In early May my daughter Rosie and I were at yosemite for an early season
hike. My plan was to head for Hetch Hetchy for a spring hike along the
lake, enjoying the ceanothus, the bees, the waterfalls, and the bears.
These plans changed when the fellow issuing trail authorization told us
that the road to HetchHetch was closed for repairs and that we couldn't
get there from here. (Rosie was relieved; the last time we had hiked that
trail we were met by a sow and her cubs. The section of trail where we
met the bears was one of those ledge regions where the left hand side was
a wall and the right side a cliff, leaving us no choice but to flee ahead
of the ursae.) We now had to choose a different region of the park for
our hike; Rosie suggested going up HalfDome, I hadn't done that for 35
years, got choked up over taking my daughter for her first time up, so
we got authorized for little yosemite.
Rosie at the base of the cables. Lurking marmot.
There are warning signs at the base of the first shoulder of halfdome
and at the base of the cables leading to the top cautioning against continuing
on if there is A cloud on the horizon. Turn back, bail out, don't do it;
the anthem of the park service. Noting the warnings and the overcast and
darkening sky we pushed on to the base of the cables and chose the best
gloves from the heap of gloves left at the base of the cables. We waited
for three people to descend; the first a middle aged German man whose wife
was waiting for him nearby.
The second was a couple of English young adults who took an inordinately long time to descend, pausing for many minutes about halfway down. This pair had waist climbing harnesses and webbing to clip into the cables. Ultimate safety. We had no harnesses or safety lines. We talked with them for a bit about the delay they had halfway down; the woman told us she was crying because she was unable to continue, she froze. Her guy talked to her for a while and talked her out of her fear. So after the fear of her descent she strongly endorsed the adventure for us!
I waffled; Rosie, more determined now, told me she didn't come this
far to turn back.
There is a wide selection of worn gloves at the base of the cables.
So up we went. Rosie took the right cable, I took the left one. The
cables are there year round. From late May to October the cable are lifted
by pipe stands to make a pair of handrails up the sloping side of the dome.
When we were there the cables had not yet been lifted so they lay on the
rock, requiring us to lift them as we went up hand over hand. My concern
was letting go. There is nothing like imminent catastrophe to focus one's
attention to the task at hand. The big reason I could see for letting go
would be encountering a jagger. It's all stones up there but not that kind
of jagger. A wire rope jagger that would puncture my hand and cause me
to release my grip. There were no jaggers on the lefthand cable.
Andy recovering at the summit.
Andy nearly all the way back down to the saddle.
We both made good time to the top, Rosie first, of course; spent about 5 minutes there, some photos, and enjoyed the clouds and wind. We returned to little yosemite for the evening in the company of sprinkles and wind.
What a difference 30 years can make in an experience. As a college student my halfdome trips were 9 hour affairs, in the heat of a July or August day, racing to the top to prove something to those who didn't care. This time was a leisurely walk, with rests and conversation, trying to share the experience with my daughter.
The next day we carried on to Merced lake and spent the day lazing around the hikers' campground and the river. In the early evening some Ranger guy stopped by to check our paperz. I witness the gentle introduction of the police state.
We decided to walk out all the way to the valley on the next day as it was all downhill and Rosie was antsy to get back to sitting around in Fresno. The highlight of the walk down the foot trail from Nevada falls was the crowd at the top of Vernal falls. In the bright sun lying sprawled about like so many beached sea lions were about two hundred highschool students wearing lots of brilliant white tees, shorts, and socks. This was indeed the "range of light". A shower at housekeeping camp and a light meal got us ready for the drive back to Fresno.
On the way out of yosemite we went by Fern Spring, a prodigious
water source right beside the road at the west end of the valley. This
has been a traditional stop for me for years; a final sipping of the water
of the valley. This trip the tradition continued with me filling water
bottles for later consumption. Two weeks later, diagnosed with giardia,
I wondered about the value of traditions.
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