I despise going to the gym. You will NEVER find me on a casual run. However, ask me to join you on one of the world’s most difficult hikes… and I’m IN!
My friend Shannon has had the Half Dome hike on her bucket list for years. When she asked if I wanted to hike at Yosemite National Park, of course I said yes. Little did I know… Half Dome not only requires a cable permit, but on a difficulty scale of 1-10… it is an 11.
I thoroughly scared myself by googling “scariest hikes” and Half Dome obliged by attending each and every party! Fact: I’ve completed 3 of the top 10 scariest hikes (Half Dome, Huayna Picchu, Angel’s Landing)… no intention of completing this
death bucket list.
Half Dome Quick Facts:
- 19 miles round trip via Curry Village Parking Lot to Mist Trail then John Muir Trail on the return
- 16 hours in total with a lot of photo ops, snacking, medical stops and little legs (mine)
- 4,800 feet elevation gain
- 8,842 feet elevation at the summit
- Most memorable quote “It’s the hike you can’t die without doing, and the hike you’ll most likely die while doing.”
The first obstacle was finding a cable permit for the exact September Sunday we planned on hiking Half Dome. The permit preseason lottery goes on in the month of March of each year. After that, there is a daily lottery awarded 2 days prior to the hike. Approximately 225 permits are released per day in the preseason and 50 per daily lottery. The odds weren’t in our favor, considering the short notice. We thought,” there must be a black market where we can buy these permits”… and we were right. Kind of. We found an adventure tour company and booked a hike guide, which came with cable permits and some equipment. Lasting Adventures, you are a
The equipment. No joke. Buy at LEAST one month prior and break in everything. The Camelbak, hiking boots, socks… you want to eliminate any nuisances prior to the Day of the Hike. Here is what I packed:
Half Dome Hiking Essentials:
- Hiking Boots: There are a few reputable brands, but the ones that are the most comfortable to YOU are of the most value. I did my boot research here, and ended up with the Ahnu Sugarpine hiking boots. I got ZERO blisters after the 19 mile hike!
- Hydration: It’s recommended to drink 5L of water for the duration of the hike. I used the Camelbak Helena 22 which comes with a 3L bladder. I had an extra 3L bladder, so I filled 3L with water and the second pouch with one Limon Pepino Gatorade. I trained using the pack with both 3L bladders full of water and it was just too heavy for me. Our hike guide provided a water filter pump, which refilled at natural water springs along our hike.
- Gloves: I found these super sticky rubber gloves in size small at TJ Maxx, but any thick sticky garden gloves will work for the cable climb. Worst case scenario, there’s a small hidden pile of gloves at the base of the cables but I wouldn’t rely on that if you have small hands or hike early in the season. Park rangers tend to clean up the piles as well. THIS IS MANDATORY, I cannot imagine climbing the cables without gloves.
- Trekking poles: The lightest poles are made of carbon fiber, the most durable are of aluminum. Cork handles absorb your hand sweat and the smaller they fold up, the easier to strap to your backpack. I went with Kelty mostly because of the mid-range price and the cute green color. Our tour company provided Leki (fancy) poles, but I missed that on the memo and brought my own, which worked well and did not break!
- Hiking Socks: I recommend Merino wool full cushion socks that go above ankle. Trust me, they are worth every penny. Darn Tough makes some darn cute ones. NO COTTON.
- Snacks: I raided Whole Foods and packed 7 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Energy Bloks, 3 bison meat sticks and 1 Lara Bar. In a last minute anxiety laced convenience store moment, I bought two tuna/cracker packages that were a delicious lunch at the top the mountain. Looking back, I should’ve packed more meat sticks. (That’s what she said?)
- Hat: Sun protection is necessary to prevent exhaustion on the long hike. ¡Vamos Barça!
- Outfit: NO COTTON ANYTHING. Cotton absorbs sweat like a sponge, which gets heavy and can chafe. Make sure you wear moisture-wicking fabrics. I wore fun yoga pants because that’s what I’d be wearing even if I weren’t hiking. The top is Lorna Jane with the sweetest red heart on the inner lining above the left breast. I also love the Under Armour work-out thongs. I layered with a baseball 3/4 tee and a Marmot light rain jacket. I hardly utilized the outer layers in late September weather.
- Bandana: I didn’t think it was really necessary, but with hindsight being 20/20 I loved having my hair slicked away and sweat wicked without having to fix anything all day long. Rep America like I did by finding my bandana here.
- Head lamp: We used ours pre-dawn as well as after sunset for a few hours. Don’t be a nube, always have a head lamp for every hike you take no matter the time of day.
- Zip-loc baggies: For all your trash, including your used toilet paper. The only thing left in Yosemite should be your footprints.
After two months of intense training (read: yoga, hiking, wine) we embarked on our girls California road trip!
I knew I was in for a ride, when I agreed to this hike. I never expected the feeling of accomplishment and affirmation that I can truly accomplish what I set my mind to. The next time I feel overwhelmed or daunted at a task, I’ll remember that I conquered Half Dome… and I’ll get er done!
The longest hike I had ever completed prior to this was only 9 miles. My entire life has been lived at sea-level. This hike was not easy for me, but I DID IT. I couldn’t walk for about 2 days afterwards, and that first night of sleep I was woken up every time I moved because it hurt that much!
It was worth it.
Thank you to my bestie, Shannon for the trip and hike of a lifetime.
Thank y’all for joining in my journey to Half Dome. If you are planning a hike there and have any questions, send me a message in the Contact page.
Mind over muscle,
All photos taken on iPhone 6 by Melllypoo.