Going big in Yosemite

Yosemite is a Mecca for hikers and climbers alike. As the goal for my trip I wasn’t here to mess about with the easy strolls in the valley floor – I was here for the big hikes and the big hikes alone. Anything less than “strenuous” in the trail description and I wasn’t interested. My first day was a 13 mile hike up to Glacier Point for excellent views over the valley and especially of Half Dome. This gave me an opportunity to contemplate my hike of Half Dome the following day which I had waited a year and a half to come back and do.

Contemplating tomorrow’s hike

From Glacier Point I descended down the Panoramic trail which certainly lived up to it’s name. I stopped at the top of Illouette Falls for a dip and relaxing in the sunshine.

Half Dome requires a permit to use the cables in order to reach the summit. These are extremely dangerous in wet conditions which is why I was unable to do the hike during my winter visit. I was lucky to obtain a last minute permit through the park’s lottery application two days before so I was good to go.

Kicking off the hike with Vernal Fall

The Half Dome cables

The 9.5 miles uphill slog was more than worth it for the views. I was eager to get to the top and with the middle section of the hike being a pretty plain ascent through forest I was setting a pretty good pace. Overtaking group after group it felt exhilarating to be in good shape again, especially after my medical setbacks last year, which made walking any distance agony. In good spirits I chatted with other hikers as I blasted upwards. To the top…

Standing on Half Dome’s “Diving Board”

A panoramic image taken from the summit of Half Dome (click image to view larger version)

The views from summit were simply stunning. The surface really was like a moonscape – extremely exposed and crumbly. I found a spot away from the clouds and had lunch and a little nap appreciating the beauty and complete silence. I made the 9.5 miles back down in good time with a smile on my face.

I decided to have a rest day but managed to fit in a run in the baking heat and a cool dip in Merced river. On my final day I had time for one more big, 17 mile hike to El Capitan, known as a popular climbing face but not a hiking hot spot. Mostly through forest with Pine cones as big as my head, during six hours of hiking I didn’t come across another human being… just a black bear.

Hiking alone on a quiet trail I knew to make noise so I had been singing and whistling as I walked. However this didn’t stop me from walking into a small black bear about 20 meters on the trail in front of me. As I saw him before he saw me I stopped dead, not knowing what to do I whistled at him. Luckily he run off as soon as he saw me. Now I feel like a true Canadian!

Mind the bears!

Now I head for Monterey – my last stop before returning to Canada.

3 Comments

Tom Latham

about 5 years ago

Awe inspiring Joe! Glad you're having an amazing time. The pictures are absolutely stunning and makes me long to go back out to that part of the world again. When you get set up over there permanently I'll invite myself over ;)

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MOG

about 5 years ago

Jeeesh!

Reply

Jessica A. Hawes

about 5 years ago

It is difficult to find the words to express my admiration for your achievements - hiking-wise, Joe. The pictures are spectacular. I thought black bears were supposed to be dangerous? I guess the one you met was a baby, frightened at being away fronm its Mum! love, Grandma'

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