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[Yosemite]

Kids on Half Dome?

Discussion about hiking to the top of Half Dome, planning the trip, and when the Half Dome cables are installed in Spring or removed in Fall.

Moderators: Wickett, dan

Postby lmitt » Fri May 28, 2010 12:23 am

It's interesting how differently different people view the same things. I started the Half Dome hike in my 40s (have hiked up there 15-20 times), and the Angels' Rest hike in my mid 50s. I don't know the extent of your son's maturity for such things. Anyway, my experience is this: Half Dome is obviously strenuous. Everything people are saying about the difficulty of the hike is true. The cable portion never bothered me at all. It's kind of like running a train on a track. Focus on the cables and the the 2x4s every few poles. It's a matter of concentration. I've never been frightened in the slightest, because I'm concerned with pulling myself up by my arms and pushing by my legs, not looking left and right, visualizing what might happen if I slid down the granite face (which is near impossible if I just keep doing what I'm doing). I have as considerable a fear of heights as do most people, but on this hike I can put that fear aside.

Now, as for Zion, and Angels' Rest: Zion isn't as good at safety measures as is Yosemite. I know of several hikes I would never take again. I've successfully hiked up Angels' Rest 2 or 3 times. On the last attempt I finally reached the point where I simply wasn't going to take the last part again. The drop off the left is in the 1000s of feet. The trail, as I remember it, is about two feet wide, and there is a cable on the right side of the cliff. I simply got spooked. Perhaps I'd get a muscle spasm and lose my grip on the cable. There were any number of possible scenarios. So, I did what I never do: I hiked up 95% of the way, and turned around. It's a shame. The view from the destination is wonderful--but never again for me.

There is another trail in Zion, Observation Point, taking off from the Weeping Rock area, which is one of my favorites. The entire route is safe, and feels safe. Yes you could get in trouble, but look where you are going and it's perfectly safe. The view from the top is essentially equivalent to Angels' Rest, and, to some extent, even to Half Dome. The hike isn't technical. Much of it is paved, for better or worse, much of it is spectacular on the way up, and best of all, the last portion levels off and cools down a bit. Then, voila, you're there! You'll love it. Who needs Angels' Rest?
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Postby hotrod4x5 » Fri May 28, 2010 8:31 am

Observation point from Weeping Rock is a great hike, I did it in winter one year. Angel's Landing is actually not thousands, but only 800 feet on one side and 1200 on the other, but still plenty tall enough to kill you.
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Postby TigerFan » Fri May 28, 2010 9:18 am

lmitt wrote:It's interesting how differently different people view the same things. I started the Half Dome hike in my 40s (have hiked up there 15-20 times), and the Angels' Rest hike in my mid 50s. I don't know the extent of your son's maturity for such things. [...]


Yes, everyone's trigger points for "now, *that's* scary" is different. But, in looking at the responses I've gotten, my impression is that the two hikes - Angel's Landing and Half Dome - are pretty comparable in terms of spooking people; just different people in different ways.

I think HD's REAL danger comes with weather (i.e. wet surface) while Angel's Landing's is with carelessness. At least that's *my* overall impression after having read some of the accounts of accidents and deaths.

My son's 11. In most ways, he's a very typical 11 year-old boy, but he's been hiking with me since he was a toddler and we have very similar temperments on the trail. We don't mind "strenuous" and we won't panic. On the other hand, if the line at the cables is long and slow and tedious, we'll be able to walk away without being all that dissappointed.

I didn't get a chance to do the Observation point hike you mention. I only had one opportunity but didn't get to Weeping Rock until 5 PM and decided to hike Hidden Canyon instead because of the time. So, it's definitely on my list for the next time. I really enjoyed the Angel's Landing hike, however. I didn't even mind the hordes of people... it was fun to see the awe on their faces (I'm sure I looked the same.) The hike that kicked my butt was the Subway. I was there in early May and, wow, talk about water flow! I kept thinking about the "flowrider" ride at the local waterpark...
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Postby lmitt » Fri May 28, 2010 10:15 pm

hotrod 4X5: "Angel's Landing is actually not thousands, but only 800 feet on one side and 1200 on the other, but still plenty tall enough to kill you."
You may be right about the drops; you're surely right about their being sufficient to kill you, with plenty of time to think about it on the way down. I know only that the hike is not for me.

Tiger Fan: You make an excellent argument about "trigger points". Why this is true escapes me, but I think you're right. You mention Hidden Canyon, which, as I recollect, is one of the hikes I was referring to as "never agains." 99% of it is just fine. But, about half way up there is one part you see going around to the right, with the cliff to its right. It's sloped a bit down toward the cliff, is generally smooth, but has some loose rocks on it. It's wide, as I remember, perhaps six feet. Nonetheless, it completely terrified me, particularly on the way back. Maybe that was irrational of me, but surely seemed real enough to me. Come to think of it, I've mentioned it to others over the years, and they seem to know instantly what part I'm talking about.

Anyway, by now I think you have your answer: You will have to attempt both Angels' Rest and Half Dome. I think there's an excellent chance you'll succeed at both (by which I mean not just that you'll survive but that you'll complete the hikes). Have fun. These are treasures.
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Postby TigerFan » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:42 pm

Thought I'd update since we just got home from our trip.

We climbed Half Dome and I believe it was one of the highlights of our trip for my son. We camped in LYV the night before, got up around 6 and on the trail around 6:30 AM (on a Thursday.) We saw maybe a dozen others on the trail. We pretty much had the sub-dome as well as the cables to ourselves.

The cables are about 3-1/2 feet high. You really need to be at least 4-1/2 feet tall to have enough leverage to pull yourself up on them -- and the dome is steep enough that you really do need to use the cables to pull yourself up. My son is 4'-8" or so and he did fine but he's strong and light. At only 5'-2" and twice his weight, it was more work for me!

In anycase, it was really fun. :) We spent almost an hour on the top. There was an incredibly cute marmot begging for food -- not to worry, we didn't give him anything but he really made us homesick for our dog!

We encountered the HORDES on our way down and, boy, did a lot of them look really hot and tired! We got asked "Is it much further?" a lot. By 10:30, it looked like a pilgrimage site. We were SO glad we didn't do it as a dayhike from the Valley. We got back down to LYV at 11:30 (5 hours), hung out a bit then packed up, filtered water, etc. and headed down to the Valley at 1:30 on the Mist Trail. Major traffic jam. Took us another 3 hours to get to the Valley.

A couple of other things I noted:
- We brought *leather* gardening gloves as recommended by various sources but found that they do NOT work on the cables. What you want are the RUBBER coated gardening gloves. The cotton ones with the rubber-coated or rubber "dotted" palms worked well.
- People in "gym" shoes were slipping much more than those of us in hiking boots
- I was surprised how little water people seemed to be hiking with. The sign at LYV says that it's 3.7 miles to HD. That's over 7 miles round-trip without a water source. We took light daypacks that would take our water reservoirs. You want your hands to be free for the cables.
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Postby centurycyclist » Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:46 pm

ONE OF THESE DAYS, there will be rules about what kind of shoes are and are not appropriate for climbing HD. I can't imagine doing it without a vibram-type sole. Just doesn't make sense. Sometimes people need to be saved from their own stupidity.
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Postby Wickett » Sat Jul 31, 2010 4:14 pm

I love replying to the hikers with their little 16oz water bottle asking where the water station is "back in the Valley" and getting that OMG look! I have thought about setting up near LYV and pumping water for "tips"... I don't know how many times I have given up the water in one of my Nalgenes, usually for kids whose parents neglected to prepare.
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