The Ottoway Lakes Loop
Half Dome in winter. I am showing you this for two reasons: So you can see the prow, that point casting the shadow near the right edge at the top where I was standing when the cover of this issue was shot . So I can show you the profile of the Half Dome Trail, which goes over the top of the hump on the left, down into and on top of the shoulder mid-picture and right up to the top of Half Dome!
HALF DOMEThe Ottoway Lakes Loop, September 2004 HALF DOME! While I did not go to the top of Half Dome on this particular trip, I have done it on previous similar trips. So I will now include words and pictures for those interested in this side day-hike from Little Yosemite Valley. You can bypass this diversion by pressing the proper button below. In any case, read this page! Day 6: September 27: Little Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. 6.3miles, 2434 foot gain, 1375 foot loss (H->7.5m).
Last day, a short day, and nothing to sneeze at as far as effort goes. I was up early and packed by the time the sun hit camp. I hiked through the extensive camp past the small throng scattered about, seeing that most were readying themselves for the hike to the top of Half Dome. Pretty soon I was back on the main trail passed the first junction, but the high volume of traffic heading for Half Dome was the real tip-off I was on the main trail.
Most people I saw had That Look: they were shocked at how tired they already were. If they thought they were tired now, wait till they reached "The Stair" and the cables! Doing Half Dome from Yosemite Valley as a day hike is one of the most killer day-hikes in the Sierra. Coming up through the valley, particularly up the Mist Trail, is no small task, so it was not surprising that many get to the top of Nevada Falls and find out they are done in for the day. You had better be in good shape and have prepared your body for both uphill and downhill walking before taking on this trail! A fair number of people every day finish this trail in the dark with knees that are so painful they can hardly move, and bodies so tired they can hardly walk. That is the reason the smart hiker backpacks to Little Yosemite Valley to spend the night. It is so much easier to hike from Little Yosemite Valley to Half Dome, return to camp, pack up and head for the trailhead or spend another pleasant night in Little Yosemite Valley. You can get to Little Yosemite Valley from Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point or (my favorite) from Tenaya Lake to Little Yosemite Valley via Clouds Rest (which has a much better view than Half Dome). You can also get to Little Yosemite Valley from Tuolumne Meadows or by following this trip.
Seen here on the left, the Half Dome trail climbs the shoulder to the top via "The Stairs". You will know why I call it that when you get there. The route then goes down to the neck between the dome and shoulder. That is where you will meet the cables for the ascent of Half Dome. Most all of the route just discussed is visible here.
What is shocking is how little water most of the people were carrying. I did a day hike from Tenaya Lake to Little Yosemite Valley via Clouds Rest and Half Dome, and then on to Yosemite Valley, and even I ran short of water at one point. Some of these people on the Half Dome trail were carrying no water or maybe just a pint! This late in the year all of the small streams were dry (and maybe the spring below Half Dome too), so the only water around was the Merced River. Good thing there are so many people around they could Yogi water from. Every time I did Half Dome, I was compelled to share water with those who came ill prepared. Get a Camel Pack, fill it with water, and use it. Bring a water filter and refill it. One should bring at least two full quarts of water and a water filter, refill at least once and drink it all. Prepare or pay.
View the HALF DOME hike by clicking on this "Next Button":
Beyond the first junction, the trail climbs rather sharply, gaining about 85 feet: a rude surprise for those returning from Half Dome. Going down to Nevada Falls, the trail drops even more sharply (lots of stairs and horse steps) for 300 feet, something hikers heading for Half Dome were maybe not expecting. Its a tough trail.
At the next junction before Nevada Falls there is a toilet that always seems busy in peak season.
Continue on with the Ottoway Loop: