Halfdome - Cable Route

August 17th, 2002

Down from our last alpine type adventure on Conness, Emily and I decided to go down and check out the valley. Neither of us had been there before, and we figured that the hike up Halfdome would be a great way to get some views and get a taste of how the area feels. We took nice light packs (3L water each and lunch) and began up the trail.

The day started with a slight misfortune as I parked in the wrong parking lot and inadvertantly added another couple of miles of roadhiking to the trip. But a combination of things were working for us this day. To begin with, we had heard that this hike (17.2 miles round trip and 4800ft gain) was really greuling and could be humbleing. So with this in mind, we were mentally prepared for a very long feeling, strenuous trip. Secondly, we had been above 10,000 ft for many days and the air at the low elevation felt like high octane fuel. Anyhow, with these things backing us, the hike was actually really pleasant and we made it to the base of the cables in under 3 horus.

To the left of Emily you can see people going up the cable route

On the way up to the base of the cables are a series of large stone steps up a long slab.

Emily on the steps

At the base of the cables is a pile of old gloves. Most of them are worn really slick on the palms, but Emily and I found that you could turn them inside out and the insides of many of them are still nice and grippy. The cable route consists of rods stuck into the slabs with cable running through them, and a strip of 2x4 at each rod to act as sort of a step. It is decently low angle for the first and the last bits, but the middle section is relativly steep, and it really is necassary to use the cables to haul yourself up.

It was absolutly nuts. We were ascending at a time when the route was super busy with people going up and down. There were people on the route who were petrified with fear and unable to move up or down, thus really causing slow traffic as people tried to go around them. There was aparenlty a "Halfdome expert" behind Emily and I, who thought it would be usefull if she yelled stuff like, "Come on peepull! Keep it moving!!" and "What's the hold-up? Mooove! Mooove! Mooove!" etc. She made Emily quite irritated and they had this exchange,

Emily: Listen, we are not moving because there are some people who are a bit freaked out and are slowly moving down, so just be patient!

Expert: Oh? Is that what is happening? Well people like that shoudln't be on this route, they should come down!

Emily: That's what they're trying to do

Expert: Come on peepull! What's the big deal? Upwards! Upwards!

In addition, there were people comming down who were pretty much doing half controlled foot glisades down the route (holding the cable) towards everybody comming up. This was all in a place where it would be really easy not to fall if left to one's self, but a fall would pretty much mean falling all the way down to the base of Halfdome. Emily tried to scare off thoughts of a fat guy at the top rolling down the route and taking everybody out like bowling pins, but it was making her a little nervous. I was concerned about the possibility of the cable comming unattatched or slack somehow and everybody falling off due to that. It was amazing that this sort of things exists and that people don't get killed on it. Emily says that if she ever did it again, she'd probably carry up a swami belt and a little via feretta set-up, just to be on the safe side.

We were both happy to reach the top, where we had a really good avacado intensive lunch.

Dave on the "divingboard"

The descent was a lot less stressfull as there were alot fewer people on the route.

Emily on her way down

On the hike out, we decided to try the "Mist trail" rather than the John Muir trail, as it cut a couple of miles off and followed a river down. It was a really beautiful trail that consisted mainly of steep winding stone block steps. A stiff contrast to the often wide, pack animal-friendly JMT .

Dave on a woody section of the Mist trail

And perhpas the best reason for taking this trail was that it passes by "Emerald Pool" an unbelievable clear green "lake" (actually a sort of a large dammed area of the river) with a bottom of clean, slippery granite. It was like a swimming pool in its cleaness and simplenss, yet it had fish swimming around in it. It was a really really amazing place. As we approached the pool we came to a sign that forbade "walking on slippery areas," and a host of other things, but nothing that said "no swimming."

Emily in the pool. This picture really doesn't do it justice.

As we were leaving the pool we came accross another sign that did forbid swimming because of the danger of being swept into submerged granite chunks in the lake, or eventually down a massive waterfall that is a bit downstream. The water lever was low enough for us that neither of these were reallty of concern.

We got back to the car satisfied and thirsty, and went to the busy, crazy pizza place in Curry Village. This area had a really different feel than anything we'd encountered in Toulomne, likely because there were so many more people there. But the pizza seemed really good.

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