The alarm went off at 3:30AM. We quickly cleaned up the car, and made the
hour drive the Trailhead Parking Lot where we planned on meeting Gretchen and Jax. We were planning on meeting at 5:00, but at
5:20 they still and not yet shown up and we had no cell phone service, so we
started to hike and hoped we would see them later in the day.
We continued on our way towards Half Dome via the Mist Trail
as we had the previous day, and found ourselves moving at a good pace, passing
many other hikers as we went. Soon we
found ourselves making our way along the climber’s trail towards the south face
of Half Dome. Around 7:40AM we stopped
on a large boulder to check the location of the start of the Snake Dike, and
also check to see if we had cell phone service in order to try to get in touch
with Gretchen and Jax. We were excited
to see they were on their way and shouldn’t be too far behind. They had parked in the wrong lot this
morning, and after we never showed up, started to hike. They passed the lot we were supposed to be
meeting in and saw our car.
After a few back and forth texts, they made their way to our
location, and as a group we started to navigate our way through slabs (with the
occasional sections of bushwacking) towards the start of the climb on the
southwest face. Unfortunately, we looked
at the start of the climb, decided it wasn’t the right spot, and after
unsuccessful searching, we backtracked and decided it WAS the start.
The climb starts on the ledge with the last tree above it.
After a quick snack at the base, we geared up
to begin the 8 pitches of climbing that would take us to the summit of Half
Dome. The first 2-3 pitches were the most
difficult, with the later wandering far out to the right before making its way
back to end above the previous belay.
Despite the climb being runout, Dave found it to be a fantastic
lead. Gretchen and Jax did an awesome
job sharing leads and testing their mental fortitude. Jax had an intense lead with a mystery non-existent bolt and planned slide down the slab. Gretchen got angry at a run out slab that had no gear to place until she was practically at the belay... so at that point said "screw it" and went straight to the belay. Alex and Dave did a short section of simul-climbing on the dike in order to get Dave to a set of anchors. He called down to Alex, "can you give me another 12 feet, because if not I need to down climb.... a lot." She happily obliged! All in all everyone had some adventure laced fun on the climb.
Tired, thirsty and hungry, we made our way down the cables to
the trail. We had 9 miles of hiking
before we would be back at the trailhead. We stopped after a few miles for some water, as we had depleted our supply. Dave had given the last few ounces to young man who looked tired and thirsty just after the cables, with many miles of hiking to go. Dave asked him when he last had water... it had been a few hours. He needed it more than we did, and we had the ability to get more water once we reached the river... he however, did not. The intense sun and
wind on the climb made plenty of water a must. We found that many hikers we passed were unprepared for the long day, with not enough to eat or drink, and struggled because of it. We actually ran into the young man's father and brother near the trailhead, and let them know he was on his way, but was moving slowly. His brother grabbed some water and made his way up the trail to meet him.
We waited on at the start of pitch 8 for Gretchen and Jax, before making our way to the endless leg burning slabs for the summit. The four of us made our way, taking many breaks as we went. Fortunately, Dave handled this well, even though he probably could have run up it in one go.
After finally seeing the summit, at about 4:00PM, we took
pictures, had a snack, and chatted with another guy who had come up the cables,
before making our descent down the cables route. By this time of the day, most people who come
up the cables route hike have come and gone, so we saw very few other
people. We found the section of cables to be steeper, slicker, and more intense than we were expecting for something so commonly done by non-climbing folk.
We finally made it back to the car around 8:30PM, and had celebratory beverages. Hungrily, and stumbily we made our way to Degnan’s Pizza
Loft with eyes that now seemed overly sensitive to the light after the intense sun and wind of the day. Sadly, after waiting at the counter for 10 minutes we found out that they were
closed. We were told that Curry Pizza was
open for another 20 minutes, so the four of us made a mad dash, running to our
cars to get some much needed food. We
enjoyed gorging on pizzas before parting way for the night. We drove sleepily back to our camping area,
glad to be laying down and sleeping... particularly after a half asleep Alex stopped complaining about the dead (they were not dead) trees in camp.