I got up from the top bunk where I slept and began quietly putting on my hiking gear. My roommates woke up to wish me well and see me off. We hit the road shortly after 2:30am. The drive took us longer than an hour because of road construction. We got to the trailhead around 4:30am and began the hike shortly after that. It was dark and very cold. We actually started out on the wrong trail at first because we couldn’t tell where we were going. All of us had headlamps, but it was easy to lose one’s sense of direction.
Prior to this hike, I had never hiked in the dark where I had to use a flashlight or headlamp. I wasn’t afraid, though, because there were about 12 or 13 of us and all but one were in the same boat, having never reached the summit of Half Dome. I had hiked a big portion of the trail a few months before with a friend of mine when there was a lot of snow and ice, but we didn’t go anywhere near Half Dome, although that hike was quite an adventure as well, as you can see below.
Hiking through a Snow Field on the John Muir Trail - April 2010
Once we realized we were going the wrong way, we turned back to the parking lot so that we could figure out which way to go. Somehow, I ended up in the lead and everyone was following me. I had gained back my sense of direction, so I was confident that I wasn’t leading them wrong. However, I knew that my lead would be short lived because once we started the incline, which was not too far ahead of us, I would begin to fall further and further behind.
I don’t do very well hiking uphill for a long period of time. I usually have to take frequent breaks to catch my breath. I noticed that I had gotten better over the past few months since I had pushed myself to do more challenging hikes, but I wasn’t where I probably should have been to successfully complete the hike to Half Dome. I probably had no business attempting this hike as I had several physical ailments that made the hike even more of a challenge.
When I laid me down to sleep after our briefing, it was well past 10 o’clock. I thought I’d fall right to sleep, but that didn’t happen. My heart was beating 90 miles a minute and showed no signs of letting up. I tried everything from counting sheep, to taking deep, labored breaths, and absolutely nothing worked. My adrenal glands were in overdrive. I checked the clock. It was 11pm and I was still wide awake. Everyone else in the room was fast asleep. Being that I was the only person in my room that was going on the hike, I knew I had to wake up at the sound of my alarm because no one was going to wake me up. For that reason, I was just a little on edge. (Pardon the pun.) I think the next time I checked the clock it was midnight or shortly after. I was still nowhere near falling asleep and that troubled me greatly. Normally, when I have trouble falling asleep, which is rare, I surf the Internet from my phone or play games, but since I had no cell reception at Yosemite, I couldn’t do that. I eventually fell asleep, but I think it must have been around 12:30 or 1:00am when I finally did because of the amount of time that elapsed after I saw that it was midnight. That means that I only got one hour to possibly a half-hour of sleep before the alarm went off.
There were about 27 of us staying in the cabin. Needless to say, it was huge. We weren’t all on top of each other, vying for space or any of that nonsense. Everyone got along and things went smoothly. It was like a big family vacation. Not all 27 of us did the Half Dome hike, however. The original plan was for us to do the hike on Monday, but we discovered that, due to the snow in certain spots on Sub Dome, the cables weren’t going to be put up until that Wednesday. We were initially devastated as that was the day that we were supposed to head home. Wednesday morning, to be exact. Some of us began talking amongst ourselves, trying to devise a strategy of staying longer on Wednesday to do the hike and return home either late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. The driver of the car I was in, Andy, decided that it would be best to do the hike and get started super early, so we would finish at a decent hour, and then head home right afterward. Bre and I had reservations about whether Andy would be up to driving all by himself right after completing a hike of that magnitude, but he assured us that he could handle it. We would have offered to split the driving to give him some rest, but none of knew how to drive a standard.
The morning of June 16, 2010 was an early one. And when I say that, I mean it was an EARLY morning. I had set my alarm for 1:30am as we needed to be on the road toward the Yosemite Valley by 2:30. I always need at least an hour or so to get myself ready in the mornings, even when I’m going hiking. Our aim was to be at the trailhead to begin the 16-mile roundtrip hike by 4am. Since our cabin was in Wawona, we were about an hour away from the valley floor. Most of us didn’t get to bed until after 10pm because we had a briefing by our fearless leaders Neil and Lynn Johnson, who had done the hike before. They were so wonderful in giving us all the information and encouragement we needed. We were more than ready to take on the challenge. Well, as far as information goes, we were. Some of us had serious issues to push through that made this hike an inconceivable challenge, to say the least.