YOSEMITE'S HALF DOME looms as an iconic symbol that stands as a testament to the tremendous forces that created its unique shape. Millions of visitors have climbed its flanks for a spectacular view of the high mountain skyline, and the hike from the valley on the Mist Trail is considered by many to be the ultimate hiking adventure. In fact, the experience is so popular that permits are now required to climb the summit -- limiting the once crowded cables to only a few hundred adventurous climbers each day. Moreover, those "lucky" permit-holders must still contend with fatigue, dehydration, and possible altitude sickness while attempting to conquer the dome. After all, this is a 16-mile trek with nearly 5000' of climbing, and not for the casual hiker!
Steel cables assist climbers up the final 400 vertical feet -- but the combination of exposed rock and bolted metal fixtures make it a dangerous place to get caught during an afternoon thunderstorm. Once raindrops start falling, the granite can become treacherously slick so it's best to start early and not linger if the skies darken.
Over the years I've had the pleasure of climbing Half Dome to enjoy its magnificent views -- a memorable lifetime achievement. Like many, I'm drawn to repeat the fete, forgetting the challenges one must endure. You may say I'm one of those irrational souls who just can't get enough. The annual cable lottery for the 2016 season is approaching. Will this be the year? We shall see. If not, there are many other challenging trails in the park open to explore and enjoy. And no matter where you stand to gaze and marvel at the surrounding beauty, those high country vistas are breathtaking!