Photo: Hikers on the subdome just before the cables section route up Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Picture: Hikers on the subdome just before the cables section of the route up Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2744)

New Photos added to my Image Archive Library from Yosemite National Park.

I’m happy to announce I’ve added another set of pictures to my searchable, online Image Archive Library which are now available for purchase as wall-decor prints or licensed for use in publications. These photos are a selection from a shoot done a number of years ago while in the production phase of my last book, the award-winning Photographing California; vol.1-North. This particular set of images was shot while on two of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park. The first hike heads out of Tuolumne Meadows, following along the Tuolumne River downstream toward Waterwheel Fall. The second hike is, as the Yosemite National Park website states, “the one hike in the park that you’re most likely to die while doing.”

I’d love to know if you have a favorite image. If you do, please consider leaving a comment to let me know which one(s) you enjoy most. Also, if you have any memories of taking this hike, or you have any pictures from this area that you’d like to share, please feel free to include a link in the comment section.

If you read through this post, you’ll discover which one of the images from this shoot always gets referenced in my slide shows and presentations as a source of sad memories that almost everyone in California knows or has heard about.

Part Two: Hiking the Cables Route to the summit of Half Dome

Picture: Sunset light on Half Dome from Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, California
Image: Sunset light on Half Dome from Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – tiga-2186)

Half Dome is one of the most well-known landscape icons in California, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that despite its difficulty, the hike to the summit of this magnificent monolith is also one of the most popular in all of Yosemite. Did I mention it was difficult? Perhaps it’s the fact this 17-mile round-trip hike climbs approximately 4,000 vertical feet from the valley floor, with the final ascent being a wrenching hand-over-hand, pull-yourself-up a pair of slick metal cables over polished, foot-worn smooth granite. If that’s not enough to get your adrenaline pumping, Yosemite National Park’s website declares this adventurous trek to be the one hike in the park you’re most likely to die while attempting. Sounds like fun, right?

Picture: Looking down over the Cables section from near the top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
Image: Looking down over the Cables section from near the top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2779)

The hike up the Cables Route had become so popular that despite the difficulty, overcrowding on the cables became a serious and potentially hazardous situation. On summer weekends when upwards of 3,000 people a day were trying to make the climb, you could get stuck in a veritable traffic jam as some folks were trying to go up while others were going down, all on a pathway only four feet wide. For that reason, the National Park Service instituted a trail quota lottery system allowing only 400 people a day to climb the cables. The park service stationed an ‘enforcer’ at the base of the subdome to check permits before letting hikers continue on toward the cables. It was also at this point hikers were warned not to take their eyes off their gear, since savvy rodents including chipmunks, ground squirrels, and marmots will literally try to steal food right out of a pack.

Picture: Marmot and hiker on top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2757)
Image: Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) and hiker on top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Picture: Baby Marmot on top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2752)
Image: Young Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) on top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

One of the things that most people who never visit the summit of Half Dome fail to realize from their well-removed vantage points is just how big and expansive the top of the dome really is, covering a space larger than several football fields.

Picture: Hikers and cairns along the open granite top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2753)
Image: Hikers and cairns along the open granite top of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Once at the top of Half Dome, most visitors will head to one of two popular areas to take their obligatory victory photos. The first is the very summit of Half Dome, which is relatively close to where the cables end after climbing up from the subdome. The second spot is a small rock overhang that many folks mistakenly refer to as The Diving Board. The true name for this prominent little feature is The Visor. The Diving Board is located on Half Dome, but it’s found along the lower south shoulder of the dome directly adjacent to the base of the vertical face. The Diving Board is the spot where Ansel Adams took his famous ‘Monolith‘ photograph.

Picture: Hiker on the summit of Half Dome overlooking Tenaya Canyon, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2760)
Image: Hikers on the summit of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Picture: Hikers on the Visor at the top of Half Dome looking over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2762)
Image: Hikers on the Visor at the top of Half Dome looking over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

One of the great things about the hike from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome is the choice of semi-loop trails you can take once you reach the Vernal Fall Bridge. One option is to take the famous Mist Trail which traverses along the side of Vernal Fall, crosses the river, and continues up along the side of Nevada Fall through an area known as The Grand Staircase of the Merced River. And yes, if you go this route, it really is a staircase. It can also be quite the knee-basher on the way down, since this route is both steeper and shorter. That’s why I prefer to take the second, somewhat longer option on the return route, following the John Muir Trail back down to the Vernal Bridge. (Once you’ve reached the top of Nevada Fall, there’s only a single trail up and back to Half Dome. The semi-loop trip is only possible in the area between the base of Vernal Fall and the top of Nevada Fall.)

Picture: Sunset light on Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall seen from the John Muir Trail, Grand Staircase of the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2781)
Image: Sunset light on Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall along the Grand Staircase of the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California

Picture: Nevada Fall, (594′) Grand Staircase of the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – vly2-2739)
Image: Nevada Fall, (594') Grand Staircase of the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California

The date for which I had secured my permit to climb the Cables Route on Half Dome turned out by all accounts to be a perfect-weather, cloudless Sierra summer day. A long, full day of hiking seemed to go by without a single hitch or hiccup. However, one thing I didn’t find out about until I arrived back in the valley that evening was that earlier in the day, three people were tragically swept to their deaths over the edge of Vernal Fall. Even though I didn’t stop to take any pictures from Vernal Fall on this morning, I did shoot the above image from the top of Nevada Fall, just three hours before the accident occurred downstream. The sheer force of the water in this image constantly reminds me every time I see it just how powerful mother nature can be, and how small and frail we humans are by comparison. That’s why whenever I show this image in my presentations, I always like to remind folks to be careful out there, and be sure to pay attention to the warning signs.

And speaking of warning signs, the one most relevant to this hike: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLIMB THE CABLES TO THE TOP OF HALF DOME IF THERE IS RAIN OR A THREAT OF THUNDESTORMS. (Yes, I yelled that on purpose.) This is the reason most people die on this hike. Sadly, just days after my climb, a woman was killed on the cables when lightning struck the top of Half Dome. This is a deadly serious warning not to be taken lightly. (Photo from the Yosemite Webcam of the lightning bolt that killed the woman.)

Picture: Lightning strikes the summit of Half Dome as seen from one of the Yosemite Web Cams, Yosemite National Park, California Image: Used with permission & courtesy of the Yosemite Conservancy.

Image: Lightning strikes the summit of Half Dome as seen from one of the Yosemite Web Cams, Yosemite National Park, California

Picture: Night sky and stars over Half Dome from Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, California
(Click here to purchase a print or license for use in publications. – tiga-2176)
Image: Night sky and stars over Half Dome from Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, California

In case you missed it, check out Part One: Hiking along the Tuolumne River



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Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.

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