This past weekend, a bunch of close friends and I went to Yosemite for a camping / hiking trip. Being a holiday weekend, there was the expected rush of visitors and backpackers; so much that the roads leading to the valley were jam packed at places! Although once we parked and started hiking, the crowds seemed to disperse and dissolve into the huge expanse of the park.
(click here for the entire album)
After sorting out our camping and hiking permits, parking our cars and having a good lunch at a pizza place in Curry Village, we were on the trail heading toward Little Yosemite Valley, or LYV. This would be our camp for the remainder of our trip.
We reached the campground just before dusk, after a good 4 mile (6.4 km) hike with about 2000 ft (600 m) elevation gain. Among the infinite thoughts that came and went from my mind was why humans hadn’t evolved some sort of autotrophic ability… that surely would’ve saved us a hell lot of effort carrying tonnes of food on such hikes! 🙂 Apart from random crazy thoughts, the Mist Trail that we took lent us some beautiful views of the valley and waterfalls.
All food items and anything with a strong scent, including the pretty ladies’ sunscreen et al had to go in the food locker – a sturdy metal box from which a bear couldn’t steal food! Yes, there are bears in Yosemite and apparently they are brave enough to ransack tents and rucksacks if they sniff an easy meal! Damn, I was almost tempted to spread out some strong-scented food outside to try and lure a bear, just to see the powerful animal in its natural habitat 🙂
With light day packs of lunch and water, we headed out for Half Dome the next morning, after a hearty breakfast of course! The hike to Half dome is around 3.5 miles (5.6 km), with an elevation gain of around 2700 ft (820 m), up to the top of the dome, including a vertical accent in the end.
For majority of the hike from LYV, Half Dome remains hidden, before appearing quite majestically and unexpectedly for the first timer. As we got to the base of the sub-dome, a ranger checked our permit and gave us the required brief safety info for climbing the last vertical section.
The last 400 vertical feet (120 m) are fixed with cables anchored at the top and bottom, which are used to pull on, while keeping a grip on the granite below your feet. Honestly, it looks crazy dangerous from far and doable-but-scary once you’re at it!
Although it seems like a ladder, it is far from that – there is quite a bit of distance to ‘walk’ up the rock in between two successive planks. Any slip / fall through the vertical posts would almost certainly result in a slide all the way off the rock! And according to the National Park Service, people have indeed died climbing half dome.
Having said that, I personally never felt a life threatening fear while climbing up the cables and scores of people climb up the cables every season. The cables themselves feel extremely sturdy and provide all the assurance you need, and then some more! In the end, part of the thrill is feeling a certain degree of fear and the Half Dome lives up to it!
All of us decided to make a rest day of the next day and laze around and hike to a nearby place. The river near campsite was refreshing in the morning and during the day we hiked to the nearby Nevada Falls.
On our way back to camp we found a few good bouldering spots on our trail and Neha and I were super excited to help the others get up their first boulders! Admittedly she is way better at it than me but I hope to catch up soon! 🙂
On Tuesday Neha and I returned back to the city and the rest of the guys left camp in the morning to hike up Cloud’s Rest. Both of us wish we could have stayed longer and gone up this spectacular summit (as described by the guys later), just shy of 10,000 ft.
Just recollecting the whole experience makes me want to go back to the valley again soon! Unwinding in nature’s lap, in the company of people you love… what better way to rejuvenate?!