Thursday, December 14, 2006

Half Dome Quest

Yosemite trip!
Date: 8/12-8/13/06
People(9): Avia, Harrison, Eric, Lewis, Deni, Jill, Daniel, Bob, and me.
Team Yosemite Falls Team: Avia Harrison, Eric, Lewis, Deni
Team Half Dome: Jill, Daniel, Bob, and me.
Level of Exhaustion: *****

We took off from Stanford campus at around 8am to arrive at at Lake Turlock campground before noon. I was dumbstruck when I popped the trunk - I had left all of Jill's pots and pans, along with all the food supplies, at the Mirrielees parking lot! So with Daniel and Bob I drove back to Mirrielees to retrieve our pots and pans. It was the first long drive of my life. 7 hours. Wow. The only time we stopped, besides lunch at Subway, was at my Mirrielees apartment to use the bathroom. The drive actually went very smoothly and I was very proud of myself and my Accord1995 for accomplishing such a feat. I felt very indebted to NewFuckingYork (name of my car) for working it so hard.

The next morning we headed out to Yosemite. Daniel, Jill, Bob, and I were intent on summiting Half Dome. After a few hours we were ready for an intense hike from Happy Isles that would last around 12 hours.

Daniel in meditation on the way to Yosemite.

A nice view from the bus. We left our car in the parking lot to take a bus to Happy Isles, our starting point. Harrison and the crew, arriving later to take on Yosemite Falls, found Bob's car and left a message on the windshield.

One very happy Asian guy told us to pose for this picture. Actually we were in a hurry and knew we must get to Half Dome before it gets 3 or 4pm. We started out ~10am.

Vernal Fall on Misty Trail. We saw this huge beautiful rainbow at the foot of the Vernal Fall, and everyone turned around to admire it even though the trail here was incredibly steep and slippery. After taking this picture, I kept climbing and climbing without raising my head at all. Lots of Japanese murmurs I heard. hehe Japanese tourists taking pictures here and there.

Top of the Vernal Fall, where we took a little break to look around. I think most people do not venture further beyond this point.

We were happy with our pace. Team Half Dome is doing well and Jill, who's one most hardcore experienced hiker, approves smilingly.

The Emerald Pool sits immediately above the Vernal Falls. Everywhere there were signs of "no swimming" "dangerous", etc. The water had a very deep emerald color and looked coolish and inviting for a swim. The general area is all very nice and many people sat around to picnic. I thought I saw some people swimming in the Pool even though it's illegal. The daredevils!

One thing I remembered about the Nevada Falls is that it's loud! From 20 minutes away we could already feel the beast. Lots and lots of water!!! I wonder how long it'd take for the Nevada Falls to fill up our swimming pool. The last time I was so taken with such forcefulness of water was when I was maybe 9 and saw this dam discharging flood. Oh we also saw three bears on our way.

Actually Half Dome had eluded us for quite a while as the trail took its twists and turns. We finally caught sight of it at the 4th or 5th hour of our hike, at which point we decided to take a picture before summiting. We were joyous thinking that the end is drawing to its close. Jill and Daniel with his mustache looking tough here with boots. Bob looks a bit irritated here because of sand in his eyes.

Daniel on Planet Half Dome.

Daniel and his cane, Bob, and Jill.

I crawled up the second third of the way to the top because I had never been so afraid in my life. Or more like horrified. On all fours, I couldn't believe I was on this tall alien rock and wished it were just all a bad dream. Not even Drop Zone or Invertigo at Great America could compare to this. I felt soo far away from Earth that once my butt touched the ground, I became rooted to it. The ridge on the bottom right corner in this picture is where I called it quits. Beyond this point you'd have to go up this section for five minutes that has no railing or steps at all. I noticed some squirrels scudding past me as I was crawling. Pretty feisty, nasty animals.

