Long Day’s Journey into Height: Half Dome, Yosemite

Half Dome in Yosemite, the crown jewel of the national park system and about 200 miles east of San Francisco, is one of the world’s most famous mountains. You may have seen it first in the famous Ansel Adams B/W photograph. I was fortunate enough to scale its 8,842-foot summit last summer from the Yosemite Valley floor during a one-day, 18.2-mile round-trip hike with five buddies.

Steve, Jerry, Michael, Rob, Court and I trained for two months on local hills for both the steepness of the hike and the distance we would cover. The actual ascent and descent took us about 10 hours with rest stops and lunch on the summit, enjoying the 360-degree view of Yosemite Valley and other nearby granite peaks.

Each day, over 700 people attempt this hike during the spring, summer and fall months. The most difficult part is the 900 vertical feet of what I call the “cable stairway to heaven” leading to the summit, which are at a 60-degree grade with horizontal railroad ties every 20 feet for resting. A few friends of mine have gotten this far and turned around. I saw it as the final challenge with the reward being the summit. In all, we walked 28,817 steps for the day, which is a gain of almost 17 feet per minute during the ascent, or the same amount on descent.

Half Dome can be enjoyed by people of all ages. But it takes strength, dexterity, and stamina to reach the top. Going down is no walk in the park, either, as you must negotiate miles of granite steps and rock gardens. But the views and waterfalls you see throughout the day are well worth it.

We celebrated our peak experience and successful months of training by dining at the award-winning Ahwanee Hotel, featuring 34-foot high ceilings with sugar pine trestles and granite pillars.

Read more about Half Dome: www.yosemitepark.com.

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