Many years ago, I ran into my old friend Kevin. We had been good pals in high school and renewed our friendship. The following October, Kevin mentioned that he was going to take a trip to Yosemite for a couple of days of hiking and asked if I would like to go along.
We camped in Yosemite Valley and on the first day decided to hike to Vernal Falls, pictured above on the right. Kevin suggested that we head further up the trail to Nevada Falls, which was equally spectacular. After a few minutes gazing at the falls, Kevin turned to me and said, "I'm going to the top."
I didn't know what he meant at first. But then I realized he meant to climb to the top of Half Dome, seven more miles up the trail. Now, I've had a lot of outdoor experience, and this may sound strange but I knew in a moment that I wasn't going to change his mind and that I was either going to have to go with him or let him go wandering off alone into the wilderness. So against my better judgement I went.
It's a beautiful, steep hike to the top of Half Dome. Somehow steep doesn't quite get the idea across.
I thought I had passed the point of doing stupid things in my life, but no. Since our "plan" had only been to hike to Vernal Falls, we had no food, no water, no flashlight, no first aid kit, no weather forecast, and no one knew where we were. And did I mention that it was steep?
The "trail" up the back of Half Dome is a sheer-rock face going nearly straight up for a thousand feet. The only footing is provided by two-by-fours bolted into the rock every five feet. A thin, rusted cable runs the length of it. If you fall, you die. There is no question about that.
The view from the top is awesome. Tourist helicopters fly by at eye level over Yosemite Valley. But it's not a great place to be at five o'clock in late October. Going down is even harder than going up. We did make it past the bolted two-by-fours, but then dusk began to settle in.
In the dark, we lost the trail, for hours. We found out later that we were in the part of the park with the highest bear population too. Kevin had some matches which we struck over the ground every now and then to look for footprints. Eventually, we found the trail and trudged our way back to camp, sixteen hours and nineteen miles later.
The next morning, Kevin announced that he was going to climb to the top of El Capitan. I wished him a good hike, and off he went with essentially the same provisions. I spent a great day in Yosemite Valley and never saw him again...
Okay, he did make it back, after dark, again, but funny thing was, that was the last time I
ever went hiking with Kevin.
for some amazing pictures of the trail to Half Dome.