I’m flat on my stomach flying at 9,000 feet, legs tight and arms stretched wide. My neck and head are over the edge, and the wind is heavy when you’re up this high. Provocative thoughts are coming and going, like the oddly hilarious Native American goddess whose breath is sweeping the sweat from my forehead.
I recall five o’clock this morning, waking up between two of my best friends in our crappy tent and working against each other’s groans to begin the 18-mile hike up Yosemite National Park’s toughest trail. Getting to Half Dome is no joke, and you better bring enough water.
THIRD PLACE 2012 YOUNG TRAVEL WRITERS SCHOLARSHIP
The climb unveiled conversation topics that previously didn’t seem relevant. Leaves, for example, and bears. Overlooking Nevada Fall, I discovered Matt had a hidden passion for bouldering. A couple hours later we came across a huge boulder—Matt wedged his fingers into a crack, secured his footing and put on a clinic. I’ve lived with him for three years, but the trek revealed a skill I didn’t know he had.
I’m remembering the range of languages I heard on the trail (French, Chinese, Swahili, Italian) and that climbers come from all walks of life. I assume everyone here has a dream to fulfill, whether it’s a lifelong goal or to vanquish a fear.
It wasn’t until we arrived at the doorstep of Half Dome, the grand finale, a 2,130-foot granite apple cleaved in half, that Brandon admitted he’s terrified of heights. He said he hiked to the base when he was 10 but chickened out, despite his dad’s loud voice. Confidence is crucial up here, one misstep and it’s game over. We had to help him find his courage—shoulder pats, chest thumps, reminders we were beside him, that he could trust us, to imagine the view, that we’d come so far, to think of his girlfriend. “We’ll tell her you pissed your pants.” Before he could change his mind, Matt and I threw him between us and scaled Half Dome’s cable ladder like maniacs. Two thousand feet later the three of us were swirling in a lunar 360 degree view that people fly from faraway countries to experience. I walked out to Devil’s Diving Board, a famous slab of rock jutting from the west side of the mountain, and laid flat on my stomach with my legs tight and my arms spread wide.
I’m flying at 9,000 feet, and this giant rock, this 18-mile journey and slew of bear warnings, this sense of global togetherness and overcoming obstacles, this renewed friendship I’ve found with Matt and Brandon is the greatest thing in the world: adventure.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.