Halfdome - Cable Route
August 17th, 2002
Down from our last alpine type adventure on Conness, Emily
and I decided to go down and check out the valley. Neither of us had been
there before, and we figured that the hike up Halfdome would be a great
way to get some views and get a taste of how the area feels. We took nice
light packs (3L water each and lunch) and began up the trail.
The day started with a slight misfortune as I parked in
the wrong parking lot and inadvertantly added another couple of miles
of roadhiking to the trip. But a combination of things were working for
us this day. To begin with, we had heard that this hike (17.2 miles round
trip and 4800ft gain) was really greuling and could be humbleing. So with
this in mind, we were mentally prepared for a very long feeling, strenuous
trip. Secondly, we had been above 10,000 ft for many days and the air
at the low elevation felt like high octane fuel. Anyhow, with these things
backing us, the hike was actually really pleasant and we made it to the
base of the cables in under 3 horus.
To the left of Emily you can see people going up the cable route
On the way up to the base of the cables are a series of
large stone steps up a long slab.
Emily on the steps
At the base of the cables is a pile of old gloves. Most
of them are worn really slick on the palms, but Emily and I found that
you could turn them inside out and the insides of many of them are still
nice and grippy. The cable route consists of rods stuck into the slabs
with cable running through them, and a strip of 2x4 at each rod to act
as sort of a step. It is decently low angle for the first and the last
bits, but the middle section is relativly steep, and it really is necassary
to use the cables to haul yourself up.
It was absolutly nuts. We were ascending at a time when
the route was super busy with people going up and down. There were people
on the route who were petrified with fear and unable to move up or down,
thus really causing slow traffic as people tried to go around them. There
was aparenlty a "Halfdome expert" behind Emily and I, who thought
it would be usefull if she yelled stuff like, "Come on peepull! Keep
it moving!!" and "What's the hold-up? Mooove! Mooove! Mooove!"
etc. She made Emily quite irritated and they had this exchange,
Emily: Listen, we are not moving because there are some
people who are a bit freaked out and are slowly moving down, so just be
Expert: Oh? Is that what is happening? Well people like
that shoudln't be on this route, they should come down!
Emily: That's what they're trying to do
Expert: Come on peepull! What's the big deal? Upwards! Upwards!
In addition, there were people comming down who were pretty
much doing half controlled foot glisades down the route (holding the cable)
towards everybody comming up. This was all in a place where it would be
really easy not to fall if left to one's self, but a fall would pretty
much mean falling all the way down to the base of Halfdome. Emily tried
to scare off thoughts of a fat guy at the top rolling down the route and
taking everybody out like bowling pins, but it was making her a little
nervous. I was concerned about the possibility of the cable comming unattatched
or slack somehow and everybody falling off due to that. It was amazing
that this sort of things exists and that people don't get killed on it.
Emily says that if she ever did it again, she'd probably carry up a swami
belt and a little via feretta set-up, just to be on the safe side.
We were both happy to reach the top, where we had a really
good avacado intensive lunch.
Dave on the "divingboard"
The descent was a lot less stressfull as there were alot
fewer people on the route.
Emily on her way down
On the hike out, we decided to try the "Mist trail"
rather than the John Muir trail, as it cut a couple of miles off and followed
a river down. It was a really beautiful trail that consisted mainly of
steep winding stone block steps. A stiff contrast to the often wide, pack
animal-friendly JMT .
Dave on a woody section of the Mist trail
And perhpas the best reason for taking this trail was that
it passes by "Emerald Pool" an unbelievable clear green "lake"
(actually a sort of a large dammed area of the river) with a bottom of
clean, slippery granite. It was like a swimming pool in its cleaness and
simplenss, yet it had fish swimming around in it. It was a really really
amazing place. As we approached the pool we came to a sign that forbade
"walking on slippery areas," and a host of other things, but
nothing that said "no swimming."
Emily in the pool. This picture really doesn't do it justice.
As we were leaving the pool we came accross another sign
that did forbid swimming because of the danger of being swept into submerged
granite chunks in the lake, or eventually down a massive waterfall that
is a bit downstream. The water lever was low enough for us that neither
of these were reallty of concern.
We got back to the car satisfied and thirsty, and went to
the busy, crazy pizza place in Curry Village. This area had a really different
feel than anything we'd encountered in Toulomne, likely because there
were so many more people there. But the pizza seemed really good.