Mike and Sandy Baird Hike up 
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, June 14-17, 2002;

and Mike Baird and Mike Nix Try it Again on August 14, 2005

Yosemite Hiking Tips by Brian, Founder of OutsideHow.com

Here is a photo essay of that great weekend.  Friday afternoon June 14th, we arrived in Yosemite Valley (map).  On my way in from Route 41, I could see our target - Half Dome - before the tunnel half-dome-from-route41-entrance-before-tunnel.jpg (36653 bytes), and in the overlook east of the tunnel. half-dome2-from-route41-entrance.jpg (40474 bytes) half-dome-from-route41-entrance.jpg (21118 bytes) half-dome3-from-route41-entrance.jpg (18902 bytes)

We got in early enough to pick up our reserved wilderness permits, at the Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center in Yosemite Village next to the post office.  We then set up camp in the backpackers walk-in campground (just north of North Pines Campground).  backpackers-camp-north-pines.jpg (15227 bytes) You must have a wilderness permit to stay here, (you can stay the day before, and the day after, of your wilderness outing) and self-registration is $5 a person a day.  A bear visited the camp that evening,  We were careful to put all items with odor into a bear box provided. We didn't need our plastic bear canister on this hike, because boxes were amply provided.  You can buy then at Yosemite, REI online, or recently at $18 less at Whitney Portal Store

Saturday, June 15th, 2002, we headed up from the  Happy Isles Trailhead sandy-mike-trailhead-staging.jpg (35763 bytes) from the backpacker's parking lot, where, once again, there are plenty of bear boxes to store things so bears will not rip open your vehicles during your absence.

This very popular trail is heavily used by both day and overnight hikers. Day hikers can travel to Vernal and Nevada Falls along the cascading Merced River. Overnight hikers can continue on to Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. Camping in Little Yosemite Valley is limited to the designated backpacker campground. Camping is not allowed at the top of Vernal or Nevada Falls, or on the top of Half Dome. One can also hike beyond the Little Yosemite Valley/Half Dome area on the John Muir Trail or toward Merced Lake. The northern end of the John Muir Trail to Mt. Whitney begins here. Backpackers must travel at least two miles beyond Little Yosemite Valley before camping, if not staying in Little Yosemite Valley. http://www.nps.gov/yose/wilderness/valleyplan.htm 

Base elevation was 4000 feet.  Half Dome peak is 8.2 miles one way trailhead-distances8.2halfdome.jpg (36093 bytes), 8845 feet elevation (almost a mile higher than the valley, for a 4845 foot elevation gain).  Our original idea was to hike the entire John Muir Trail on my very first overnight - 211 miles! trailhead-dist-john-muir-211-miles-orig-trip-idea.jpg (39029 bytes)  Common sense got to us before the bears and elements.  We stayed overnight in Little Yosemite Valley, about half way to the top of Half Dome.

Here is a good summary for anyone thinking of hiking Half Dome.

Our packs included things from this checklist.

Going up, we hiked over the bridge at the base of Vernal Fall mike-base-vernal-fall.jpg (33581 bytes) sandy-base-vernal-fall.jpg (36427 bytes), along the Merced River  merced-river.jpg (54338 bytes) and up to the slippery Mist Trail sandy2-mist-trail.jpg (36895 bytes) sandy-mist-trail.jpg (34411 bytes), to the top of Vernal Fall  mike-sandy-at-top-vernal-fall.jpg (41502 bytes) sandy-top-vernal-fall.jpg (56888 bytes), and then on up nevada-fall-northside-path.jpg (48216 bytes) to the top of Nevada Fall nevadafalls.jpg (37484 bytes) sandy-at-nevada-falls-top.jpg (53985 bytes).  We saw a nice rainbow over the Merced on this path rainbow-on-merced-river.jpg (48391 bytes) forest.jpg (61526 bytes) rainbow-in-forest.jpg (57708 bytes).

Coming back, we will take the John Muir Trail down, which is more easily navigated, and offers outstanding views of the Valley.


This is Little Yosemite Campground little-yosemite-camp.jpg (55109 bytes), along the Merced River.  It was new, and very nice and clean, with good "clean" composting toilets available, and bear boxes.  Deer walked among us here. deer-little-yosemite-campground.jpg (53033 bytes)

We replenished our water (you need at least a gallon to do Half Dome as a day trip, and many hikers were dehydrated).  We both pumped (filtered) and treated (iodine tablets) our water just to be safe.  We got water from the Merced River, and once again on the way to Half Dome (just past Sunrise Creek Trail) we found a reliable spring secondary-water-source-not-used-uo-halfdome.jpg (62673 bytes).

