“I took my love and I took it down. I climbed a mountain and I turned around.” Landslide – Stevie Nicks
“I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.” Shug Avery, The Color Purple
Why This Mountain?
I have always wanted Half-Dome to be Peak #52. This majestic, notorious mountain in Yosemite National Park was the peak that started me hiking. It kicked off this crazy journey four years ago, so it really is the only mountain that can be the final mountain of 52 Peaks. I am fortunate beyond words to be hiking Half-Dome once again with my trainer and great friend Heidi. She was there with me each step of the way the first time and I’m honored that she would make this hike with me again.
Mountain & Route Facts
Half Dome is a granite dome at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California. It is a well-known rock formation in the park, named for its distinct shape. One side is a sheer face while the other three sides are smooth and round, making it appear like a dome cut in half.
As late as the 1870s, Half Dome was described as “perfectly inaccessible” by Josiah Whitney of the California Geological Survey. The summit was finally conquered by George G. Anderson in October 1875, via a route constructed by drilling and placing iron eyebolts into the smooth granite.
Today, Half Dome may now be ascended in several different ways. Thousands of hikers reach the top each year by following an 8.5 mi (13.7 km) trail from the valley floor. After a rigorous 2 mi (3.2 km) approach, including several hundred feet of granite stairs, the final pitch up the peak’s steep but somewhat rounded east face is ascended with the aid of a pair of post-mounted braided steel cables originally constructed close to the Anderson route in 1919. This route takes hikers up The Mist Trail, which is one of the 25 most dangerous hikes (a list that I am trying to also complete.)
Alternatively, over a dozen rock climbing routes lead from the valley up Half Dome’s vertical northwest face. The first technical ascent was in 1957 via a route pioneered by Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas, today known as the Regular Northwest Face. Their five-day epic was the first Grade VI climb in the United States. Their route has now been free soloed several times in a few hours’ time. Other technical routes ascend the south face and the west shoulder.
The top of Half Dome is a large, flat area where climbers can relax and enjoy their accomplishment. The summit offers views of the surrounding areas, including Little Yosemite Valley and the Valley Floor. A notable location to one side of Half Dome is the “Diving Board”, where Ansel Adams took his photograph “Monolith, The Face of Half Dome” on April 10, 1927. Often confused with “the Visor,” a small overhanging ledge at the summit, the Diving Board is on the shoulder of Half Dome.
From 1919 when the cables were erected through 2011, there have been six fatal falls from the cables. The latest fatality occurred on July 31, 2011.
Lightning strikes can be a risk while on or near the summit. On July 27, 1985, five hikers were struck by lightning, resulting in two fatalities.
The Cable Route was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
Historical and Cultural Information
Half-Dome is located in Yosemite National Park in central California. The park, which is managed by the National Park Service, covers an area of 747,956 acres and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On average, about 4 million people visit Yosemite each year, and most spend the majority of their time in the seven square miles (18 km2) of Yosemite Valley. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and biological diversity.
John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist and explorer. It was because of Muir that many National Parks were left untouched, such as Yosemite Valley National Park. One of the most significant camping trips Muir took was in 1903 with then president Theodore Roosevelt. This trip persuaded Roosevelt to return “Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to federal protection as part of Yosemite National Park”. Yosemite National Park was created on October 1, 1890.
California is the most populous state in the US. It is also the third most extensive in area (after Alaska and Texas). Los Angeles is the second most populous city in the US behind New York. The state’s capitol is Sacramento, which is located in Northern California.
California contains both the highest point (Mount Whitney) and the lowest point (Death Valley) in the contiguous United States. Earthquakes are common because of the state’s location along the Pacific Ring of Fire. About 37,000 earthquakes are recorded each year, but most are too small to be felt.
What is now California was first settled by various Native American tribes before being explored by a number of European expeditions during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was then claimed by the Spanish Empire as part of Alta California in the larger territory of New Spain. Alta California became a part of Mexico in 1821 following its successful war for independence, but was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican–American War. The western portion of Alta California was organized as the State of California, which was admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850. The California Gold Rush starting in 1848 led to dramatic social and demographic changes, with large-scale immigration from the east and abroad with an accompanying economic boom.