Why Hiking Half Dome Is a Must for Your Bucket List
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is breathtaking just to look at. Don't believe me? Take naturalist and Sierra Club co-founder John Muir's word for it, who was reportedly the ninth person to climb it. He described Half Dome as “the most beautiful and most sublime of all the wonderful Yosemite rocks.” I especially love that Muir refers to Half Dome and its surrounding massive granite peaks as "wonderful Yosemite rocks."
Yosemite is one of the most popular parks in the country and Half Dome one of its most popular hikes. The granite crest known as Half Dome towers 4,737 feet above the valley floor (for a total elevation of about 8,800 feet). It's the park's most iconic feature. For the longest time, its summit was deemed "perfectly inaccessible." Then, in 1875 a man by the name of George G. Anderson made it to the top by drilling and placing iron eyebolts into the granite. By 1919, the park had installed cables on the last 400 feet, so that climbers could pull themselves up the incredibly steep grade of smooth granite to reach the top.
Today, thousands of people summit the granite peak every year, but park rangers warn, it's not for the out of shape, the faint of heart or for those with a fear of heights. The 16.4-mile round-trip hike can take 10-11 hours or more as you gain nearly 5,000 feet in elevation over the course of the hike.
The most famous—or infamous—part of the hike is the cables and with good reason. "Since 1919, relatively few people have fallen and died on the cables," the National Park Service says. I think that is supposed to sound encouraging. Of course, "injuries are not uncommon for those acting irresponsibly," the park service cautions. In fact, the park has to "assist" (read: rescue) hundreds of people on the trail every year. So before beginning the hike, it is imperative that you read up and watch this short video from the park service:
Once you've done that and you still think (like me) that this sounds like a lot of fun, then start making your preparations. A permit is required if you wish to go all the way to the top, so you will need to enter a lottery that the park service holds every March. Alternatively, the park service holds daily lotteries from May to October while the cables are up, and then awards a much smaller number of permits a few days in advance.
The hike itself is truly remarkable. It's recommended you start the hike early (around sunrise), which affords hikers beautiful views of the sun peaking over the granite bluffs that dominate the park's landscape. As you progress, you will take in absolutely stunning views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap and Half Dome, which if like me, you will look at and say, "Wait we're going to the top of that." And once you've finally reached the top, nothing can beat those views. At the top, hikers are rewarded with the most electrifying, panoramic views of the Yosemite Valley and High Sierra.
Fair warning, the cables are harrowing to say the least—and I don't really have a fear of heights (though this trek made me reconsider that). They require quite a bit of arm strength, but the hardest part for me was the waiting. The hike has become so popular in recent years that the cables frequently become congested (though I'm told it's much better than the days before the permit system).
There is only one way up and down the cables, and hikers have to let each other pass as they ascend and descend. This results in a lot of waiting, especially if someone freezes up out of fear or fatigue. Let me tell you, the waiting game is difficult to do on the side of a cliff at 4,400 feet with fierce wind gusts—especially when the climb is so steep that you can't see the top, but you're too afraid to look back down to see how far you've gone.
I will admit that my main thought climbing the cables was, "people are crazy for doing this. I am crazy for doing this. I can't believe I'm doing this!" But the camaraderie on the cables was incredibly reassuring. Everyone is so encouraging and just a few words like "you got this" from those descending were all I needed to get to the top of that damn rock. And the descent from the cables is so much easier (I even looked down, though I didn't really have a choice).
That view from the top, though, makes it all so worth it. It's hard to put 4,800 feet of elevation into perspective. It's four times higher than the Empire State Building and even higher than the drop from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the bottom. That's quite a drop.
Actually, the entire trek from beginning to end made it all so worth it. You'll follow the Merced River for several miles to the top of Vernal Fall. Then, you'll climb higher until you reach Nevada Fall. After that, you get a slight break from all that elevation gain as you meander through Little Yosemite Valley. Once you work your way through alpine forests, you'll hit Sub Dome, where you learn how fun it is to climb up steep granite steps at 8,000 feet. And then, finally you'll hit the cables and then you're at the top.
That's all there is to it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and well worth the effort. Just be sure to be prepared before you embark and plan on being incredibly sore for the next several days. But before you boast to all your friends that you're going to "conquer a mountain," I think it's important to note what John Muir said upon reflection of his hike to the summit:
When a mountain is climbed it is said to be conquered—as well say a man is conquered when a fly lights on his head. Blue jays have trodden the Dome many a day; so have beetles and chipmunks, and Tissiack [Half Dome] will hardly be more conquered, now that man is added to her list of visitors.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
- New England Fishing Communities Being Destroyed by 'Climate ... ›
- Shrimp Fishing Banned in Gulf of Maine Due to Ocean Warming ... ›
- Atlantic Salmon Is All But Extinct as a Genetically Eroded Version of ... ›
A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.
- Hot Weather and COVID-19: Added Threats of Reopening States in ... ›
- 50 Million Americans Are Currently Living Under Some Type of Heat ... ›
- Second Major Heat Wave This Summer Smashes Records Across ... ›
By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
- Anti-Racism Protests Are Not Driving Coronavirus Spikes, Data ... ›
- Cell Phone Tracking Analysis Shows Where Florida Springbreakers ... ›
NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.
By Andrea Germanos
Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.
- These 6 Men Have as Much Wealth as Half the World's Population ... ›
- Climate Change Forces 20 Million People to Flee Each Year, Oxfam ... ›
By Jun N. Aguirre
An oil spill on July 3 threatens a mangrove forest on the Philippine island of Guimaras, an area only just recovering from the country's largest spill in 2006.
- 15,000 Gallon Oil Spill Threatens River and Drinking Water in Native ... ›
- Mysterious Oil Spill on Massachusetts' Charles River Spurs Major ... ›
- Disastrous Russian Oil Spill Reaches Pristine Arctic Lake - EcoWatch ›