A Black Bear welcomed us bear2-on-trail-up-halfdome.jpg (69301 bytes) bear-on-trail-up-halfdome.jpg (68035 bytes) on the path to Half Dome mike-w-fannypack-on-way2halfdome.jpg (43690 bytes) vista2-near-halfdome.jpg (51564 bytes) vista-near-halfdome.jpg (36549 bytes) .

At the base of Half Dome, just before the "cables" start mike-base-of-cables-halfdome.jpg (38684 bytes) cables-before-halfdom-summit.jpg (39488 bytes) you can see people working their way up the cable walkway.   Make sure you bring good rubber coated-cloves (not for warmth, but to keep hold of the steel cables), and wear good hiking boots with traction.  A lot of gloves are available on the ground at the base, but it is better to bring a good pair yourself.  Tennis shoes are too slippery to use with safety.  I wanted (but did not have) a carabiner tied to my waist to have  just in case I fainted, and needed to hook-up to the cables.  Sandy dropped a full Nalgene water bottle from the top of the cables, and we watched in horror as it bounced a few times, finally exploding 2000 feet below.

No photos were taken from the cables, as all hands were occupied and worthless for any task unrelated to survival,  Arriving at the top we were rewarded with outstanding views halfdome-top-diving-board.jpg (35154 bytes) halfdome-top-overhang.jpg (31648 bytes) halfdome-vista.jpg (19976 bytes) valley-cascade-cliffs-south-halfdome.jpg (39075 bytes) halfdome-northside.jpg (56109 bytes) valley-from-halfdome.jpg (52032 bytes) valley-floor-from-halfdome.jpg (54543 bytes) .  We met some new friends marmot-on-halfdome.jpg (63281 bytes) tim-w-marmot-halfdome.jpg (34863 bytes).

At the same time we were feeling so good about our accomplishment, we observed some real climbers completing the ascent of on the north face, just yards below us (it made us sick to even look)rock-climbers-halfsome.jpg (42195 bytes).   I do not know how the human body conditions itself to do such a thing.

Anyway we made it to the top, as proven in this photo sandy-mike-on-top-halfdome6-15-02.jpg (27042 bytes)!

We made it back to Little Yosemite Campground to stay Saturday night... and completing our food preparations just before dark, when the bears like best to charge people for their dinner.

Sunday, June 16th, 2002, we headed back down.  Taking the John Muir Trail instead of the Nevada/vernal Falls Trails afforded grand views of Nevada Fall  with Mt. Broderick, mt-broderick-and-nevada-fall-from-muir-trail.jpg (42142 bytes) nevada-falls.jpg (71315 bytes) mike-endorsing-CliffBars-JMT-opposite NevadaFall.jpg (63003 bytes), and the Valley welcoming us below merced-river-below-vernal-fall.jpg (60276 bytes).

At the time, we said (or at least I did) that we'd probably never do Half Dome again - it was just too scary - but I yearn to return.

We camped once again at the backpacker's campground Sunday night.  Had pizza at Camp Curry that evening (enough of Gorp and dehydrated foods!)

Monday, June 17th, 2002 we awoke, walked to Mirror Lake, and bought ourselves some gifts in the Curry Village mountaineering shop (trekking poles, CamelBak hydration systems...) as rewards for a hike well-done.  Hit the highways to our homes... how little we missed the traffic, news, and noise of civilization.

Note: Prior to this weekend, I walked around Sequoia National Park, and attempted to hike up snow-covered Alta Peak in Sequoia National Park... a photo essay of that segment may be forthcoming, with a link to be published  here.

August 14, 2005, Mike Nix and I (Mike Baird) attempted to do Half-Dome again.  Mike Nix made it all the way to the top, but he had to return immediately due to thunder and rain.  I (Mike Baird), was too tired to attempt the final cable assault, so I took some pictures of the final climb from the base.  None of these pictures turned out so swell that I wanted to post them permanently here... at one time you could can see them temporarily at PolaroidPics.com (including some from Sequoia National Park, trip to Cahoon Gap)... but, PolaroidPics shut down operations 9-05.

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