After our amazing few days in San Francisco we headed to our first (and as it later turned out, our only) camping spot at Yosemite, and it was gorgeous. Aside from the fact you have to be on minor alert for bears, the camping spot was so tranquil and a world away from the busy city we had stayed in just 24 hours before.
We set up camp, got a fire going with some obligatory s’more action and had a go on the makeshift rope swing before huddling into the 4 man tent we purchased at Walmart.
The next day we got up at 5am ready to wave goodbye to the camp and start on the Half Dome hike. Before I even say anything else, I’ll just tell you that we severely underestimated the difficulty of this hike. Not only was it drought season, but there was only one water point along the trail we chose. This water point was only a mile in to the hike before the tough incline even started. Just to put it in perspective there was still about 14 miles of hiking to do altogether. If we were to do this hike again we would, without question, invest in a water filter to use in the river.
A lot of people who we met along the way, who had done this hike before, explained that it was difficult and that this trek up to Half Dome had taken them either a long time, or a few attempts over time. We were certainly in good company and there is nothing like the camaraderie of fellow hikers when you’re feeling a little bit dejected…and dehydrated. And when I heard that one of the people hiking to the top was 70+ years old and had been hiking this specific trail every year for X number of years, I felt like I really needed to up my game! Turtle Don had some simple words of wisdom to share: “Slow and steady.”
Once we got to the sign for Sub Dome and Half Dome I started to panic. We were already incredibly elevated and I am terribly afraid of heights. (I know what possessed me to give this crazy idea a go?!) The vertigo issue became less of a problem when faced with the lack of water we had between us at this point. (NB: We took at least 4 litres of water.)
We got halfway up Sub Dome before my legs started to get a little jittery, and my hands started to shake. While the views were magnificent and continuing up the cables would have been spectacular – not to mention satisfying after the months of gym preparation – we decided to turn back. In hindsight it was probably for the best, and while it might have been disappointing, the thought of battling on further and then travelling the 8 miles back down with 0 water between us was certainly the safest option.
Thankfully a kind man who had done this 3 times before, told me I had already seen the phenomenal views this mountain and area has to offer anyway – this made me feel considerably better about turning back. Anyway, this video should convey the sheer beauty once you reach the higher points of the trail.
A lot of people had told us that the descent back down would be a lot easier – I respectfully disagree. My legs stopped functioning, the steps no longer looked like steps, and I was sliding all over the place. Of course this disorientation could have had something to do with the 2.5 hours sans any water. Once we passed through the John Muir Mist Trail section of the hike I began to feel a little better knowing we were getting closer to the water stop. However, I annoyingly couldn’t get the quote “water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink” out of my head.
Our total hike time was approximately 10 hours and we ended up getting started at about 7am. The key is to start early, because no matter how fit you are you’ll be surprised by how tough the first 8 miles actually are. I usually cardio everyday when I’m back at home, and I felt this really helped me to push on, but the altitude and ease of breathing becomes more challenging as you ascend.
Overall I do not regret the blisters or aching limbs which plagued me for days to come, but if we are to tackle this trail again we would probably opt for the wilderness permit. Hiking in stages and setting up camp nearer to Half Dome seems like the only way to go!
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