Theater of operation:
Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley. The trail starts at the Yosemite Valley floor, 4035 ft (1230 m), follows the Merced River, passes by the Vernal Fall (lower middle of the picture), Nevada Fall (right), and Liberty Cap (a dome to the left of the Nevada Fall), reaches the Little Yosemite campground, then winds through the forest in the upper center of the picture to the back side of Half Dome. From there, a cable route takes you to the top of the Dome, 8836 ft (2693 m). (Jon Vermilye's photo from www.lakeshoreimages.com. Posted with author's permission).
Half Dome as seen from Glacier Point, almost three miles away. (Jon Vermilye's photo from www.lakeshoreimages.com. Posted with author's permission).
Merced River from a bridge below Vernal Fall.
Mirna on the bridge, Vernal Fall behind.
Mist Trail from the top of Vernal Fall.
Old rain gear worked perfectly on the Mist Trail (and so did my blue garbage bag). In May and June, Vernal Fall deposits enormous quantities of water on the Mist Trail, which should be more properly called "Tropical Storm Trail" in those two months.
Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall.
Wild Merced River from a trail bridge below Nevada Fall.
(See how much less water there was in Merced River one year later, in early June 2007. While the winter of 2005/06 brought heavy snow to the Sierra, the winter of 2006/07 produced a near record low snow cover).
Explosion of water on Nevada Fall.
Half Dome from the trail along Merced River, in the Little Yosemite Valley. The small dome to the right of Half Dome probably does not have a name, but I'll refer to it as "Stairway Dome". It is a major hurtle on the trail to Half Dome.
Important trail crossing: Two miles to Half Dome!
John Muir trail continues from here to Clouds Rest and beyond.
If you decide to turn back, there is 6.2 miles to the Valley floor via John Muir trail from here. But you wouldn't do that, would you?
The back side of Half Dome in the distance, from the Clouds Rest trail. (Ryan's photo from July 2003).
The back side of Half Dome from the Half Dome trail.
Upper Merced River valley and Clark Range. Still plenty of snow above 10,000 feet.
Mount Starr King across Little Yosemite Valley.
Approaching "Stairway Dome". The top of Half Dome peeks behind. The "Stairway Dome" section of the trail underwent a major renovation in the summer of 2005, and it is much safer now. Still, it is very steep, and requires a lot of effort. You climb winding stairs cut in rock to the top.
Half Dome from "Stairway Dome".
At the foot of the cable section. Just 20 more minutes to the top!
A Bit of History:
Climbing Half Dome in about 1920.
From Yosemite and Its High Sierra, by John Harvey Williams, San Francisco, 1921.
"This feat, long deemed impossible,
was first achieved in 1875 by George C. Anderson, who, with cable and
eye-bolts, built a trail to the top. But avalanches swept this away.
In 1919, under the auspices of the Sierra Club and with funds given
by a member, the new trail, shown here was constructed with iron posts,
steel cables, footholds, and, at the steepest point, a 50-foot ladder.
The final ascent, 800 ft., over an incline sometimes exceeding
45 degrees, is thus made safe and comparatively easy".
Photo credit: Camp Cury Studio
(CCC replaced those cables in 1934, but the route remained the same. The 50-foot ladder section was removed. The cables were upgraded at least once since 1934. More history of early ascents).
Overhanging rock at the top of Half Dome.
Compare this photo with one taken in 1877, by S. C. Walker
Yosemite Valley 4800 feet below, from the top of Half Dome.
People at the top of Half Dome. (Photo taken with powerful lenses from 2.7-miles distant Glacier Point. Jon Vermilye, www.lakeshoreimages.com. Posted with author's permission).
Clouds Rest (9926 ft) from Half Dome (8836 ft).
Half Dome from 3-miles distant Clouds Rest. (Ryan's photo from July 2003).
Snow Creek Falls and Mount Hoffmann.
Family photo at the top of Half Dome, with the Clark Range behind.
Going down is such a fun. Steep but fun. Steep.
Nevada Fall in the afternoon light.
(See how much less water there was in Merced River one year later, in early June 2007).
Back at the Happy Isles trail head. On my wish list: Trans Sierra Trail (with portions of John Muir Trail), from Sequoia National Park to Mt. Whitney!