Half Dome Attempt, May 23 2015

posted in: Photos, Trip Report | 2

Back in early April, my wife and I were offered permits to hike Half Dome. I summited Half Dome about 10 years ago and swore I’d never do it again (I didn’t like the cables), but my wife really wanted to go. She had hiked about 95% of the trail, but had to turn around due to weather a few years ago. Since the permits are tough to get (they are awarded through a lottery now), we decided we should go even though my wife hasn’t really hiked since our son was born nearly 3 years ago.

We spent the next few weeks trying to train for this hike, but our schedules and being sick for 3 weeks prevented us from doing much. My wife only hiked three times for a total of 12 miles in the weeks leading up to the hike and wasn’t able to make it to the gym as planned. As expected, we were a little nervous about how the hike would go for us.

We got started a little later than normal, but were on the trail by 5:30 am. Stepping onto the Mist Trail provided an immediate wake-up call for us. Although the beginning of the trail is paved, it is still steep and I could immediately tell that the weight I was carrying would eventually become problem. By 7:30 we had been dealing with on and off light rain and I had already resigned to the fact that we would not be summiting because the rocks at the cables would likely be too slick for a safe climb. I also started to doubt whether I would be able to make it to the top of the Sub Dome; I could tell that I would be dealing with cramps at some point during the day. After a break at Little Yosemite Valley, the cramps finally hit me and I spent the rest of the ascent either cramping or on the verge of cramps.

A few minutes after my legs started cramping, it also started to rain steadily. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was definitely enough to make Half Dome slick. On our way up the Sub Dome, we talked to other hikers that were on the cables when the rain started. They were able to descend by sitting down and holding the cables, but the hikers that were further up the cables and on a steeper section got stranded.  When the hikers we talked to started their descent of the Sub Dome, someone was headed up with a harness to help the stranded hikers down. Around 11:30, we finally reached the bottom of the cables, snapped a few pics, then started our descent.

As we neared Nevada Falls, the rain became very heavy. Due to the volume of people descending Mist Trail and not wanting to deal with the “stairs,” most of our group took the John Muir Trail back to Happy Isles, finishing our hike around 4 PM.


Since my wife was not able to train much leading up to the hike, I took as much of her gear as I could. The forecast called for rain and near freezing temps, so we had stuff I wouldn’t normally carry on a “summer” hike. I would estimate my pack was around 28 lbs with food and water.

Notable Gear

  • Six Moon Designs Fusion 65, 39 oz Ultralight Pack
    • My first long hike with this pack. So far, no complaints.
  • Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
    • My first time hiking with this in the rain (I had previously used it in the rain as a shelter).
    • Kept me and my pack dry during a downpour.
    • Will be used as my shelter and poncho on the HST.
  • Farm to Feet Merino Wool Socks –  High Point Mid-Calf Diamond Trekker
    • Farm to Feet sent me another pair of their socks – this time a heavy weight trekking sock.
    • I am very impressed (I am going to purchase another pair). No stink or blisters after 16.5 miles and 11 hours of wearing them.
  • Geigerrig Hydration Pack Engine
    • I used the Hydration Pack Engine in my SMD pack, placing it in one of the pack’s outside pockets. I am hoping to do the same on my HST hike so that I don’t have to open my pack up for refills.
  • Oboz Beartooth BDry
    • Performed great over 16.5 miles, much of it over wet rock and dirt. They were awesome! It’s the best my feet have felt after a 15+ mile hike.

Geek Stats

  • Half Dome – up Mist Trail, down John Muir Trail || Distance: ~16.5 miles round trip || Elevation Gain: ~4,400′ || Duration: ~10.5 hrs

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2 Responses

    • TheHikingGeek

      Hopefully we’ll meet up one of these days!

      Thanks for the water tips Steve. I didn’t actually carry much water. I started the hike with 1 liter, then refilled to 1.5 about a mile upstream from Emerald Pool.

      My wife was feeling under the weather, so I took as much of her stuff as possible. She basically only had the weight of 1 liter of water, the pack, her phone and a poncho. With the high temp for the summit being 39 degrees for the day, we had lots of gear. I was carrying 2 down jackets, 2 sets of long underwear, a mid-layer for my wife, winter hats, first aid kit, water filter, etc, and about 4 pounds of food (don’t ask :\). If I was by myself, I think my pack would’ve been under 15 lbs with water.