Half Dome (N#169, T#96) and Clouds Rest (N#170, T#97)
Nathan Day 110, Travis Day 55
Finally we arrived in Yosemite Valley! For Nathan and I these granite walls felt like home. We had both spent countless hours perched on ledges and wandering up cracks in the Valley. When I was a young and budding climber, Yosemite taught me many lessons. I will never forget showing up in 2015 with my climbing partner Harry enraptured by the massive walls. We had only been climbing for a year and were hungry for heights and, like many before us, soon discovered Yosemite is where overconfident climbers grow into humble climbers. Yosemite trimmed my ego both on and off the rock… I owe a lot to this place.
Our first peak linkup would be Half Dome and Clouds Rest. We would start in the Valley, climb Snake Dike, a 5.7 slab route on the south side of Half Dome, and then take the trail to Clouds Rest and finally finish in Tuolumne. We planned to stash my van in Tuolumne with our overnight gear and set off on a 4-day linkup of the Cathedral and Clark ranges the next day.
After the drive to Tuolumne and parking my van at the trailhead, I needed to hitchhike back down to the valley. It was already late and I was a bit worried it would be tough to get a ride but after only 20 minutes of sticking out the thumb, a young climber in a truck offered me a ride. He was a nice kid who had recently just started rock climbing and was here with his friends in the vehicle ahead of us. He reminded me of myself when I had first arrived in Yosemite. I told him my rite of passage stories and assured him he would have his own soon enough.
When he dropped me off I got a glimpse of his friend in the other car. His face was strangely familiar and I realized I had met him before.
"Any chance you are a painter and were traveling through Sedona a few years ago?"
He was! I had met this guy in Sedona outside a coffee shop. He was an excellent painter and ended up camping with us and sharing his paintings that night. What a crazy world. It was getting late and we bid our farewells. I found Nathan where we planned to meet and we drove to El Portal for the night.
The next day we got up early so we could beat the sun to the south face of Half Dome. We hiked up the direct approach via the Grizzly Peak gully. At the top of the gully we bushwacked through thick manzanita to the base of Snake Dike. I had soloed the route before but I was a bit nervous because the crux is very insecure. It was the first time I'd worn climbing shoes since the beginning of the project and I had to re-familiarize myself with slab technique. The first pitch is 5.7 and mostly pure friction, it took me a few moves to shake off the dust and remember how dang sticky rock shoes are! We romped up the first dike feature until it steepened, if you continue up this dike it becomes 5.9 friction, yikes! To avoid this the route traverses 30 feet to the left across a blank friction slab over to another dike. This is the crux.
I stepped out first from the safety of the large holds and over with all my weight on tiny little edges. There are no holds for your hands and you must trust the stickiness of the granite crystals on your toes. I sized up the crux and tried to remember the sequence from last time I was here. It was a high left foot, then bump your right over, then a long left foot step onto a small edge and step over.
I made the first move a few times but kept backing off. It's very committing because if your foot pops off the rock then you are surely going for the "the ride." Nathan offered some encouragement. I gathered my breath, calmed my mind, made the moves, and traversed my way to the large holds of the other dike. From here it is a glory 5.4 jug haul! Nathan came over effortlessly. "Screw you man!" I told him jokingly because he made it look easy, really I was just glad he made it over.
We cruised up the orange quartz ladder. What a position it is to be in the middle of the giant granite slab of Half Dome! We ogled the views of El Cap and Yosemite Falls down in the valley below. Soon enough we found ourselves at the top. It was strange to see so many people up there. Up until now we had barely seen anyone out in the Sierra and now there were folks everywhere. We descended down the cables, from where everyone else had come, and then cruised on the trail over to Clouds Rest.
We both ran out of water and were quite thirsty in the heat. Thankfully we crossed a small spring on the trail and drank away. Clouds Rest had excellent views of both the Valley and Tuolumne. It was one of my favorite sights of the entire project. From the summit it was only 7 miles to where I stashed the van.
We got back down early in the day so decided to go swimming in Tenaya lake. Nathan had some friends working up here so we found them, made some food, and crashed by the trailhead for tomorrow. It had been an awesome day!
View the activity here.