Still Time for Half Dome

by Traci Hukill

Aug. 30, 2014—In June 2010, I hiked Half Dome in Yosemite with two friends. All spring we'd gone on training hikes, hoofing it up the steepest trails we could find in coastal California. We were in pretty good shape. But we still talk about the painful walk through the restaurant afterward for a long-anticipated meal—legs leaden, feet pulverized, bodies and minds numb with weariness except for the throbbing pain points.

Half Dome will kick your ass and take your name. A 14-16-mile roundtrip hike (shorter if you take Mist Trail both ways, longer if you choose John Muir Trail) that climbs almost 5,000 feet from the Valley floor, it makes for a long day. We didn't even ascend to the tip-top on our trip—the cables weren't up yet, and none of us were concerned enough with heroics to try it.

Weirdly, in spite of the thousands of people who climb it each summer, Half Dome really is a dangerous trek, as this harrowing account of a non-fatal fall off Half Dome conveys. Outside Online counts it among the world's 20 Most Dangerous Hikes.

But it's so worth it. The scenery is so good I won't even bother trying to describe it, except to say that postcard-worthy scenes lie around every bend in the trail. The Little Yosemite Valley would be famous in its own right if it weren't also a natural lunch and camping spot on the way to Half Dome. The physical challenge of the trail itself, never mind the final 400-foot ascent up the granite, is sufficient to give you a nice buzz for weeks afterward.

Here's the pitch: Adventure Out leads its last Half Dome excursion of the year Sept. 19-21. A two-night trip sets you up for an early-morning ascent of the dome, before crowds and bad weather get a chance to wreak havoc. And then the window closes until next spring. Learn more at Adventure Out.

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