I was so close to the top! I knew I might regret for life for being a weenie at this moment, but I just couldn't bear to live with such heights. Bob and Jill pressed on though, and Daniel stayed with me. Man Daniel was so tired he was about to fall asleep. Before that he took off his shirt to change. At the moment I thought half-nakedness on this rock was somewhat odd and funny. I kept telling him to stop moving so he doesn't roll off.

The view at from the ridge was amazing. However, I wasn't altogether enjoying the breathtaking views because I was worried that something might have happened to Bob and Jill, who took an hour to make it up and back. I also didn't think I could make it back down the rock completely without having a breakdown.

Here are some pictures taken by Bob:

Dip before the final ascent to the top. I saw these guys passing by us before. Bob said they were just holding backpacks for people who are summitting. We also saw a guy carrying his baby daughter on his back. Bob said the baby had been brave the whole time, only bursting out into tears when they got very close to the top. We saw the dude's mom at the foot of the Half Dome when we were coming back down. The grandma, who had already been to the summit and back, told us she couldn't bear to see her son do this. Yea even the tough grandma couldn't bear that. Daniel asked for the baby's name but I forgot what it was. There was also this one young lady who had a nervous breakdown in climbing up the ropes. We passed her by on our way down, and saw that someone was very generously helping her :)

Jill looks pensive before the ropes. Bob said even Jill was scared for a moment.

Bob and Jill made it to the top! Wished I was there.

It's a Happy Bob standing against backdrop of the Valley's deep blue sky.

More pictures from the top of Half Dome! Bob didn't feel comfortable to venture beyond the point where he was taking the pictures. Too scary!

Jill went all the way out to that jutting tip of the Half Dome.

The rocks under her feet look treacherous. Better not shake your legs there! haha(Would be kind of weird anyway.)

Bob probably took this picture when he and Jill were making their way back down. Bob said that on their way up, there was this really annoying kid who kept on yapping the whole time but got scared in the middle and ended up delaying the ascending line. That kid and the dad didn't bring too much water themselves, and Daniel and I had to offer some to them.

It's funny on this kind of intense hiking trip that you start to recognize other hikers. For example, the previously mentioned father/baby duo and the grandma. This nice European couple who took our group picture. This girl who couldn't go any further and sat near Daniel and me for almost an hour. Even those guys who were sitting on the rock holding backpacks. Daniel, of course, would yell out encouragements to everyone, and even made little chitchat with some. There was a general sense of commederie in the air that's just moving.

Here are the pair of ropes leading up and gloves that people have left. Some of them were quite new!

We found enormous pine cones everywhere! This is one of only a handful of pictures taken on our way back. I couldn't take too many pictures as it was getting dark and we were rushing to get back to Happy Isles for the last bus that'd take us to our car. It already turned pitch black as we almost ran/hopped/skidded down the John Muir Trail. We didn't bring too many and powerful enough flashlights with us so it was quite dangerous. I had to stick with Bob the whole time and we both had to be very careful. Making our way back down to Happy Isles turned out to be as intense as climbing up Half Dome. Oh and of course I did make it back down that beasty Half Dome. On top of my fear for heights I also worried that I'd clog the traffic with slow pace. I had to keep telling myself that I must not a nervous breakdown and better keep my eyes as low as possible.

Driving back from Yosemite back to Stanford was also quite an experience. We were all exhausted, but thanks to Bob who took us safely out of Yosemite and back down from the highlands. We stopped at Oakdale for a meal at Denny's, where I ordered a huge meal of pancakes and omelette with mushrooms by mistake and saw a lady flipping out at a waiter.

We could've taken a nap at Denny's but Jill and Daniel had to work the next day. With a cup of coffee in hand, tough Jill took rest of us back home from Oakdale. HOMMMMEEE!!! After long hours of sleep I woke up with severe sores all over the body. But I'm proud of my bodily pains and the sores and wished they'd never away.

Man I thought this 2-day trip would be a short post!!

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