Home - Half Dome General Info - Half Dome Hike/Climb - Hoedl/Fabijanic Family Vacation

How difficult and dangerous is a hike to and climb up Half Dome? It is not for the faint of heart, nor those who have difficulty with a long day of hiking or steep heights.

Below are images of the Hoedl/Fabijanic one-day roundtrip hike from the Yosemite Valley to the peak of Half Dome. Below each photo is a brief narrative. To the right of this text is a FOX News Report that premiered on July 19, 2007 concerning the safety of a typical climb up the cables of the famous Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Half Dome Hike and Climb on June 17, 2003

Since we brought our families to enjoy Yosemite National Park, we chose to stay at the Cedar Lodge (on Highway 140), just 8 miles from the entrance of Yosemite. Leaving the Lodge at 4:00 am on June 17, we proceeded to the Happy Isles parking lot (Shuttle Stop #16) in Yosemite and prepared for our hike/climb (4035 ft. elevation). We brought day packs, enough food for 3 snacks and 2 meals (sandwiches, fig newtons, varied fruit) and trekking poles.

We followed the trail from Happy Isles parking lot, crossed a bridge across the Merced River and continued along the trail that led us along the north side of Merced River. Happy Isles marks the beginning of the John Muir Trail, which eventually can lead you to its 211-mile conclusion at Mt. Whitney, south of Yosemite National Park. All photos below were taken with an Olympus 2.1 megapizel digital camera.

LEFT: A view of the Merced River from the initial bridge out of the Happy Isles (5:00 am). In June, the water in the Merced River, from Nevada Fall through the Yosemite Valley, was moving rapidly.

RIGHT: Chuck Fabijanic on the trail along the north side of the Merced River. This trail continues for one mile and then divides into the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail. The Mist Trail will take you directly to the top of Vernal Fall. We chose the John Muir Trail on the journey up and the Mist Trail on the journey down. This portion of the trail will lead you through black oak and pine forest among enormous lichen-draped boulders.

LEFT: Short of the John Muir and Mist Trails intersection, we crossed the Merced River again. From this view, I was able to photograph the early morning moon that was just above the valley wall.

RIGHT: Lee Hoedl, showing early morning sleep in his eyes as he poses at the bridge crossing the Merced River. 317-foot Vernal Fall can be seen upstream. At this bridge crossing, there is a water fountain and restrooms - take advantage of both.

LEFT:Chuck Fabijanic also showing signs of "early morning" at the Merced River bridge crossing. Vernal Fall can be seen in the distance. "Vernal" is Latin for springtime.

RIGHT: Helpful warning signs outlining the dangers of the rapid waters and local wildlife (black bears). At this point, we were on the south side of the Merced River, entering into a series of switchbacks on the John Muir Trail that allows us access further up the valley wall.

LEFT: Along the switchbacks of the John Muir Trail, a look upward demonstrates the immensity of the Yosemite Valley and its formation.

RIGHT: A view back at the switchbacks of the John Muir Trail; a challenging climb to Vernal Fall. The early morning shadows along the valley wall were helpful in keeping the temperatures cool.

LEFT: Another view of Chuck Fabijanic as we continue to climb the switchbacks of the John Muir Trail, moving away from the Merced River. This portion of the John Muir Trail is approximately 1.3 miles.

RIGHT: Approximately 1.3 miles further, we arrived at a point on the trail near Clark Point. Lee Hoedl takes a moment to pose with Liberty Cap (7076 ft.) and Nevada Fall in the background. "Nevada" is Spanish for snowy.

LEFT: Chuck Fabijanic poses at the same point - a wonderful location to watch the sun rise behind Nevada Fall and Liberty Cap.

RIGHT: Signs along the foot trail gives you accurate distances to various sites along the climb to Half Dome. Nevada Fall in seen in the distance. From this point, it is approximately 1.2 miles to Nevada Fall.

LEFT: Looking just ot the north of Nevada Fall, you will be able to see impressive natural monuments of Mt. Broderick (6706 ft.) on the left and Liberty Cap on the right.

RIGHT: The portion of the John Muir Trail ahead (approximately 1 mile) is usually closed during the winter months due to hazardous conditions. In June, the water continues to run along this portion of the trail and hikers should continue to watch their step during this segment.

LEFT: Along the 1-mile stretch, you will be allowed phenomenal viewing of Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall - be sure to take some pictures for your memory book.

RIGHT: The remaining .2-mile trail to Nevada Fall can be littered with temporary streems, a reminder of the winter months.

LEFT: The John Muir Trail eventually arrives to Nevada Fall, 3.5 miles from Happy Isles parking lot. For those doing a hike just to Nevada Fall, it is considered about a 5-6 hour round-trip with 2000 ft. of elevation gain (via Mist Trail). When we arrived to Nevada Fall, the sun finally rose above the horizon and there were only two other individuals heading to Half Dome.

RIGHT: A view of Nevada Fall from the top of the water fall (5907 ft. elevation). The roar of the waterfall was so loud, it was difficult to hear each other talk. We stopped here for our first snack of fig newtons and apples.

