Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 70 - cs943o to Curry Village

Last night Idan decided he wouldn't climb up Half Dome. We tried convincing him to come along, but he was set in his mind that it wasn't worth it, especially after seeing the views from the summit of Cloud Rest.
In the morning Yair and I put most of our great inside my tent, and went out to climb up Half Dome. It was only about 2.5 miles with 1800 feet of climbing.
Just a nice little blue bird
We got up early enough. Didn't see many people around us, and only three hikers behind us.
Getting closer to Half Dome
The first bit (up to the last available campsite) is quite easy. We were expecting to see a ranger over there, just before the beginning of the rock stairs section. We still weren't sure if we even have a permit - we signed in for the lottery two days ago, but haven't received any reply of we'd won. Well - there was no ranger at that spot, so we hiked on.
Climbing up "The Stairs"
The stairs section is just steep rock stairs and switchbacks up to Half Dome. We finished it, and just sat and stared at the cables section. It definitely looks scary. Two cables shooting straight up on the sleek rock face.
Three people were just climbing the cables down, so we were waiting for them to get off before we start our own ascent.
The first two came off and told us it looks worse than it is, and the woman said she actually has a fear of heights and she made it. That was encouraging. The third guy actually stopped in the middle to make a phone call, or a video, or something. So we just went ahead and started climbing.
Right before climbing up that steep path up the top
The climb was tough for me. I wanted to end it as soon as I can, so I didn't stop much along the way. Until I bumped into the ranger, while she was climbing down...
She asked in a friendly voice if we have a permit. That's when I started telling her about getting into the lottery, and not knowing if we'd won or not. And that we are poor PCT hikers. She said that if we don't have a permit we can't get to the top (we were all hanging in the middle of the cable, remember?), and that she'd have to give us citations (which is a nice word for $275 fine each). Though we might be able to tag along with a permit of another group. I think she would have let us off the hook somehow, but when she checked her iPad for for permits she found out we did win the lottery, so we were in the clear.
When I got to the top, at around 9:00, after the cables, I was totally out of breath. I felt really bad, and was afraid I might be sick. After about 10 minutes I felt OK again, and started exploring the top.
The views from Half Dome are also very impressive. We could see down to Yosemite Valley and back to Clouds Rest.
Up on Half Dome, Clouds Rest at the background
More and more people came up, and we also met Ido and Maya again.
Maya, Ido, Yair and I on Half Dome
The climb down the cables was much much easier. We did it facing the rock and sliding/climbing back down. The trouble was with all the people climbing up. Every time I passed near someone, he held on to the right cable, and I held on to the left and keep on sliding down. And there were a lot of people. It was much harder for them.
Looking up towards Yair, while climbing down Half Dome
We I finally got off the cables my hands were a bit sore from holding tight all the way. But it was much easier than the way up, for sure.
And the view from the bottom - it's a traffic jam up the mountain
The stairs section was easier as well, and after that we just hiked down the "normal" trail back to the JMT together with Ido and Maya.
We had to hike back about half a mile back to my tent, to get our gear, eat lunch, and fill our water.
The walk down into the valley was easy. The weather was hot, and got hotter the lower we got. Halfmile's app insisted we had some unknown 900 feet climb before we end our day. We couldn't find it on the map anywhere, and in retrospect it was just some mistake in the app. There is no such climb on the JMT from the Half Fine side trail down to the valley. It's all down.
Along the way we passed Nevada Falls, which were very high and gushing. More and more day hikers were hiking around us, on short hikes up from the valley. From Vernan Falls bridge it was more like walking along a promenade of some tourist town.
Just  acute squirrel trying to get some free food
Right at the end of the JMT, where Yair officially finished his thru hike, I got approached by a couple as I was waiting for Yair to catch up. The woman asked me if I was hiking the JMT or PCT. I told her I'm doing the PCT, and my friend will just be finishing his JMT. We talked a bit, and she mentioned she hiked the PCT last year. She asked my for my trail name, and then I asked her for her. "Anish". Saying she "hiked the PCT" is an understatement. She smashed the PCT unsupported speed record, and set it at 60 days (or so). That is amazing! She plans on hiking the JMT next week "as fast as I can". I'm going to follow her fb page to see how fast she makes it (the current record is about 3 days and 10 hours).
Bumping into "Anish" right when we finished the JMT
We had a celebratory veggie sandwich, and got the shuttle over to Curry Village, where we met Idan. He was waiting there from about 10:00, and couldn't check in to our tent cabin because it was on the name of Yair. So he was just waiting for us in the lounge all that time.
After getting our cabin and getting a shower, Yair and I caught the shuttle to the Housekeeping Camp to do laundry. I got some supplies for the next section, and bought some more at the store back at Curry Village, along with some wine for dinner.
We went and got (yet another) pizza, which was surprisingly good, and raised a toast for Yair, and the end of his thru hike. I envy him for going home.