Ascent of Half Dome on 2019-06-11

Climber: Rafee Memon

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Half Dome
    Elevation:8840 ft / 2694 m

Ascent Trip Report

I was thwarted the previous week in my attempt to climb Half Dome the day before the permit season started, and I wasn't about to let it go easily. I begrudgingly began applying to the daily lotteries, not sure how many attempts it would take to score a permit. On only my second attempt, I won a permit for Tuesday, and I scrambled to get things my things in order for a quick day trip back to Yosemite Valley.

I left from the Bay Area around 2pm on Monday afternoon, stopped in Oakdale for gas and a Subway sandwich, and continued to the valley where I arrived around 7pm. Not quite satisfied with my sandwich, I picked up a piece of pie and a couple Clif bars from Half Dome Village and caught a few minutes of the Warriors-Raptors game before heading back outside to watch sunset on Half Dome with a big crowd of onlookers. Afterwards, I parked in the village lot to try to get a few hours of rest. I couldn't get comfortable in the heat of the night, but I managed to get about three hours of sleep.

My alarm went off at 2am, and I quickly made tea, got dressed, and drove to the Happy Isles hiker lot. I set off at exactly 2:30am, and I jogged to the bathroom next to the proper trailhead to take care of business before starting up the Mist Trail. After my experience the previous week, I was mentally prepared for the sheer volume of water (and mist) that I would encounter due to the huge winter, and I wasted no time working through the wet sections as quickly as possible. Last week, it was refreshing, but this time, in the middle of the night in my thin shirt and shorts, it was merely annoying. Thankfully, I dried off and warmed up pretty quickly, and I continued past Vernal and Nevada Falls before taking a snack break at the bathroom.

It was a peaceful and uneventful journey through Little Yosemite Valley and up the Half Dome cables trail. I jogged the flat and downhill sections of trail where I could. At one point, I spotted one lone headlamp coming up the trail behind me from LYV, but it vanished soon after. Nearing the subdome, Half Dome became visible through the trees in the faint light of dawn, and I spotted a few headlamps partway up the cables. I wouldn't be the only party at the summit, but at least I would be avoiding the summer hoards with my alpine start. I couldn't imagine starting much later and dealing with the forecast 90-plus degree weather on the valley floor!

I was half expecting to be turned around at the base of the cables for some random reason, not dissimilarly from last week, but the route was completely clear when I arrived around 5:15am. I stowed my headlamp and anxiously made my way up the cables, feeling much more uneasy than I had expected. My trail runners struggled to grip on the steepest sections near the bottom of the dome. I became thankful for the cables and that I hadn't attempted an ascent earlier in the year when they were down. The cables were uncomfortably cold and I wished I had gotten my gloves out at the base, but I didn't have much choice other than pushing to the top.

I reached the summit at 5:30am, exactly three hours after I began and just in time for sunrise. I met the other group: three schoolteachers from LA who had started the climb at 10:30pm. We shared snacks and took photos of each other on the "diving board" overhanging Yosemite Valley. I began to get cold in my shirt and shorts, but the sun soon rose above the Sierra Crest to the east and gave new life to all of us. I wandered over to the other side of the dome (a huge summit!) before heading back to the cables to begin my descent.

I donned my leather gloves and began down, which was much more nerve-racking than the ascent. I gripped both cables tightly as my trail runners slid in numerous places, and I was thankful to arrive at the subdome after ten long minutes. I stopped to photograph the other group as they descended and then continued on my way. I descended the miraculous granite stairs and began jogging upon reaching the trail. I didn't see any other groups until about halfway down the cutoff trail. Two park rangers sat at the trail junction and checked my permit, validating my endurance of the bureaucracy.

Nearly 7:00am, the trail was expectedly abuzz with folks, and there was a long line for the bathroom at the turnoff to Nevada Fall. I hung out at the falls for a few minutes to take some photos of the water as well as Half Dome and Liberty Cap looming high above. I continued down the JMT, which I figured would be better for trail running. I was prepared for the drenching I was forced to receive near the top of the trail due to runoff over a cliff, but I dried quickly in the growing heat of the day as I jogged down the switchbacks. I reached the parking lot around 8:45am -- much earlier than I expected to finish, but thankful to be on my way out so early in the day. I drove back to the Bay in one go, enduring various slow drivers on Route 120 and three separate accidents on I-580. I was back at my apartment at 1:15pm, clocking in at just under 24 hours for the whole trip, and I stopped in at work just in time to grab lunch.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4833 ft / 1473 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4833 ft / 1473 m
    Round-Trip Distance:17.4 mi / 28 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4833 ft / 1473 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Route:Mist Trail to cables
    Start Trailhead:Happy Isles  4007 ft / 1221 m
    Time:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4833 ft / 1473 m
    Distance:9.4 mi / 15.1 km
    Route:Cables to JMT
    End Trailhead:Happy Isles  4007 ft / 1221 m
    Time:2 Hours 28 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rafee Memon
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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