Hello friends. As you can already tell, getting through our JMT adventure is going to take a little time, but now we’re at DAY 2!! We are totally busting a move here ;).
So I shouldn’t have to say much about this, but we obviously didn’t get mauled by the bear. I’m sure you’re relieved…
We woke up super early this morning, knowing it was going to be a really difficult day if we kept to our schedule. We’d both agreed in the planning of this hike that we wanted to make a schedule, but also allow ourselves to stray from it if we have good or bad days. That said, we also didn’t want to start cutting out miles on Day 2, so we definitely hoped to cover some ground.
Our plan was to hike about 13 miles, which doesn’t really seem horrible, but most of it was gaining elevation, including a little jaunt up to Half Dome. So we just considered it a day of ‘a shit ton of up’, and the fact that we were adjusting to our packs meant it wasn’t going to be easy any way we looked at it.
Although we got up at 5:30 AM, we didn’t even break camp until probably 7:30. This was partly because I kept hoping to poop (and surprisingly couldn’t) and probably also partly because Jennifer kept pooping. I might have that remembered incorrectly, but I’m sure she can add some commentary on the pooping. I just know that I was more excited to get my revenge on Half Dome (Chris and I had attempted with other friends Liz/Kevin last year and had to turn around at the freaking base of the dome b/c of thunder and lightening – not cool on a rock), and for Jennifer, this was the most nerve-wracking part of the trip for her.
J: There were two things I was anticipating/dreading before starting this trip: 1. pooping in the woods for the first time (my previous backpacking adventures were short and/or involved a privy at camp) and 2. climbing the steep cables of Half Dome. I was excited that I only had to conquer one of those fears that day because there was a privy at our LYV camp site and I still didn’t have to poop in the woods! I was however feeling nauseous all morning and trying to figure out if it was from dehydration, altitude, or fear of climbing that damn dome. To clarify, in case anyone gives a shit (pun intended), I pooped a normal amount.
Ha! Ok, so Jennifer didn’t poop her brains out. I’m glad we cleared that up. And neither did I. No pooping. Yet.
Either way, we got out of camp and it wasn’t long before we started ascending. We didn’t realize it at the time, but on the way to the Half Dome junction, we met a couple of fellow hikers who would soon become part of our “trail family” – a father and his 13-year-old daughter who’d camped right across from us the night before – Sean and Cassidy. They weren’t doing HD, but were going up to Clouds’ Rest that day, so we eventually stopped leap-frogging them when we got to the HD junction, at least for a while.
At the sub-base of Half Dome, we showed our permit to the ranger, who turned out to be the one who came through camp the night before to warn us of the bear in the area. He said the bear came through later that night and they were able to scare him away with a paintball gun of mineral oil. Good to know ;).
So this (above) is Half Dome. For those of you who aren’t into hiking, or aren’t familiar with HD in Yosemite, it’s pretty damn daunting when you’re standing right at the base of it. We got there, and I think we both started sweating a little. Ok, a lot. Fortunately, the 4 miles up to and back to the JMT trail junction were miles we did without our actual backpacks – we’d hidden them, as most do, behind some rocks at the junction and packed a small day pack with food and water – so we at least were able to ascend a lot without added weight.
Half Dome itself, as you’d probably guess, is pretty fucking steep. You barely go any actual distance, but you climb 1,800 feet total to get to the top. Most of it is done on the ‘sub dome’, and the last 400 feet is what you see in the picture above. The sub dome is steep, but lots of stairs and switchbacks – totally doable.
After we got our shit together, we knew we needed to just mount that damn mountain and climb. Jennifer had brought both of us some super awesome grippy gloves from one of her construction job sites, so we were well-prepared to hold on to the cables that are drilled into the dome itself – this worked well since otherwise my hands would have been sweating the whole time. I started climbing and made it up about 1/3 of the way and felt pretty ok, but eventually my wimpy-ass arms started feeling really really rubbery. I knew it was steep, but I don’t think I was truly prepared for pulling my entire body UP a mountain via cables, which is essentially what you’re doing. Not much leg work here. Not easy for a lot of people, but especially those of us with absolutely no biceps. I thought I was making ok progress for a bit, and then some douchebag on the way down says, trying to sound reassuring, “Once you get over these couple of steps, you’re halfway!! Yay!!”. If I wasn’t gripping the cables with all my might, I would have punched him in the ballsack. There was one small moment in this area that I also remember looking down at Jennifer, who was a couple of steps away, feeling a little bit scared – “what if my rubbery wimpy arms actually stop working?”, or “what if that douchebag was lying and this isn’t even halfway? because I don’t think I can do this more than that…”. You know, fun thoughts. Fortunately, we were on the dome so early that morning that we really weren’t in a rush at all, so we just took it one step at a time, resting when we needed to, and slowly but surely, we both made it! I have to say, it felt pretty awesome to be climbing Half Dome, and knowing that this mountain was only a small piece of the adventure that was in front of us.
J: holy crap, half dome is a tough climb! My fear of the heights, combined with the altitude making it hard to breathe, and the never-ending stairs up to the sub-dome made that climb intimidating. As stubborn as I am, I knew I would make it to the top, but I did keep wondering ‘why the hell am I putting myself through this? Isn’t the JMT enough?’ But hey, why not cross another adventure off the bucket list, right? The climb up was mostly mental for me. I remember the ranger who checked our permits telling us that there were no false summits. To me, that means there is nothing that looks like you’re almost at the top. He lied. There were moments that you can’t see any more rock above you and you think you’re almost there, but actually, you aren’t even halfway. What a relief when you finally get to the top, the cables and rock start to flatten out, and you can start to appreciate the expansive views of Yosemite around you….amazing!
Obviously, we had to stay up there for a while. As it turns out, we had cell service, and we called our respective husbands who both already knew that we’d made it as they were
stalking tracking us the entire morning with the Spot tracker. We also ate our first of many Snickers Bars before the marmot got to them, snapped some selfies, and eventually made our way down.
How well fed is the marmot?! He was super close to getting an entire bag of trail mix from some dummy.
Don’t worry, parents – we were totally not on the edge. But we really were.
J: Notice my death grip on Heather as if she would save me should the rock suddenly start falling…
I had a much easier time climbing down than up, so I sat at the bottom and snapped some shots of Jennifer on her way down. By this point, a whole herd of people were climbing up, so it was a little trickier navigating the folks on the cables on either side.
J: I had a much tougher time going down. It was soooo steep! My feet kept slipping which made me feel like I was losing control. Like most people, I went backwards down the cables which means you’re still able to face the rock instead of looking out and noticing that you could slip to your death at any moment. But heading down, you are forced to look down behind you to make sure you’re not going to run into someone coming up. This was terrifying for me, but I slowly eased my way down the mountain…
It was sort of a big deal. The first of a few.
I had to get a picture at the point where we turned around last year – it was a much happier face this time around. I’d later learn how un-smart I was to have not put on sunscreen by this point, and how much heavier my pack would feel with numb arms as a result of pulling oneself up Half Dome. But at that exact moment, I couldn’t be bothered.
After we finished HD, we made it back to our packs, had a nice, long lunch, and decided it was time to get moving if we were going to make it to our goal that day.
The next section of trail turned out to be one of the hardest parts of the entire JMT for me. I think conquering HD was such a highlight of the day, and the rest was really uneventful, other than the fact that we had to constantly ascend (over 5,000 feet that day!). The scenery itself was even a little sad, as it was a section of the park that had really suffered from a recent forest fire. It was sad, but also really serene. Nonetheless, we soon realized that there wasn’t even a good place to stop prior to Sunrise even if we’d decided to – so we just pushed on. And on. And on. We eventually met back up with Sean & Cassidy, who’d made it most of the way up to Clouds’ Rest that day, and were also going to Sunrise. We leap-frogged them multiple times throughout the day.
Day 2 would fortunately turn out to be our latest day – we got to camp after 9PM, walking a good hour in the dark, our little headlamps guiding the way on a trail that seemed so much longer than anticipated. My GPS watch had died a couple of hours back – at which point I quickly realized I’d be making use of my portable battery more than I’d initially assumed – so I wasn’t sure how much longer we had; we just kept going until we saw little camp lights and tents ahead. I remember talking to Chris at the end of the following day about this section of the hike, and of course he was tracking us, he and Jon texting back and forth the whole time in disbelief that we’d decided to keep going this much.
We ate a really late dinner and hit the sack ASAP, both agreeing to sleep in on Day 3, which would hopefully be much easier, and end with us getting our first resupply and hopefully a BURGER to celebrate the first portion of the JMT.
So far, this adventure was shaping up to be exactly as hard (and this day, quite a bit harder) than I’d imagined.
Until next time 😉
Day 2 Details (July 26, 2015):
Start-Finish: Little Yosemite Valley to Half Dome to Sunrise High Sierra Camp
Daily Miles: 12.7
Total mileage tally: 20.7
Total JMT miles: 13.2
Camp elevation: 9,310 ft
Hiking Elevation: 5385 ft gain, 2206 ft loss
Hey! Here’s a link to all JMT posts for your reading pleasure ;). You’re welcome.