Hello adventurers! Welcome to my article on the Half Dome Cables Route at Yosemite National Park. I had the good fortune of taking on this incredible hike in the middle of 2020 and boy, it did not disappoint! In this piece I would love to share with you my experiences here and provide you with some essential information. But first, allow me to introduce myself.
My name’s Amanda from @writtenritmos. I’m a Latina mama to three little ones. I love experiencing new cultures, places and things, and am always yearning for my next adventure. I grew up on a ranch in New Mexico and would run around barefoot, building forts and riding horses bareback.
During my early childhood, my dad worked for my uncle’s forest service company – so as soon as school would finish for the summer we would spend our summer break wherever he was. We would go on epic camping trips in the mountains in states like Montana, Oregon, Wyoming and Idaho.
In college, I was involved in several international service organizations and spent time in Peru, Belize, Tanzania, and Kenya working with locals on different health projects and exploring every chance I got. After college, I worked for ESPN and was tasked with coordinating big college sporting events such as college football bowl games and preseason basketball tournaments in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico (among other ones).
Once I got married, I put my career on hold and began the craziest adventure of all – something I like to call “madrehood”. This is when I began vlogging. It was something of a creative outlet for me, but mainly I wanted to preserve our family memories in a way that our family could look back on and remember fondly. I don’t scrapbook or use a diary. Instead, I make videos and share them on my YouTube channel.
Miraculously Securing Permits for Half Dome
In the summer of 2019 our family renovated a travel trailer and took off on an RV tour. We stopped in Yosemite National Park and I was blown away. The unfathomable beauty of that place was breathtaking. I loved the colors and contrasts. The green grass against the slates of stone under the crisp sky and the wildlife (we saw two bears just off the trail) – it was insane!
My husband grew up in Northern California and introduced me to Yosemite National Park and to the idea of hiking Half Dome. I knew immediately that it was something that I wanted to do. However, at the time there were no permits available and we hadn’t planned for the hike properly (we tend to be pretty last minute kind of people).
Fast forward to 2020 and we were stuck in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, just like the rest of the world. We were socially isolated at my husband’s family cabin in Northern California and heard that Yosemite National Park was closed to the public unless you had a permit for hiking.
The light bulb went off and my husband decided to try for a last minute permit for the Half Dome Cables Route. Miraculously, we scored a pair of permits! We left the little ones (at the time there were two and I was pregnant with the third, though I didn’t know it yet) with my in-laws and took off for the hike of a lifetime. It was one of the best adventures ever!
My Experience on the Half Dome Cables Route
We started the hike at 6:15am. We hiked a total of 17 miles with an elevation gain of 5,790 feet. It took us 7 hours and 40 minutes. Due to COVID, there was a certain section of the hike where we had to take a detour on the way down in order to allow for one direction only hiking. We think that if we hadn’t had to take that detour it might not have taken us quite so long.
The feeling at the top of Half Dome was epic. But for me, personally, the part I loved the most about the Half Dome Cables Route was being on the cables. I kept stopping just to turn around and take it all in. The views along the cables are insane and you feel like you are on top of the world!
A Challenging Hike not to be Underestimated
This hike was epic but it was one of the most challenging hikes I have ever done (and I have hiked in the mountains a lot)! That said, my husband and I were not in the best physical shape. We hadn’t trained or even been hiking at all in over a year. Thanks to the “quarantine fifteen” our weight was on the higher side and our preparedness definitely on the lower side.
The terrain is crazy steep in some places, especially right before you get to the Dome. Interestingly, I didn’t have a hard time adjusting to the elevation. We made it to the top! We just took it at a comfortable and steady pace, stopping when we needed to. I suggest doing the same when you go.
Best Moments from the Half Domes Cables Route
The whole experience hiking the Half Domes Cables Route was incredible. One of my favorite moments was sitting on a rock called “the diving board.” It was an exhilarating moment of feeling like a bird, as the only thing beneath me was this small jutting rock and a whole lot of air and space.
Another thing that stood out and that I kept thinking about was how lucky we were to be there when there were so few people around. There was no one ahead of me on my way up the cables. My view up the dome was unobscured by fellow hikers. It was beautiful. There were only several hikers at the top and at the bottom, and a few on our way down. It was truly special to be able to go when the crowds were uncharacteristically low.
Accommodation Options for the Hike
When we hiked the Half Dome Cables Route we stayed in our Sprinter Conversion van. We slept just outside the park, woke up super early and drove the rest of the way in so we could be on the trail by 6am. We hadn’t planned ahead enough to make any sleeping arrangements in the park.
Essential Info for the Half Dome Cables Route
A few tips I would offer someone looking to hike Half Dome would be to make sure you wear good hiking shoes and ensure you bring plenty of water. We took a LifeStraw bottle that saved us several times. We ran into a few different parties on the trail who were in a real bind because they had no water and the nearest water source was pretty far back down the trail.
The heat can be brutal and the hike is strenuous. You need water. Also, be sure to take the right kind of gloves. The chains can be slick. I had gloves that had a great grip and felt completely safe. My husband had a different kind and felt like he was always slipping and couldn’t get a good grip. Before you set off on this hike, know that reaching the summit is worth all the pain it takes to get there. It’s exhilarating and breathtaking!