Last spring a casual friend asked out of the blue. “Would you be interested in going to Yosemite National Park with me in October?”
I answered, “Umm, let me think for a minute . . . YES!” This woman, who has traveled from Machu Picchu to Katmandu and practically everywhere between, had never been to Yosemite before. I had been there, many years ago, but had never gotten my fill, never explored beyond the major valley destinations.
With some trepidation, I asked my friend, “Are you interested in climbing Half Dome?”
“What’s that?” she asked.
I sent her some links, praying that she would answer in the negative. But no. A woman who has climbed to the Mt. Everest base camp is not likely to be intimidated by a mere 8,842′ hunk of granite. I went to work securing the necessary permits.
Sensible women that we are, we decided to take this 14-mile (16 miles according to the sign), round-trip climb, that gains 4,800′ of elevation, in two stages. This, of course, entailed turtling our houses on our backs up the steep 4.3 miles to Little Yosemite Valley (LYV) where we would camp for two or three nights.
At LYV we set up camp and discovered that my stove had gone on strike. Lucky for us, two communal fires were allowed in designated pits. We joined a crowd of young people to heat water for our dehydrated meals. The conversation was entertaining and lasted until long after the sun had set.
Half Dome shone brightly in the morning sun. From the trailhead we hiked through sublime forest to reach the mini-hump to the right of Half Dome. This is known as the subdome and it is no mini!
We were undoubtedly the oldest women climbing Half Dome on this, the last possible Half Dome climbing day of the 2016 season. As such, we earned a certain notoriety and respect. People were eager to take pictures of us and we were even offered precious sips of wine from a small carton of Black Box that one young couple had lugged in for their celebration.
Initially, we considered hiking to Cloud’s Veil, another peak that’s even higher than Half Dome. But listening to first-hand reports of how strenuous and long that hike is, we came to our senses and packed up the following morning to go sleep in the main valley in the comfort of the Yosemite tent camp.
We spent our remaining days hiking the less intimidating trails of Yosemite.
During the autumn, Yosemite waterfalls dwindle to a mere trickle. During the verdant spring season, Nevada Falls runs with force and vigor, spraying the steep Mist Trail beside it with moisture and stunning rainbows.