The Journey to Half Dome

May 23, 2010
The cold bit at my face as I watched the light slowly creep across the tent. “Corabelle, Corabelle,” I whispered as I started to move from my cozy cocoon of a sleeping bag, “I’m getting up to start breakfast.”
“Uuuuhhhm,” was her drowsy reply.

I emerged from my tent to an early morning light. Eight young male voices greeted me as I stumbled around the camp sight. Cooked dehydrated food permeated the air. I watched as the rest of the sun pushed itself over the horizon of the Yosemite Mountains. My stomach growled and rumbled, but no amount of dehydrated food was going to satisfy this craving. I wanted REAL food. After five days of hiking in the wilderness I had craved everything from a salad to a great big greasy hamburger. I could hear Jacob in the background laughing at a joke his brother had just told him. I wasn’t paying attention. I was lost in thought about the past five days. They were filled with so many experiences already, but the most memorable experience had yet to take place.

We all ate our food, gross and tasteless, with a deep anticipation of what was going to happen today. We knew that today was the day that we would climb Half Dome. There was still a fair amount of walking to do, so we finished breakfast, packed up our tents, and heaved our backpacks over our sore shoulders.
Our feet hit the trail at an excited pace, but once we began to realize how long it would take to get to the base of Half Dome our enthusiasm started to deflate. I began to notice all the aches and pains I had enquired over the course of the trip. My neck was lobster red from the sunburn that I had gotten, and every time I turned my head I could feel the hot tightness flair up. Once more the blisters on my feet began to throb from the new hiking boots I had never worn-in before the trip and boy I was feeling it now. My whole body felt completely dead tired.

I was jolted out of my thoughts of pain when I realized the ground was beginning to level out in comparison to the downhill we had been traveling on for the past two hours. Our group leader, Ervin, told us that it wasn’t that much longer until we reached the very base of Half Dome and would begin the trek up hill.

An hour later Ervin shouted to us “Ok everyone! Drop your packs here! We can’t take those heavy things along with us anymore! We need to be as light as possible climbing up Half Dome!”


At the beginning it was just a dirt pathway with a little incline, but gradually it began to get steeper and steeper. The pathway started to weave around Half Dome’s base at a diagonal slope. As we walked up, there was less and less vegetation. Now the sun was in the middle of the sky, pounding and beating down on our heads. I could feel perspiration on my forehead and upper lip. My breathing started to quicken.

We climbed the path for about an hour, and then the path changed from soil to stone steps. The stairs looked like a giant had taken a knife and cut his own little stairway to heaven with it. The only thing the giant forgot was to make a railing for people to hang on to. One big slip and you were done for. I looked down and I saw little green blotches which I soon realized where trees. They were so small and delicate-looking from this distance and I wasn’t even at the top of Half Dome yet!
The stone steps leveled off to a flat rock that many people could stand on. In front of me loomed Half Dome’s steep, colossal form. This was the last stretch of my short odyssey. My stomach did a nervous little flip after I saw the scrawny cables, used to heave yourself up the steep inclining side of Half Dome. The cables didn’t look very safe. They were metal poles stuck into the incline of the rock, and attached wire were ropes for your hands to grip. To keep your footing, there where slabs of wood drilled to the rock. Next to the first metal pole, I noticed a huge pile of gloves lying in a heap. People could use them so the thick wiry rope didn’t cut into their hands as they climbed. I picked out a small, dirty, blue pair of gloves dotted with white embroidered flowers. They would do the job just fine. Then I advanced to the cables where there were already people climbing up its smooth surface.

Foot. Hand. Foot. Hand. That was my rhythm. As I climbed I felt no fear, even though I was climbing a cliff that was almost vertical. I couldn’t say the same for Corabell though. “Ohhhhh God! Dear lord! I’m going to die!” was what I heard from her the whole time we climbed. I just kind of blocked her out and looked around me. My breath caught in my throat as I observed my surroundings more closely. It was probably one of the most stunning sites I had ever seen. The sky around me was the color of a newly painted room for a baby boy. It seemed to drape itself almost all around the mountains. I noticed how the valley was so very well protected by the sheer cliffs that plummeted down into its depths, how the trees held on for dear life to the rocks, so that they could survive in this harsh environment, and how the birds below me swooped and fought over their little catch of the day. All the sights came rushing at me, making me feel like a hawk surveying everything with its sharp and all seeing gaze.” Its beautiful.” The words escaped my mouth without me even meaning to say them. “Beautiful” wasn’t the word I was looking for, and I have yet to come up with just one word to describe the sights I saw that day.
The people in front of me stopped climbing which gave me the chance to turn my whole body around, to face the uphill I had been climbing for the past hour. A thrill went through me as I saw the valley so far below me. I knew I had my life in my hands, and I trusted myself to keep holding on and not let go. I trusted that I had the strength to support myself. I felt invincible, but at the same time so small. Here I was just one person and I had what felt like, the whole world in front of me.

As the wind wrapped its fingers around my hair, splaying it across my face, I knew that it was once again it was time to turn around, move up, and move on. I hadn’t even reached the top of Half Dome but I already felt like I had reached something inside me; an acceptance of the world I hadn’t had before. From seeing the birds fight over their food, hearing the roar of the water, smelling the dry summer air, and experiencing what it is like to live a lifestyle without technology or money gave me a better sense of who I was at that very moment, and how I could live without materials that were always so important to me. So, when I did come back to a society with technology and money, I was more aware of my choices and decisions with both. I learned that even though I am just one small life it still has meaning and purpose, just like a tiny seed so small and fragile, which eventually transforms in to an abundant fruit tree, feeding everything that surrounds it.





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