Pocket Ranger® Video Channel: Yosemite Half Dome Day Hike

Some grey clouds making their way across the face of Half Dome.

An arresting, cloud-obstructed vantage; quite thrilling from down here! [Image: Telegraph Hiking Club]

A recent Pocket Ranger® in-app video features a Telegraph Hiking Club trip up Yosemite’s Half Dome. Half Dome, as you can see above, is a nearly sheer granite precipice that juts about 9,000’ into the sky of the Yosemite Valley, which was once deemed impossible to summit. Indeed, with its dynamic profile and gorgeous locale, Half Dome is easily one of the most identifiable natural features in Yosemite National Park. The 14- to 23-mile challenge is met regularly each year by thousands of bold explorers between late-May and mid-October. The trip is difficult even for seasoned hikers, but is possible because of the work of the National Park Service and certainly the equipment, experience, training, and will of the hikers themselves.

Joey Miller, our intrepid filmmaker and a Telegraph Hiking Club member, has taken the summit of the Half Dome 11 times to-date. Her most recent endeavor was one of the most formidable due to difficult weather conditions that made the surface of the granite especially treacherous. She was able to enjoy success because of a mindful approach and a practiced knowledge of the terrain—along with a fortunate break in the inclement weather. We asked her about the climb, and she imparted some valuable insight for those curious about Half Dome. Some of her quotes are below in italics.

Know Your Limits

two female hikers amid fog at half dome

Telegraph Hiking Club chums scale a foggy escarpment. And how! [Image: Telegraph Hiking Club]

“This was the first time we’ve encountered weather on the Dome. And, if you read the websites or any time you’re training, they’re very clear: If the Dome is wet, you just do not go up. So our plan, because of the weather, was just to get to the sub-dome, touch the cables and, you know, it was a lot of work and preparation, but our plan was just to turn around.”

It takes months of training to even make the base of Half Dome. If you make it, you might be focused on how hard you worked and how much you deserve to take the summit. But you have to consider temperature, precipitation, time of day, and many other factors—you might just feel like something is off, for instance. Listen to what your senses are telling you.

Do Your Homework

“Getting a permit can be very, very challenging. Start looking six months to a year in advance, and make sure you’re aware of what permits are needed and what time of year to apply. It’s usually going to be 4-6 months, sometimes more, before you can do the adventure…And if you can, choose a weekday. It’s much easier to get a permit on a weekday than it is on a weekend.”

The Half Dome preseason permit lottery occurs in March. Half Dome is a very popular destination, and only 300 permits per day are offered through the lottery system to both backpackers and hikers. The National Park Service confirms on its website that your chance of success is higher on weekdays, particularly in September and October. “For the entire season (2013), average success rate on weekdays is 56%, but only 31% on weekends.” This and other information about getting a Half Dome permit is available on the National Park Service website.

Trust Yourself

“We waited at Half Dome, and by the time the last two members of our team showed up, the storm started to clear and a little sun got on the granite. It started to dry pretty fast. Our plan just was to take a couple of photographs and turn around, but it actually felt pretty good…I wasn’t outside of my comfort zone. A woman behind me heard me guiding some people up the rocks and asked if I would take her to the top, and I told her I would take her as far as she could go. We ended up summiting.”

Though testing their limits, they were able to enjoy the summit on a day that might otherwise have been too dangerous by being aware of their personal safety and comfort as well as working as a team. They were lucky to have the sun on their side, too!

“I was a little apprehensive about the Dome this trip just because I’ve never encountered it in weather…But I guess just trust in yourself and trust in that you’ve prepared appropriately. And trust where you are; that you’re where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there.”

Two hikers at the summit of Half Dome

“We made it!” they are probably saying as they stand at the slippery edge of the world. [Image: Telegraph Hiking Club]

There’s No Time Like the Present

While summiting Half Dome takes time, planning, and training, there’s really no time like RIGHT NOW to get out and find adventures of your own! With Pocket Ranger® apps, you can access information and resources for all manner of outdoor thrills, including trail details, interactive GPS maps, weather reports, reservations, GeoChallenges, and, of course, the Pocket Ranger® in-app video channel to entertain and inspire your next wilderness excursion.

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