Posted by: charityliz | October 1, 2012

Yosemite, Part 2 — half dome

While going to Yosemite was on my bucket list, hiking Half Dome in Yosemite was on my bucket list with a star next to it. This is not the most difficult hike in Yosemite, but it is the most difficult hike I’ve ever attempted.  See that rock dome in the photo above?…I hiked to the top of it! In the words of some anonymous internet source,

“Half Dome is the ultimate Yosemite day hike – the one you can’t die without doing, 

and the one you’re most likely to die while doing.”

This 16.5 mile trek, took about 12 hours and included a 4,800 elevation change  – which was all roughly equivalent to climbing about 400 staircases (according to my friend’s pedometer).  The very last part of the climb is a 400 foot ascent at a 45 degree angle, in which hikers use cables to help pull themselves up one massive granite rock.  The published information says the rock face is at a 45 degree angle, but at times I could have sworn it was more like 60 degrees.  I was seriously shocked that the National Park allows the “average Joe” to hike up those cables… it really was quite risky, and seemed like the equivalent would be if Disneyland allowed people to go on Thunder Mountain without the safety bar pulled over them (in which case, people could technically hang onto the bar, but if they let to, they’d likely be thrown from the train). On Half Dome, if you let go of the cable or slipped, you would most likely fall off the side of the mountain and die.  There was no “safety bar” or seat belt.  But the view at the top was really incredible and well worth the climb!  Not to mention the beautiful views throughout the hike — including two waterfalls!

Despite the challenging ascent, my real battle came during the descent.  Almost as soon as we started heading down the mountain, my knees went from feeling great to feeling quite crappy.  I took two ibuprofen to manage some of the pain, and within 20 minutes I needed two more.  We still had about 6 miles of downhill to conquer. I was able to grin and bare most of the way down, until we were about two miles from the bottom, at which time, my knees really began to waver.  And at this point in the hike, we were in the middle of a series of hundreds of steps carved into rocks along a waterfall.  It was a beautiful view, but all I could do was wince with each step down, until I finally paused, completely overwhelmed by pain, and began to cry. Jason (my totally awesome & sweet boyfriend) was right there to comfort me and do whatever he could to help minimize the pain.

Even though I seriously felt like I wanted to crumble to the ground and just cry and wait for the bears to come eat me, I knew I had to keep going. It was getting dark, and I knew the quickest way out was on my own two feet.  However, we discovered that walking backward offered my knees some relief, so Jason literally held onto my arms to help take off some of the weight as I stepped down each step, and guided me down the mountain as I hiked backward….one step at a time for the last two miles. It was a LONG two miles.

We prayed that God would stop the knee pain.  He didn’t.  However, I learned, once again, that God does not always answer prayers the way we’d like, but He always provides.  Jason was there to hold my arms and guide me down the mountain….Michael & Taylor (our hiking buddies) encouraged me all the way down…and even a complete stranger who saw me crying, insisted on giving me her knee brace — she literally took it off her own leg, claiming that her knee was not hurting at all that day and insisted that I use it.  She was like an angel sent from God, because that brace at least offered one of my knees significant relief– though I worried how she faired the rest of the way down the mountain, and simply had to trust that God probably helped her out as well.

This was probably one of the most humbling experiences of my life, as I literally would not have been able to make it without my hiking companions (especially Jason) helping me. And on top of it all,  I was a blubbering mess; once the tears started, it was difficult to stop.  They were almost like an involuntary physical reaction for dealing with the pain.  And it was, indeed, very PAINFUL!  But, praise God, I made it down the mountain!

We all rejoiced upon completing what we had set out to do earlier that morning — conquer Half Dome!  The next day, my friend got a shirt that said “Half Dome — I made it to the top!”  I wanted a shirt that said “Half Dome — I made it to the bottom!”  They didn’t have those, but I’d say that would have more accurately portrayed my battle with the mountain!

But for the record, it was totally WORTH IT!

at the trail head – looking forward to a day of hiking!

beautiful water falls on this trail!

Almost to the top!

on top of the world!

reached the summit for the second time in his life…like it was no big thang

right after we finished the cables!

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Responses

  1. I’m so sorry you had to endure so much PAIN!!! The views are awesome, and heartstopping—especially the ones with you out near the edge! OMG!!

  2. Congrats on your hike. Trekking poles take the pressure off your knees. The John Muir Trail back (after Nevada Fall) is a bit longer but easier on the knees than the Mist Trail. Repetitive motion for 15 miles is big – train for it in 2013.

    Rick D (aka Mr Half Dome)

  3. yay! so proud of you for persevering on! that’s such an awsome hike to do!

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