Climbing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

The guy RD’s decided to hike Half-Dome in Yosemite this weekend (Jeff Lewis, Dave Hulet, Siona Savini, and I).  The only other time I was in Yosemite is long enough ago for me not to remember anything about it.  I’ll certainly remember this time, though.

The hike was 15.2 miles roundtrip.  We gained around 4,800 feet in elevation (Half-Dome itself is around 8,850 feet).  We camped in Yosemite Valley on Friday night, had an absolutely incredible Hobo dinner (tri-tip, potatoes, onions, and carrots all sliced up and grilled in tin foil on a campfire, then mixed together), packed everything with a scent into the bear lockers for the night, woke up at 5:30am, packed up, and hit the trail at 7:00am.  We summitted at around 1:00 or 1:30pm, enjoyed the view for about an hour, then headed back down.  We took a steeper shortcut on the way back and were at our car around 6:30pm.  We got back to TMC at precisely 11:59pm (the exact time that Jeff had predicted at our trip-planning meeting last Tuesday night).  On the hike I drank 80 ounces of water and actually gorged myself sick on dry fruit, strawberry Nutri Grain bars, a few gummy worms, and Italian dry salami with Tillamook cheddar at the top.  I kept wanting to eat and thought I would need it since we were expending so much energy, but I ended up feeling sick the whole way down and didn’t eat anything between 2:00 and 10:30pm.

This is what we saw upon exiting the tunnel into Yosemite Valley (Half-Dome is the half-dome at the very end of the valley):

Half-Dome 2 - Yosemite Valley from Tunnel Overlook

The trees were big, strong, and beautiful.

Half-Dome 13 - Big Tree Little Bikes

Jeff wanted to make sure we knew exactly where we were headed.  He’s pointing at the “Diving Board.”

Half-Dome 17 - Jeff and the Diving Board - 'That's Where We're Going!'

The face of Half-Dome glows when the sun sets on the west side of the valley.

Half-Dome 22 - Half-Dome at Sunset [2]

Ona got thirsty on the way up, but the Lord provided water out of a rock.  Dave was going to hit it a few times, but I told him not to.  “Dude, haven’t you read your Old Testament?”

Half-Dome 32 - Ona Drinking Nevada Falls

This is Half-Dome from the east side.  We couldn’t figure out why they call it “Half-Dome.”  The little guy you see at very top isn’t actually a little guy.  He’s a normal-sized person on a huge rock.  The reason I know he’s not a little guy is because of the trail of equally-little people on the left side of the picture.  This rock is no joke.

Half-Dome 41 - Half-Dome

It didn’t matter, though.  Ona was hardcore and ready to do it.

Half-Dome 46 - Ona 'Peace'

So up we went, along with a horde of other people.  It felt like some sort of pilgrimage.

Half-Dome 54 - Cables and Face

Yes, those are cables, and no, it doesn’t feel entirely safe going up.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that if you slip and fall, you are definitely going to die.  We tried hard not to do that.

Half-Dome 51 - Up the Cables [2]

We made it to the top by God’s grace.  Here we are on the Diving Board.  Notice my strategic position in this particular picture.

Half-Dome 65 - Diving Board - Gunner, Dave, Ona, Jeff

The reason my position was strategic is that this is where we were standing (no, I didn’t fall off; I’m the one taking the picture): 

Half-Dome 62 - Diving Board - Ona, Jeff, Dave, Hanging Out

We had quite a view.  If the creation reflects the power and artistry of its Maker, we can know at least two things: God is not small, and He is not unskilled.  This is why it is not foolish or unfair to believe that there are no absolute atheists (Romans 1:19-20). 

Half-Dome 61 - Diving Board - Ona, Jeff, Dave, and Yosemite Valley

The vertical drop is about 4,400 feet along the northwest face.  This didn’t bother Jeff, though.  Jeff actually eats fear for breakfast.  Meanwhile, Dave (top left) decided to pose for his senior picture.

Half-Dome 72 - Diving Board - Jeff in Cubby Hole [1]

Half-Dome 73 - Diving Board - Jeff in Cubby Hole [2]

We thought Jeff (top) was pretty courageous until we saw these guys (bottom): 

Half-Dome 74 - Diving Board - Jeff in Cubby Hole [3]

They’re from Germany.  We thought they were so cool we got a picture with them.  I bet they thought we were pretty cool, too.  I mean, the difference between hiking the backside of Half-Dome and climbing the face isn’t really that different.  I don’t know why they needed those ropes.  I think they were just showing off.

Half-Dome 84 - Us with German Climbers

The hour we spent at the top went by quickly, but that didn’t make it less glorious.  When we started down the cables, Jeff wasn’t happy that he had to wait in line and Ona was hoping for more water to come out of the rock.  I was just trying to get the picture taken so I could put my gloves back on and grab the cables again.

Half-Dome 86 - Back Down the Cables

These guys that I work with are genuinely awesome.  The bond we share is deep, and the ministry that has brought us together is filled with joy.  We all had an amazing time, and I can’t think of a more refreshing way to spend 36 hours of a mid-semester weekend.  The fellowship and conversations were encouraging and insightful, the creation was chattering non-stop about the glory and wonder of its Creator, the hike was hard and rewarding, and the spiritual lessons could fill more than a few pages in each of our journals.

I’ll just share one of those lessons.  I took this last picture from the summit with this verse in mind:

Half-Dome 76 - The Narrow Road - From Half-Dome

Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13-14).


15 thoughts on “Climbing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

  1. Thanks for this post — in addition to it being really helpful for my HD climb last weekend, I’ve really been thinking about the Narrow Gate metaphor. Love it! Great job on the hike! — Cori

  2. Hi,
    I live in Spokane, WA and am considering climbing Half Dome. It’s an 18 hour drive from here and would like to see if I can get a few other guys to car pool it down and do it in three days with a stay overnight at the top. A couple questions 1)How long of a climb should we plan on and 2)when is a good time of year to do it, temperature/weather-wise and crowds. I also am a fellow believer who loves to be amazed at His creation.
    Ron

  3. Hi! I randomly came across this page as I was doing a little research about half dome. My friend made me promise to go with him next summer. Actually he made me promise as we were on missions together this summer while we were in Mongolia! I have to say this entry about half dome is really inspiring! I was excited but really nervous about this hike. Now, I think I’m more excited to see how marvelous our God is through this adventure! I’m still nervous but I think I can live with that. I’ve never been to yosemite, but as I train and pray in this next year i hope God will also reveal to me and my mission brother many more great wonders and deepen our bond through great conversations as well! Thank you for the blessing! God Bless! :)

  4. I heard in the news that a male hiker fell to is death climbing Half Dome. Lookibg at your pictures I can see why. This doesn’t look like it is for the faint of heart. Actually, I have a problem with heights and my hands were already sweating and I started to get a headache just from watching your pics. Still, it looks like it was a great bonding and spiritual experience for all of you. One day I hope to muster the courage and make it to the top. Wishing you all the best. Thanks for sharing.

    Julio, Jacksonville FL

  5. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matthew 7:13-14).”

    Looks like the crowded wide gate was the one with cables and the narrow one had a couple of germans (most likely atheists) in it. :)

  6. The best pictures I’ve seen of the Halfdome cable experience yet, thanks for sharing. I’m surprised you haven’t received more comments, well done my man. Awesome verse also, words to live by, and something to keep in mind as we live and enjoy the life we’ve been blessed with.

    Thanks,

    Dan.

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