We ended up crashing pretty early the previous night, which is a good thing as we needed an early start, so we saw the sun come up over the towering Yosemite Valley walls as we drove the half an hour to the top of the park.
We hit the Mist Trail which sneaks up on you gradually as the nice tarmac path gets steeper and steeper, then turns into rougher and rougher steps, which then get bigger and bigger! We passed the two impressive waterfalls, although there wasn't a much water at this time of the year. Fortunately the trail levels out a bit (relatively speaking), and you wind you way up through the forest before you hit the subdome, and the steps begin again!
After climbing 4,400ft as you can imagine the view from the top of subdome was utterly spectacular, looking across miles of polished rock climbing into the distance in all directions except for the view down to the valley floor many thousands of feet below.
The last 400ft of elevation was Half Dome itself, and this could only be tamed using the cables they attach during the summer months. When you see it from a distance it doesn't look possible to get up without serious rock climbing skills, and as you get to the bottom of the cables it still looks pretty hard core. It was a very strenuous hike up and Jo didn't feel confident about the final few hundred feet, and I have to admit I was a little apprehensive myself but I steeled myself and donned my gloves.
It was as steep as it looks, possibly more so! Your feet just about gripped, but without the cables there was no way I would be up there. Despite the thinning air (just shy of 3k metres) I powered up it and felt a little unusual once I was standing at the top. I started taking a few snaps and only then I realised that I was a few feet from the edge on a big overhang looking down on the valley floor about 6,000 feet below.
Fortunately going down was significantly easier (mainly due to not losing your breath every 10 steps due to the thin air). Despite being fairly quiet on the way up there was an old chap determined to make it to the top, but that meant it was rammed solid and hardly moving so I bravely/foolishly swing to the outside of the cables. It was reasonably smooth sailing until I got to people who were a bit freaked out and wouldn't move so I had to freestyle a few feet before I could get a good grip back on the cables. One mistake on this thing and you wouldn't only slip down the few hundred feet to subdome but also the other few thousand back to the valley floor, which soon focuses the mind and I carefully made my way down.
We set off back down and soon made the top waterfall. Rather than try and tackle the massive steps we took the longer but marginally more gentle route down the John Muir Trail. It didn't take long before the views looked familiar, as we had hiked this on a spectacular walk to Glacier Point when we visited the east coast about 8 years before. The views from the far edge of the valley were way better than the direct route up, and several enjoyable hours later we were reunited with Elvis.
A much needed shower and a hard earned pizza and pint rounded off an incredible day in an unbelievably beautiful and awe inspiring park, before we returned to our layby and collapsed into bed.Read more