I've done Half Dome more times than I can remember. It's an amazingly beautiful 18-ish-mile hike in Yosemite National Park, and everyone who can (and almost everyone can, with an early enough start) should do it at least once.
This will be your reward.
But Eva, you might be thinking, It's hard to get a permit! I can't do Half Dome without a permit!
There's simple solution to the permit problem. Go during the off-season, shoulder season or whatever you want to call the months of October-March. You know -- the times when you don't need a permit.
Check the conditions first, obviously -- you probably don't want to do Half Dome in a blizzard, or run into unexpected road closures or anything. But if it looks like the weather's going to cooperate, there's no good reason not to go during the cooler months.
But Eva, you may be wondering, Aren't the cables down October-March? Astute observation. The cables will be down -- but they will still be there.
Oh. In case you don't know:
The most famous--or infamous--part of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The two metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment. Since 1919, relatively few people have fallen and died on the cables. However, injuries are not uncommon for those acting irresponsibly.
From the NPS website.
I've done Half Dome twice while the cables were "down." Personally, I didn't find it any more challenging than when they were suspended at waist-height. You just have to pick them up first. If anything, I think going with the cables down might be marginally easier, simply because there are no crowds, no lines -- no slow hikers to get stuck behind.
Basically, it's this:
Notice that the people in the pictures are wearing gloves. Those are provided during the summer months. In the off-season, you need to bring your own. Something grippy, to protect your hands while you're climbing the cable.
Just remember to wear layers.
Oh, and if you're going to leave your backpack at the sub-dome, don't leave food in it. It breaks my heart every time I see a rodent chewing through someone's nice pack and stealing their fuel. Remember -- it's a long hike back.
(Plus, people food in't good for them.)
If you've got time to explore before heading home, I recommend a winter trip to Tenaya Lake. It's this huge, beautiful Alpine lake that freezes in the winter. Slide around on your belly, ice skate or just walk on the lake.
Keep your eyes out for ice blocks. If you can find a chunk of ice big enough to sit on, and you've got a buddy to give you a push, you can slide alarmingly far, alarmingly fast. Especially if you've got some wind on your back. (Pro tip: Unzip your jacket and hold it open like a sail. You'll be surprised how much a little breeze can push you.)
Ice block sailing is a great activity for sore and tired legs -- and it's only available in Yosemite during the winter.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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