Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1

  • Currently 5.0/5

Half Dome

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
A Chilly Half Dome With My Daughter
Tuesday January 10, 2012 2:33pm
The astute reader might be detecting a trend in our choice of routes lately. But at the risk of covering some well-trodden territory, here is our fun, if nippy and long, day on Half Dome:


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Half Dome summit sunset, 12/30/11
Half Dome summit sunset, 12/30/11
Credit: Jim Herson
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  Trip Report Views: 10,188
Jim Herson
About the Author
Jim Herson is a climber from Emerald Hills, CA.


Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 10, 2012 - 02:38pm PT
Wow. Wow. Wow.


I tremble at your feet.
David Wilson

  Jan 10, 2012 - 02:49pm PT
way to haul your dad up that route Kara !

there's a bit more sun on the big formation across the way, called el cap - is that next?

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jan 10, 2012 - 02:56pm PT
Too cool! I love your TR's!


Trad climber
  Jan 10, 2012 - 02:58pm PT
Great trip report, but I had to read it twice to be sure I was really understanding what you did, when you did it and who you partner was. I'm 61 and house-trained. How about adopting me?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jan 10, 2012 - 03:25pm PT
Way to go, Jim and Kara!
I thought you'd be back.
Excellent upgrade on the logistics.

Good luck on deciding on what comes first on El Cap - Salathe' or Nose :-)
Of course you can delay this tough one by scampering up the Lost Arrow Chimney, West Face of El Cap, etc.

Trad climber
  Jan 10, 2012 - 03:00pm PT
her entire knowledge of Valley climbs has been filtered through me. And I'm like the Fox News of climbing beta. What I lack in objectivity I more than make up for in partisan enthusiasm.

Hilarious! Great TR - really enjoyed it. Thanks!

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jan 10, 2012 - 03:05pm PT

Either you and your son have dopplegangers, or I saw you last Sunday on the flanks of Stately Pleasure. I was nursing two scamperers on top-rope up the approach slabs that you and your son 4th-classed to avoid our ropes?

Trad climber
Washington DC
  Jan 10, 2012 - 03:33pm PT
Great report, what a memory for your daughter and you. No jumars? Does she tension up sections or use aiders? Climb 5.12?
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Jan 10, 2012 - 04:22pm PT
Jim Herson: not only the best el cap free climber that is the least known, but maybe the best TR writer out there!

Everyone should go check out the archives on his site. He has been writing awesome trip reports for years and only just now started making them more widely known.

Oh, and Jim was one of the early and active ASCA supporters.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jan 10, 2012 - 04:32pm PT
Dood, aren't you afraid someone from Child Protective Services is
gonna see this thread?

Whoa- Kore Kid!

Trad climber
NE Philly, PA
  Jan 10, 2012 - 11:40pm PT
amazing report Jim... thanks for sharing!


  Jan 10, 2012 - 11:57pm PT
Jim Herson: not only the best el cap free climber that is the least known, but maybe the best TR writer out there!

I agree ....
Double D

  Jan 11, 2012 - 12:53am PT
Wow... that's impressive. Wouldn't want to face the in-laws though.
E Robinson

Trad climber
Salinas, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 01:40am PT
Too cool. Kudos on the hat, gloves, jackets, and headlamp. Can't sait for the Lost Arrow report.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jan 11, 2012 - 02:36am PT
Absolutely stellar. Way to make my day after Snake Dike trip seem like an utter waste of time, effort and testosterone. From one dad to another, congrats on a successful father/daughter mission. We were in the neighborhood at the same time, sharin' the same dome on New Year's Eve/Day.

You guys were a few hours early. You were the last ones on Half Dome for 2011. We were the first of 2012. We win. Take that.

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Jan 11, 2012 - 07:17am PT
Fantastic TR! Still want to do that route with my son, but he is a bit older than your adorable daughter.
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 07:49am PT
check out the rest of his website.

"some pig ... some spider" -- e.b. white

some family.
Dos XX

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 08:44am PT
You two are the coolest! 'Nuff said.

