people filled the trail. Finally, after descending about 3000 feet, we arrived at Happy Isles where we stayed at the backpacker's campground. The next day we spent touring the valley and its surroundings. We drove up to Glacier Point. Half Dome was nearly invisible in smoke, but we could see cars thousands of feet below. We also visited some of the visitor centers and other attractions in the valley. We spent the last night in one of these tent house structures. It was kind of like a hotel but with permanent tents as rooms. The next morning we left the park and drove back to Berkeley, CA where we would spend the next week or so touring and visiting family in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Aid Climb
    Gear Used:
Rope, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Very smoky
Ascent Statistics
    Route:Pack, John Muir, and Half Dome Trails
    Start Trailhead:Tenaya Lake, Sunrise Lakes Trail Head  
Descent Statistics
    Route:Half Dome, John Muir, and Mist Trails
    End Trailhead:Happy Isles Campground  
Ascent Part of Trip: Yosemite 2017 (3 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Clouds Rest2017-08-20 
2Half Dome2017-08-21 

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