Sunday, January 9, 2011

Valley View/ Half Dome Revisited (2009)

I went for a short hike today up the Valley View Trail again today. I think as I am struggling to find a "hiking home" in my new location, I am also mourning the loss of the mountains in and around Southern California. At the time, I did not realize that it is a special place. Perhaps all places are special, if one takes the time to discover them. Anyhow, my thoughts on today's hike jumped from topic to topic. While approaching the "valley view," I began thinking about the age of the earth and our place and impact on it for the short time we are here. My mind is not intelligent enough to go beyond the surface of such thoughts, so it quickly bounced to a podcast that Indie shared with me on the PCT.

Basically, it was about a rock climber who was climbing in Yosemite, and just before he reached the final ascent of his climb, something happened, his equipment failed, and he fell hundreds of feet to the ground. (He miraculously survived the fall, and has recuperated enough from his injuries to continue climbing to this day.) One of the things I remember most about the podcast was the comment he made about the moments of falling. He remarked that he didn't think about much, other than he happened to glance to the side, saw Half Dome, and the thought occurred to him that the mountain was going to continue to be there the next day, whether he survived the fall or not.

I began thinking about the role that these places play in our lives, how they mold and shape us into the people we are, and how they will continue to do so, as long as humans inhabit the earth.

Gloves for hikers to use on the cables

As I mourn the loss of my old hiking places, I realize there is always the possibility that I may never see those areas again. Life has had a way of taking me places I never dreamed or imagined before, California being one of them. I feel the pull to return to the East Coast, closer to family, but when will that happen? I can envision myself sitting in a coffee shop, thinking about the Sierra, and wonder if I will ever find a way to see it again. Maybe twice was enough. OK, enough of the introspection, I'd like to tell the tale of my hike up Half Dome in 2009. Besides, it gives me an excuse to post some cool pictures!

View from the summit

There is only a couple of things that really stand out in my mind when I think of that day. First, as I approached Half Dome for the first time, I remember seeing the line of people heading up the cables and being utterly shocked, like I was looking at a freak show or something. From a distance, the people heading up the cables looked so unnatural, and I remember wondering, "How are all those people clinging to the side of that dome?"

As I waited at the base for my turn (at least an hour), I remember frying under the ultra violet light of the Sierra, and I did not have a hat. Climbing and descending along the cables was much easier than I imagined.

The other event that stands out in my mind was something that happened after my descent. I had just put my gloves back into the pile and was heading back to my campsite near the Clouds Rest junction. Around the spot where I first saw the people heading up the dome and was horrified, a young boy (probably about 10 years old), also saw the line of people heading up the cables. He also had an immediate look of terror upon his face, broke into tears, turned to his father and said, "I don't want to go up there."

My heart went out to him, because I understood how strange, bizarre, and frightening the scene looked from a distance. To his father's credit, he didn't laugh or pressure his son to "face his fears," at least not when I walked past.

Heading down the cables. The kid on the left often left the safety of the cables and would just hang on to the granite several feet away from the mob.

On a side note, permits are now required for anyone who wishes to climb Half Dome this year, regardless of the day!

No comments:

Post a Comment