California · National Park · Trek · USA

All you need to know before Hiking Half Dome

Half Dome cable is unquestionably one of the most challenging and exhilarating hikes in the United States. Hiking for more than 16 miles with 5500 feet of elevation gain is a challenge of its own. The hikes take you through Vernal and Nevada waterfall and through the forests of Sequoia trees. I did Half Dome on the 15th of June in 2019 with 5 of my friends and It is surely going to be one of the most memorable hikes for all of us.

Here is what you should know before planning your hike to Half Dome Cables:

Why is Half Dome so Famous:

Half Dome is one of the most iconic rocks in Yosemite. If you google Yosemite, Half Dome would probably be the first photo that will show up in google image search. The Half Dome was considered to be perfectly inaccessible until 1985 when George G Anderson climbed up by drilling and placing iron eye-bolts into the smooth granite. Nowadays Half Dome is accessible through cables, hundreds of hikers reach top every day after a strenuous 8.5-mile hike. You must have a permit to climb half dome through.

Half Dome

How long is Half Dome Hike:

Distance: 17.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 5,457 Feet
Difficulty: Extremely strenuous
Length of Time: 11 – 14 hours
Permits: You must have a permit to climb the subdome and the Half Dome cables.
When to go: It depends on weather condition but lotteries are awarded from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

How to get a Half Dome Permit:

A total of 225 permits are available each day through Pre-Season Lottery. The application period for this lottery is from March 1 through March 31 (eastern time) and you get the results sometime in mid-April. You can apply for up to six people for 7 different dates. If you apply multiple times, all of your applications will be removed from the lottery. If you want to increase the chances of getting a permit, ask each one from your group to apply for the lottery and whoever makes through the lottery can take the rest of the group.

Approximately 50 permits are available each day by Daily lottery during the hiking season. Daily lotteries have an application period two days prior to the hiking date with a notification late that night. There are more chances of getting in through Daily Lottery, but you will have to keep your schedule flexible. You can get more details about the lottery system here: https: //www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm. It is also a good idea to look at there statistics before applying for the lottery: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermitsapps.htm. If you hike Half Dome without a permit, you risk paying a $5,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail.

Training for the Half Dome:

Before attempting the Half Dome, you will have to train yourself. Try to do a couple of 10-12 mile hikes with 2,000 or more feet of elevation gain. We did one hike as a part of the preparation and did some more training in the gym. It’s important to build your upper body strength along with stamina as you will have to pull yourself up on the cables. I feel, hiking Half Dome is more about determination than being in perfect shape. So you might not consider yourself fit for such a long hike but if you prepare a bit and are determined to complete it, go ahead and attempt this hike.

The Route to Half Dome

There are 2 ways through which you can reach till Nevada Falls and the path is same. Most of the people follow the following route.

  1. Begin up Mist Trail from the trailhead near Happy Isles
  2. Cross Vernal Fall Footbridge 
  3. Reach Vernal Fall via Mist Trail
  4. Reach Nevada Fall 
  5. Turn Left from at the end of Mist Trail into the wilderness
  6. Leave John Muir Trail and turn left up Half Dome Trail
  7. Climb Subdome 
  8. Climb the Half Dome Cables
  9. Reach Nevada Falls through the same route
  10. Get on to Join Muir Trail to reach back

What to Bring on the Hike:

  • Hiking Shoes: You will need good hiking shoes or boots with a nice grip for this hike.
  • Water: NPS recommends 4 litres of water per person for this hike. I took around 3.5 Lt of water and 1 Lt of Gatorade which was just enough for me. You can also keep some electrolyte mix.
  • Food: Make sure to take high protein food with you. I took 4 Protein bars of kind, a Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate, a large trail mix packer, Bagels and cheese spread and a packet of Pistachio which was more than enough.
  • Gloves and Cap: Gloves are a necessity for climbing and descending the cables to protect your hands. It gets really sunny by the time you reach half dome and its a good idea to carry a Cap.
  • Your Half Dome permit: Make sure to carry your permit and a valid ID card
  • Sunscreen
  • Hiking poles (optional): I took a pair of Hiking poles and they were very useful
  • Harness and Clips (optional): You can keep a harness for Safety at cables. Though this is not a must have for the hike.

Here is a detailed description of my experience of hiking Half Dome.

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