“I’m not doing it. 100%.” Andrew declared as a wave of instinctual fear rose up his throat. My mom was next, her voice weak with trepidation. “I’m afraid. I can’t do it.” Then, “It looks awfully steep….” My dad observed, gripped with indecision. But I have never been one to go along with the crowd. “Let’s go. I’m doing it.” I announced as I struggled to avert my gaze from the sheer rock face towering just 100 yards in front of us. I was trying to gather enough fortitude to subdue the apprehension seeping in with every glance.
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Just four hours earlier, our journey began at shuttle stop 16 of the Yosemite Valley. “Official Start Time: 7:35 am” My dad confirmed with a smile as we stopped for a picture at the sign reading; HALF DOME – 8.2 MILES. The minutes melted into hours as we tackled the rock laden trail methodically, stopping four miles later at the top of the magnificent Nevada Falls. As we sat on the smooth rock eating our packed lunches, rainbows bobbed on top of the rampant water. As we resumed our hike, Half Dome faded behind a dense canopy of trees; reappearing suddenly out of the vast glacier carved cliffs as we emerged from the woods.
“Wait…just give me a minute.” Andrew calmly requested as he tried to muster his courage while still staring fixedly at Half Dome. Sitting next to him, I kept thinking, “This is my one shot. I probably won’t get this opportunity again.” It was a like a battle between my subconscious, innate fear and the conscious voice inside my head telling me I had to go for it. I was determined to succeed because to me, it wouldn’t be a true accomplishment if I didn’t make it all the way to the top.
One by one, my family members joined me, realizing that in life there is no time for regrets. We got on line and waited until it was our turn to step out onto that sheer rock face and pull ourselves up the cables using every ounce of our physical and mental stamina. We got into a rhythm; pull, find a plank to anchor your feet, rest, pull again. Our hearts pounded inside our chests; our lungs fighting for shallow breaths as the cool air became thinner with the altitude. Hoisting myself over the last plank, a wave of relief poured over me as a smile spread across my face. It was all worth it; worth the pain, the fatigue, the fear. As I stood on a patch of snow on top of the massive peak, I took a slow deep breath in and looked around. I felt joy. I felt pride. I was on top of the world.
The next couple of days my family decided to settle for some shorter but no less breathtaking hikes, my favorite being the 2.2 mile hike to the top of the Sentinel Dome, which looked out over the entire Yosemite Valley. From here we could see every major point in the park but my eyes were transfixed on the small patch of snow on top of Half Dome that I had stood on just days earlier. “I did that,” I reminded myself out loud because reality hadn’t quite sunk in yet.
The Half Dome hike is one of the most arduous and infamous hikes in Yosemite. Round trip, the trail follows 16.4 miles and climbs 4,800 feet from the valley floor. It is not the longest hike or the highest point in the park. But, it’s my life’s greatest accomplishment…so far.
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