Snake Dike 5.7 R
Trip Report33 years and 15.5 hours to get to the summit of Half Dome (or another Snake Dike TR).
I was 18 when it happened. I was working in a climbing shop in Sheffield in the UK when one day a new book appeared on the shelf. This book was like something I'd never seen before. It transfixed me so much that I used to gaze at the pictures all day long and read the four trip reports over and over again. The book in question was "Yosemite Climber" and the year was 1979.
I'd been climbing for about two years and as I lived in Sheffield I was brought up to climb mostly single pitch gritstone routes on places like Stanage, Froggatt and Burbage North. The pictures in the book that flashed across my eyes freaked me out but I always had a feeling that one day I had to climb there.
So earlier this year two things happened. First I found myself in Houston with work and secondly I turned 50 and had one of those "there isn't enough time left to climb everything I want to climb", moments so I decided this was my chance. I posted on a few forums and thanks to Claire and Jim I managed to hook up with two people to climb with for the weekend.
So mid way through May of this year I find myself in a tent waking up at 0315 and shortly afterwards driving into the valley to start an epic day. We left the car at 0400 and shortly afterwards we were trying to figure out exactly what the implications of the sign "Cables Down" would be on us getting off the top.
We hiked on up the Mist trail passed Vernal Falls and soon realised why it is called the Mist trail. We got soaked from the spray as we plodded on up the endless steps next to the falls only drying out once we'd got up to Nevada Falls. As the walking eased and we found our way up through the meadow and passed Lost Lake we started to see for the first time where we were heading. Half Dome and Snake Dike was everything I had been expecting and basking in the early morning sunshine looked perfect.
The last hour of walking and scrambling I found quite tough as the sun was starting to beat down on us. It was 0900 by the time I finally made it to the base some minutes behind Claire who had done this trip twice before so I was thinking all the way up the approach "this climb has got to be worth it if she's prepared to go through all this for a third time!".
Once we got on the rock the last 5 hours of the hike in was already a distant memory. The first pitch went better than expected once I'd got myself passed the glassy traverse. The initial step across being the worst not knowing if my feet would stick. The climbing after this was just a delight and we alternated leads to the top. Some one told me later in the week that climbing the dike was like climbing the back of a dragon. The holds were everywhere that you needed them to be and the lack of protection didn't really figure in my mind. Of course we clipped each and every bolt and were very grateful they were there.
Once at the end of the "real" climbing we set off up the endless slabs to the summit. I'd read many reports before so new what to expect but try telling that to my calf muscles. They were burning after just 8 steps so slowly (very slowly) but surely we made our way to the top.
We eventually topped out by crossing the small snow field and having the obligatory "I made it to the summit of Half Dome" picture.
With the cables down the summit was relatively empty. We only saw another 8 people up there. After the pictures on top we made our way to the cables. We'd taken twin ropes with us just in case we had to rap down but we then realised that "cables down" meant we could just hand over hand down them. The descent was relatively uneventful, stopping every now and again for a rest and a picture!
Once down we then faced the long haul back to the car. It was hot and we were both tired so we plodded on one foot after the other with water supplies running low. At the top of Nevada Falls we refilled our water bottles and started on the steps of the Mist trail on to Vernal Falls. Now we could see in full daylight what had soaked us on the way up in the dark.
On we went until just before we got down to road level we saw a snake on the side of the path. A snake to remember a day on Snake Dike. The memories of this day will remain with me forever. Thanks to Claire for under estimating the timings (!) and for Jim who sat patiently by the bridge for most of the day waiting for us to return. I sincerely hope it will be a lot less than 33 years before I return.
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Other Routes on Half Dome