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.
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.
The Half Dome cables usually go back up the Friday before Memorial Day (conditions permitting) and come down the day after Columbus Day.
Basically, it's this:
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.)
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