Our trip in 1996 to Yosemite was planned well in advance. We were to climb Half Dome via the Regular Route. We planned out gear list, studied route descriptions, and practices big wall techniques together. Unfortunately after all of our careful planning, we forgot to reserve perfect weather which was the leading factor in our failure to complete the route. Half Dome has metal cables on top that attract lightning, and is one of the more frequently hit places in the park.
Camping in the park on Labor Day weekend was impossible, so we drove from San Diego out to the Oakhurst Lodge and slept there for the evening. We woke up early the next morning and drove into the park from there.
In order to climb Half Dome, we thought we needed to register at the ranger's station for a permit. We showed up early and ended up waiting a long time just to find out that we did not really need one. Permits are for backcountry camping, but if you are a few inches off of the ground on a cliff, then a permit was not needed.
The hike in is pretty miserable when you have all of your big wall gear to carry and you are fighting the Labor Day crowds. The hike is somewhere between seven and ten miles long. Much of the path is on sand which makes hiking more difficult, especially with the haul bag.
After hiking all morning and afternoon, we arrived at the base of Half Dome. We were lucky that there was water available at the spring so we did not have to hike back a ways to fill our water bottles. You may be able to find out if the spring has water by asking the rangers before you set out.)
Once we were all set filtering the water from the spring, we began to set the ropes for the first two pitches. While we were there, a couple climbed up several pitches and set up a port-a-ledge for the evening. They were the smart ones.
While we settled in for the evening, we watched the sun set. Its golden light made the cliff glow.
The next day we were able to get started. Of course the haul bag was a real problem from the get-go. I had to jug behind the sack to free it when it got caught on every protrusion it encountered. It was very frustrating because as I jugged, my new Petzl harness buckle would let the webbing creep through. it was that new "thread it through once" idea that works for normal climbing, but it did not work for my jugging.
When we got to the top of the first pitch, the thunder began. We decided that it was safer on the ground, so we rappelled back to the base of the cliff. We donned our rain gear and sat for the rest of the day. Because we were bored, we started eating our food. What else were we to do?
The storm brought in a beautiful sunset and gave us a nice ending to a crummy day. We put our bivy sacks in an area where we hoped a rock would not fall and kill us, and we tried to sleep. Rocks kept falling, so I watched the cliff to see if I could see anything.Three guys with headlamps were still climbing. They appeared to be attempting the pendulum in the dark.
We saw one dot fly over to the other two, and then swing back with an "Awwww...." from the audience. The guy tried again, and swung back. On his third try, he made it (or at least the headlamp did) and the guys cheered. I think after that they went to sleep because there was less rock fall after that.
Lying at the base of a cliff that high is pretty creepy at night. It makes you feel really small and it is kind of smothering. It was a huge blackness against the dark sky.
The next day we tried to climb again. Up with the haul sack. Fight with the slipping harness. Feel the rain come again. Drat!
While we patiently waited at the belay, four parties rappelled past us. The guys that did the pendulum the night before set up a pendulum back and then rappelled ten pitches because the weather would prevent them from summiting due to time and food. It took all day for everyone to rappel.
Bailing began to look like a good idea. The rain came up from a tropical storm from Mexico and it did not look like we were going to see the end of it soon. We ate most of the good food and my harness was still an issue. We decided that maybe Lost Arrow Spire would be a better idea. We rappelled to the base and camped for one more night.
In the morning we cleaned up two garbage bags full of garbage from the base of the climb and began the hike out. The cliff will still be there tomorrow.
Do you know this guy?
While we were there, a camera fell from the sky. It shattered on the ground below. I saved the film, hoping that we would run into the people who dropped their camera, but we never came across them. If you know this guy, let him know that we developed his film for him!