Half Dome

Posted: June 17th, 2019



I decided to solo hike Half Dome on Friday, June 14th, 2019 after winning the daily lottery for a permit only 48-hours in advance. Hiking Half Dome is a must do for any serious hiker, with the Cable Route offering a unique experience to the summit. The people on the Cable Route are perhaps the biggest challenge, unprepared climbers often freeze up, forcing those on the route to hold on much longer than expected mid-day. Given the route had just opened when I did it, there was still snow at the top. While descending, I also encountered a large black bear with two cubs. Overall, it is an amazing hike and I was lucky to have the weather on my side.

Things To Know

  • Half Dome is the hardest hike in Yosemite National Park
  • You must obtain a permit to go up to the Cable Route
    • 300 permits are available per day, approximately 50 are available via the daily lottery (get permit here)
    • Weekends are very difficult to get, try weekdays and the daily lottery for when the weather looks best
    • Rangers check permits near the base of the Sub-Dome (you will need your ID and the permit paper printed out for them to sign)
      • Put your permit in a plastic bag or laminate it, if you are coming up the Mist Trail, it will been completely drench and unreadable
  • The Cable Route gets very congested mid-day
    • You will probably have to stop in the middle of the route as people come up and down, this requires more strength and creates significantly more danger than it would otherwise without people
    • It took me 30-minutes to get to the top due to people stopping, otherwise I think this would have taken about 15-minutes
  • You will need strong upper body strength, especially with your forearms, to get up the Cable Route as you are literally pulling yourself up a granite wall
  • Wear shoes or boots with excellent traction for the granite
  • Do not attempt the Cable Route if there is any chance of rain, lightning or strong wind (this usually means being on the Cable Route before noon)
  • You will need gloves to do the Cable Route as it requires pulling yourself up by holding onto metal cables
    • Nitrile coated gloves are the best option I have found for gloves as they provide superior grip
      • Leather gloves may work as well but are less ideal as they could slide easier
      • If you are coming up the Mist Trail, put your gloves in a plastic bag as they will be wet when you attempt the Cable Route otherwise
    • Do not leave your gloves, or anything at all, on Half Dome
      • It is common to see people giving their gloves to those who are unprepared after they complete the route
  • Both going up and coming down the Cable Route are difficult, going down was easier for me however, many say the opposite
  • If you decide to use carabiners to attach to the cables, make sure you use a Via Ferrata system (two carabiners!) with a proper rock climbing harness
    • Many unskilled climbers attempt to improve their safety with a makeshift harnesses and single carabiner that cannot support their weight, clipping and unclipping constantly at each pole. This is extremely dangerous and potentially deadly, use the correst system and practice with it or do not use a carabiner at all!
  • Climb the Cable Route in the middle, not on the outside (unless perhaps if using a Via Ferrata system)
  • You can climb up and rest at each wooden board, it is a bad idea to let more than two people on any board at a time because it makes it hard to move, give people their space and time
  • Half Dome is 8,839 feet high, if you suffer from altitude sickness, you should acclimate first
  • Bring at least 4 liters of water if you are going to the summit, a water filter is also helpful to bring along to refill at some streams
  • Bring enough food for a day
  • The hike takes about 10-12 hours
    • It took me 10 hours and 15 minutes round-trip from the Happy Isles dirt parking lot moving fast, passing many people, spending about 30 minutes at the summit. I probably would have completed in under 10 hours if there wasn't so much congestion on the Cable Route, adding about 20 minutes longer than otherwise.
    • You will want to start at about 5:00AM if you are doing this hike in one day.
  • Use trekking poles to improve stability going up the Sub Dome and back down
    • Trekking poles are also very helpful on the Mist Trail
  • There are two routes you can take up to Half Dome, the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail
    • The Mist Trail gets extemely wet and the rocks are slippery, you will be completely drenched if you go this way so have waterproof gear
      • Many injuries occur to people going down the Mist Trail, be very careful if you decide to descend this trail. When I first visited Yosemite, I went up and down only the Mist Trail and slipped on rocks.
    • I went up the Mist Trail and down the John Muir Trail
  • You may encounter bears, be aware of your surroundings, especially along streams
    • I saw a large black bear with two cubs in the distance, retreating up the trail slightly before they saw me, then proceeded with a cut through passage on the trail
    • You can notify the park at: (209) 379-1992 if you see bears
  • The views are amazing and it is definitely worth doing this hike but if you are not physically and mentally prepared, please stay off the cables
  • Find a place to stay before
    • In my case, I got 3 hours of sleep in Mariposa at the Yosemite Miners Inn Motel and began hiking from the parking lots at 5:51AM. My reservation was made about 24-hours in advance and my room ended up costing about $190 for the night. Most places are booked out, seemingly, a year in advance.

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