One of the classic symbols of Yosemite National Park (or the USA for that matter) is Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. This mountain rises 5000 ft (1500 m) above the valley floor and its summit is 8800 ft (2680 m) above sea level. Half Dome is best know for being a half a mountain (as its name implies). John Muir, the father of conservation of the Sierra Nevada, correctly postulated that this appearance was due to glaciation, half the mountain having been removed by glacial action not unlike a knife cutting a cake in half.
The color of the granite in the valley changes dramatically with changing daylight, as seen in the two photos accompanying the post, one taken during mid-day and the other just before sunset. I enjoy how the soft light of dusk brings out golden and tan colors you don’t see in harsher daylight. The best views of Half Dome are from the area around Glacier Point, where these photos were taken.
Half Dome makes for a unique and very challenging day hike opportunity. Between Memorial Day and Columbus Day Park Rangers place steel cables near the top of the climb to assist people with their ascent of the mountain and eliminate the need for formal climbing gear. The climb works its way around the back (south) side of Half Dome. Thousands of people reach the summit each summer, so don’t expect solitude if you go. But it is a difficult hike, 16 miles (25 km) round trip with nearly 5000 ft (1500 m) altitude gain. Dangers and challenges include lightening storms, altitude sickness, dehydration, falls, broken bones, etc. It’s not a hike to be undertaken lightly — only by those with adequate fitness and the right equipment, and no fear of heights should try. Park Rangers have to provide assistance to hundreds of Half Dome hikers each year.
I have not hiked Half Dome and doubt I ever will, but have been to the top of nearby Cloud’s Rest. The views of Yosemite Valley and entire high Sierra Nevada from here are absolutely incredible! But more about that on another day.
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