We had just left the maintained section of the Half Dome approach trail and started our way up the first few sections of 5th class terrain, hand-over-handing old knotted climbing ropes, I yelled down to my buddy Jard, “This is it?! I’ve heard all this lore over the years about these dangerous slabs and the crappy fixed lines, but these ropes look fine and these slabs are EASY!” I could still see the ground 100ft below.
Once the ground disappeared and we made our way up mostly secure 3rd and 4th class terrain things began to get a bit more tricky (and wet). However the lure of the giant North West face of Half Dome loomed over our heads and kept our psych up and continue to inspire our confidence. With this new found confidence, I took the lead and charged my way up to the second section of fixed lines. At the base of the second set, we reached a fork in the road; intimidating, steep terrain to the left and intimidating steep terrain to the right. After some discussion and a brief view of another party ahead of us topping out the path to the right, we opted to go to the right.
I went first and started hand-over-handing the two redundant fixed climbing ropes, after bypassing about 50+ feet of 5.6 terrain it became impossible to continue to use the climbing ropes, as they disappeared over a steep cliff. Fortunately, there was an easy looking escape out left, another rope, some little ledges and vegetation. I grabbed the rope to the left and yelled down to Jard, “Hey duder! This looks like some sh#t hardware store rope, what the f*#k?!” He yelled back something about being careful. Fueled with excitement about our route, I charged my way up, hand-over-handing the sh#t rope, getting closer to the tie-off point. About 80+ feet out from my partner, I lunged my arm out to grab the tree trunk, my fingertips within inches of the trunk and…
**The f*#king rope snapped.**
I instantly fell backwards with the rope still in my hand, sliding down on my back, headfirst. A split second later, little juniper sapling appeared to my right side so I grabbed it and was able to face my body feet-first to the ground, however the force of the fall pulled my hand right off and I continued to barrel down the slab. I peered down and there was Jard’s frightened face below me and it was getting closer. I thought to myself, “Do I try to steer toward him to break my fall, or steer away from him so I don’t kill him… f*#k!”
I continued to fall uncontrollably, foolishly thinking to myself about how tore up my pack is going to be when I hit the ground, then before I could finish my thought...
…oh shit! There’s Jard!
...and it looks like he’s assumed a linebacker position and is prepared for my collision. Seconds later, BAM! He body checks me over onto a plush, little sloping ledge just feet before another big sloping section of slabs.
I stopped, holy sh#t, I stopped.
As the dust settled, I carefully stood up and dropped the piece of sh#t rope that, for some reason, I was still clenching in my fist. I shook out and explored my body for damage and was happy to find that with the exception of a bloody arm and a freshly torn pair of shorts, I was relatively unscathed from the fall, a little shaken up, but in one piece.
“Sh#t man, you just saved my ass!”
Jard was still google-eyed and once he saw that I was okay, I could tell from his face that he knew our dreams of Half Dome that day were crushed. Not wanting to ruin his psych, I said, “Hey man, maybe we should use those lines out to the left?!” He affirmed and on our way we went to conquer our first Half Dome in a day!