Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Half Dome, 05/25/12

May 25, 2012: Today was opening day on Half Dome. The National Park takes down the cables each Colombus Day and puts them back up late May or early July depending on snow conditions. Today, May 25th, was opening day 2012. I hadn't planned on hiking Half Dome as part of this trip, but after summiting Clouds Rest the prior day the idea grew on me. The big question mark for the day would be the weather. The day prior I had it good for hiking Clouds Rest, 50 degrees, light winds and clear. The forecast today was a 60% chance of snow, 1-3 inches, a high of 30 degrees and 15-20 mph winds, oh and the chance of a thunderstorm after 11:00 am. I did not want to hike the polished granite of the Half Dome Cables when wet and or icy and getting hit by lightning didn't sound like much fun either. I went to sleep the prior night with a lot of questions about the weather and my sanity. I decided to wait until 0330 the day of the hike and see what the sky looked like.......
No need to wait for the alarm, I was already awake at 0330. I took a look around and to my joy, the sky was clear in all directions and there was no wind, lets do this. I did the morning chores but this time I had to break down my camp as quietly as possible, I am sure my neighbors were sick of me after two days of this. I moved my truck to the Half Dome Lot and started my trek at 0430. It was much colder this morning than yesterday, but it was nice uphill hiking weather. I didn't see anyone for a couple of hours, not until Little Yosemite Valley. The sky was still clear as day broke, a very good sign. I powered my way up to the Half Dome/JMT junction in two hours forty minutes. As I started to climb the hill to the sub dome, my quads clued into what I was doing and started to disagree with my plans. Time to take a little break to re-fuel. As I continued onward I noticed two things; one being no ranger to check permits, maybe they slept? The other was wispy, swirling clouds on the north side of Half Dome. One minute you could see it, the next it was enveloped. I watched this for a moment making sure these were not storm clouds aka lightning or rain/snow. I decided that it was safe to proceed and made my way slowly up the sub dome.
I arrived at the base of the cables at 0805 and had them all to myself. There were a couple of people meandering about at the top of the cables, but nobody was in my way going up. Could I possibly get up the cables with no interruptions sans the occasional photograph??? Later in the season there will be a pile of gloves people can pick though to save their hands from the cables, but being today was day one of the 2012 season, there were none. Lucky for me I had brought an extra older pair to use and its a good thing I did, the cables were freezing, even with gloves on, my finger tips were numb. I got into a steady rhythm and topped out on the summit of Half Dome at 0815. The wispy clouds made for great photos. I took as many as I could before the clouds engulfed the summit. It was very brisk on top and I took refuge in a ring of gigantic boulders but I was still chilly. I walked over to the southern section of the dome to have a look, then made my way back to the cables. I was able to make it down quickly and safely. Back at the sub dome I ran into about twenty five people. Most were overnighters from Little Yosemite Valley. The clouds had dissipated and the summit and cables of Half Dome were clear, made for great photos. I made it a point to get back into the trees before taking a needed twenty minute siesta. I was tired and my feet were getting tired. The building clouds blocked the suns rays and it got cold, time to go.
I made it to the top of Nevada Fall under darkening skies, at this point it started to snow. I could still see some of Liberty Cap, but Half Dome was shrouded in clouds. Glad I was headed down. Funny thing was, there were people heading up with the notion to climb Half Dome. I gave the first couple of people the advice to stay away from lightning prone granite with slick/wet footing. After the first few, I just smiled and told everyone good luck, have fun. I must have passed a dozen people wanting to climb Half Dome during a spring snowstorm between Nevada Fall and the trailhead.
I arrived back at my truck at 1245, good times. I made it over to Yosemite Village to grab a Teriyaki Turkey Burger with Sweet Potato Fries (super good), get some gifts and take a shower before the long drive back home. I accomplished my goals and drove out of the valley in a light snow, it was even accumulating at the Glacier Point turnoff, so pretty. I found out that the National Park closed Glacier Point Road and Tioga Pass, I made it out just in time. The drive home was nice and uneventful, I made the best of my unplanned Yosemite week, sometimes plan B is the better option, good times.
Swirling Clouds Engulf Half Dome

Heading Up

Mixed Views Into The Valley

Clouds Rest Through The Clouds

Yosemite Valley From The Summit

Mt. Lyell & Mt. McClure In The Distance

Looking At Half Dome From The Southern Part Of The Dome

Looking Up While Heading Down The Cables

View Of The Cables

Great Success :)

Whispy Clouds Help The Black & White Photo Stand Out

Close Up Of The Summit

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