  Jan 11, 2012 - 09:14am PT
This TR makes me question the wisdom of my choice not to reproduce.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:06am PT
wow this is awesome, thank you for sharing!

Trad climber
Fresno, Ca
  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:18am PT
Too bad our paths didn't cross. Would of loved to top out with you guys! It was a beautiful day in the mountains.
wayne burleson

Amherst, MA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 12:05pm PT
I suppose it was inevitable.
You are thorough...
Way to exploit the weird weather...

The most memorable part may be the caching of the child...

And the flight back East...

Happy New Year!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 11, 2012 - 01:44pm PT
Jim, had to come back for another read.

Just a note to throw in with the grandmothers a little.

First, I applaud your effort and skills and your daughters toughness and attitude. I agree that not reversing the slabs at night was the right thing to do. I have seen strong people struggle on them in daylight.
I myself almost surfed off a cliff once when a loose flake took off with me on it. So hoofing the long trail was the right thing to do.

You are obviously an accomplished guy, so I won't rant or be rude.

But, you were surfing the razors edge with your daughter in tow.
What if something had happened to dad, like a fall or a dislocated knee or any other of about a million things that can go wrong?

Bad things sometimes happen in the mountains, and that is a mighty high and cold place to be paying the bills, that's all I'm saying.

That being said, I've done more than my fair share of bone head moves, so I'm no judge.

Congratulations on a supreme day.

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 03:50pm PT
These are always great trip reports.........Jim, it is possible to say no to a son, but your daughter.........they pretty much call the shots, don't they?

Oakland, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 03:54pm PT
Left speechless once again by you two, who together have got to be considered THE most incredibly kick-ass team of the year.

My guess is that for many of us parents reading along there is a blend of Survival's sentiment, well-expressed, and utter admiration. Just like he's saying. And yet you two seem super competent and at no point over your heads or even close to it. It's so far out there - in a good way - that it leaves us gripped and exhilarated at once.

Said it before, but I'd love to read one of these sends from Kara's perspective.
Jim Herson

Emerald Hills, CA
Author's Reply  Jan 11, 2012 - 06:26pm PT


It's hard to argue that a winter HDIAD with a 12 yo isn't pushing it.

Was it worth it just to share a few warm memories and a smile with her when I'm a doddering old fool? I hope so. Maybe I'm rationalizing but on an absolute scale it was a much less risky climb than my first time up HD as a group of 3 completely green gumbies. How we didn't win a Darwin award for that trip is beyond baffling!

As far as the freak, what-if scenarios, a car careened out of control and killed two people in front of us on the drive back from LA. Does that make having visited Aunt Pat to eat birthday cake unnecessarily risky? To answer we need an equation:

EV = (1-P)*X

EV = Expected Value
P = Probability of car crash
X = Joy of eating birthday cake


EV = Expected Value
P = Probability of slipping on HD
X = Joy of climbing with my daughter

In both cases P is small and X is huge.

Cancer Boy

Trad climber
  Jan 11, 2012 - 07:28pm PT
Superhuman! You two are in a class with Charlie Porter and Walter Bonatti. Will you regret this on your death bed? No freaking way.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jan 11, 2012 - 07:29pm PT
Kudos to a phenomenal TR and congratulations on the adventure with your daughter Kara.

I am glad Survival brought up the inherent concern with winter and cold and the need to move fast and light and the possibility, or as you justly stated, probability of "minor" problems. We always think of the things that can go wrong on a minor level such as a dislocated shoulder that can develop into a major scenario rapidly.

Your quick response is to be commended as you have obviously thought through such potential scenarios and made a go of it in your own style and fashion. Quite a team you have assembled. Difficult to conceive of anything more enjoyable than adventuring with my own daughter.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Jan 11, 2012 - 09:38pm PT
Proud ascent! Very few can send a Grade VI in a day in winter, and without ascenders. How did she second all those pitches?

Some dad you are. Every leader should leave pro for his second on a traverse!

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:08pm PT
Thanks for the great TR! Your previous writings about working the Salathe were very inspirational to me as I was gearing up to climb El Cap, and these recent ones are possibly more amazing.

  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:30pm PT
Expected value is the value of various outcomes weighted by their probability. The weights (probabilities) have to sum to one. So it should be:

EV = (1-P)*X1 + P*X2

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:25pm PT
Thanks for the response Jim.

P is bigger than we think, much of the time, but I do appreciate your response.

I have taken a lot of people up things that were out of their league, but well below my limit, so I know how competent and strong I can feel on a given day.
the goat

Mazama, WA
  Jan 11, 2012 - 11:49pm PT
Absolutely amazing! I'm sharing this with my daughters in the hope that they will drag my sorry arse up HD or south crack sometime soon.
Trad Climber

Trad climber
Alexandria, VA
  Jan 12, 2012 - 12:49pm PT
Being the father of an 11 year old daughter who is pretty tough and climbs I am blown away your girl can manage the hike up and down in a day let alone the NW face!

I'd second PTPP's question too: How does she second all the pitches with jumars? Is she free climbing most of the zig zags?

Having done some much easier routes with my girl (necessary to stay within my zone of competence with kid in tow) I can only imagine the bond you guys must have.

Truly amazing.
laurel arndt

Trad climber
  Jan 13, 2012 - 12:43pm PT
unfreakin believable, your daughter is sure to go far in life with the "can do and will do" attitude.
Made me laugh since I left a partner(15 years younger) in the mtneer gully of whitney on spring ascent once, he fell asleep too with my puffies, gloves and backpack as a bivy...I got sh#t for that, can't imagine what your family says!!!!

Trad climber
  Jan 15, 2012 - 08:25pm PT
Dood, aren't you afraid someone from Child Protective Services is
gonna see this thread?

As a middle school social worker, I endorse this type of behavior.

Way to go Kara!

Brian Biega

Truckee, CA
  Jan 15, 2012 - 08:13pm PT
Hi Jim-

Sounds like a awesome time and adventure for you both!

Thanks for sharing.

Cheers, Brian

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Jan 15, 2012 - 10:45pm PT
Soooo freakin AWESOME!!!

Trad climber
Yosemite, CA
  Oct 18, 2012 - 03:23pm PT
This is proper parenting!

Trad climber
Lander, WY
  Oct 18, 2012 - 03:37pm PT
Really impressive. Great job for both of you.

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Oct 18, 2012 - 11:51pm PT

a) Sweet adventure

b) I need to man up after reading this haha
David Wilson

  Oct 19, 2012 - 10:11am PT
This is awesome ! Hats off to Kara and Jim.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
  Oct 19, 2012 - 10:32am PT
Wow! I just assuemed she free climbed those pitches.... Some kids are like that ya know....
Jeremy Hadland

Trad climber
  Nov 23, 2012 - 07:56pm PT
Why are you making her carry the pack in all the pictures??

Trad climber
  Nov 23, 2012 - 08:46pm PT
So cool. Thanks for sharing.
Johnny K.

  Jul 16, 2013 - 07:28pm PT
Half Dome - Regular Northwest Face 5.12 or 5.9 C1 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
The Regular Northwest Face.
Photo: Mark Kroese
Other Routes on Half Dome
Half Dome - Snake Dike 5.7 R - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Snake Dike, 5.7 R
Half Dome
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Snake Dike follows an amazing feature to one of the most incredible summits in Yosemite.
Half Dome - Tis-sa-ack A3 5.9 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Tis-sa-ack, A3 5.9
Half Dome
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Half Dome - Zenith A4 5.8 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Zenith, A4 5.8
Half Dome
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The first part of the route is hidden.
Half Dome - Direct Northwest Face 5.14a or 5.10 C2+ - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Direct Northwest Face, 5.14a or 5.10 C2+
Half Dome
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The Direct Northwest Face.
Half Dome - Blondike 5.11b R - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click for details.
Blondike, 5.11b R
Half Dome
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Blondike is the red line and Two Hoofers is the Blue Line.
More routes on Half Dome