This past Saturday was a day that has been marked on my calendar for months and months. It turned out to be one of the most grueling, exhilarating, exhausting days ever. James and I had trained for this for months, applied for permits, bought equipment, and done training hikes, but the big event had finally arrived. Half Dome. Second shot, this one successful.
A bit of backstory is in order: In February of 2011 James and I started P90X (the workout program and nutrition guide) as a means of getting healthier, then did it a second time with the idea of training for this, the Holy Grail of hikes. We added Insanity to the mixture last fall, and gave Half Dome a shot in October of 2011. Our hike was cut short by an early season snowstorm that had hit a couple of nights before we hiked, covering the granite with snow, making the last mile far to perilous to even attempt. We were literally stopped by a ranger (I had pictures to prove it to my students, who never would have let me live it down if I had "wimped out").
This time, being July, we had no fear of being stopped by said ranger or snowstorm, and having now completed the hike, any illusions of saying we had "almost" hiked Half Dome last fall went right out the window. That last mile is easily as strenuous (physically and mentally) as the entire rest of the climb. The steep switchback granite stairs on the subdome, the cables that are your lifeline on the nearly-vertical climb to the top, complete craziness. I have to admit that when I stood at the base of the cables looking up I had a moment's panic, my brain telling my body that under no circumstances was I going to do this to myself. No way. But, you see, I had already bought James and I "I made it to the top" t-shirts at Yosemite Village the day before and I didn't want to return them, so I couldn't exactly back down, now could I?
The cables are the only way up and the only way down. If you're going up and someone else is going down, you have to hold on to just one of the cables and let the other hiker by. The whole time I was ascending, all I could do was hold on tight and look directly at the granite face in front of me. I couldn't look to the side lest my brain figure out the angle at which I was climbing and how precarious my position actually was, which would have resulted in me freaking out. But the view from the top is like nothing else I've ever seen. Truly awe inspiring, pointing to the amazing power and creativity of our God who made us and loves us. James and I had a picture taken on the "diving board," the lip that juts out from the left hand side of the dome (iconic in many pictures of Yosemite), but we didn't go to the edge and dangle our feet. No. Way.
All of our party of 7 made it to the top and back down again, some faster than others, some more exhausted than others, some more blistered than others. It took James and I 13 hours to hike the 20 mile round trip, and we had a 4800 foot elevation gain to get to the 8,843 foot high summit. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment having crossed this off my bucket list, and I have absolutely no need to ever do it again.