LEFT: Another view of the Nevada Fall from the top (bridge across). The Merced River, from this point, flows to Vernal Fall and continues down into the Yosemite Valley. Be sure to fill your water containers at this point - there is only 1-2 water refills above this point.

RIGHT: A view of the trail leading out of the Nevada Fall area. It continues north for a short distance, through crumbled rock formation, and then east through a sandy stretch along the Merced River. Approximately 1.4 miles ahead is Little Yosemite Valley (6100 ft. elevation). Rather than taking the shortcut (John Muir Trail) to the Half Dome Trail, just before Little Yosemite Valley Campground, head into LYVC and fill up on water and use the restrooms.

LEFT: Approximately .75-mile from Littl Yosemite Valley, hikers will encounter a series of gradual switchbacks through the wooded ridge on which Half Dome is located.

RIGHT: Within this wooded ridge, you are able to catch a glimpse of the backside (southeast) of Half Dome. Enjoy this portion of the hike - this is the most serene portion of the hike/climb.

LEFT: Along the trail to Half Dome, you are able to see how fire has affected this particular area. It is unknown if this was a natural fire or a managed burn. Regardless, the trees tower over the trail.

RIGHT: This view is of the final sloping switchback before the gentle hike upward to the shoulder of Half Dome.

LEFT: One last look back at the where the actual trail ends and the granite portion of the climb begins.

RIGHT: The first full view of Half Dome as you exit the wooded trail and begin your scramble over the granite slopes leading to the Dome itself.

LEFT: Chuck Fabijanic rests under one of the only trees on the granite slopes leading to Half Dome.

RIGHT: A view of the Sierra Nevada mountains from approximately 7000 ft. elevation.

LEFT: A view of the distant Yosemite Valley at the beginning of the shoulder of Half Dome. The final 900 ft of trail is a very steep climb up the east side of Half Dome. The first 500 feet of trail are up the east shoulder of Half Dome. There is a warning sign at this point that encourages hikers not to proceed if bad weather threatens. Two individuals died on Half Dome in 2007 for this very reason.

RIGHT: Another view from the switchbacks on the shoulder of Half Dome. The switchbacks can become very steep and on sometimes slippery gravel up and over the crest of the shoulder.

LEFT: A view from the shoulder switchbacks before arriving to the side of Half Dome.

RIGHT: Following several obvious, and some subtle, switchbacks on the shoulder, we arrived to cables of Half Dome. The cables of Half Dome are positioned up the side of Half Dome (the final 400 feet) to assist climbers to the top.

LEFT: The infamous cables up the side of Half Dome. We arrived before noon and before the cables became crowded with groups. A very large pile of available gloves sit at the base of the cables. but we brought our own gloves.

RIGHT: Standing at the base of the cables is probably the most intimidating moment for any person along the entire hike/climb. Put on a pair of gloves, take a deep breath, and you're on your way...

LEFT: There is nothing more "break-taking" than stopping on the cables on the side of Half Dome and taking a picture of a friend.

RIGHT: Lee Hoedl sitting on the sheer outcropping on the very top of Half Dome (8836 ft. elevation).

LEFT: C huck Fabijanic follows suit and sits out on the same sheer outcropping... do I hear crumbling rock underneath?

RIGHT: Another view of the sheer outcropping and face of Half Dome; the Yosemite Valley rests peacefully below.

LEFT: A view of Yosemite Valley from the very edge of Half Dome.

RIGHT: A view across the very top (flatter portion) of Half Dome, scattered with climbers. Yosemite Valley spreads out below to the south of Half Dome like a map, with El Capitan at its west end. North Dome and Clouds Rest flank the bare and smooth Tenaya Canyon to the northeast. Farther east, Merced Canyon points toward the Cathedral Range, and the colorful Clark Range is visible to the southeast. Southwest of Half Dome, across Yosemite Valley, is Glacier Point in all its beauty.

LEFT: Life cannot be hindered, even on the granite stone of Half Dome.

RIGHT: The only visible sign of any human presence at 5000 ft. above Yosemite Valley and 8800 ft. above sea level: an anonymous group effort at a cairn.

LEFT: A view of Chuck Fabijanic on top of Half Dome, with the distant Yosemite Valley walls behind him.

RIGHT: A view of the sheer outcropping of Half Dome, from a distance, on top of the granite dome.

LEFT: Chuck Fabijanic and Lee Hoedl take one final moment to revel in the majesty of 8800 ft above sea level, before going back down the famous cables.

RIGHT: The final view of the cables, from the top of Half Dome, before they drop off almost vertically down the side of the massive granite rock.

LEFT: Chuck Fabijanic takes one final look up, while on Half Dome's shoulder, at the famous climbing cables.

RIGHT: Following his third trip up and down Half Dome, Lee Hoedl reflects on the moment before the long hike back to Yosemite Valley 5000 ft. below.

LEFT: A view of the western Sierra Nevada mountains while on top of the shoulder of Half Dome; descending on the climb.

RIGHT: A view, looking downward, of the Half Dome shoulder. You should be able to see individuals coming up the rock formation - it's a very precarious path to follow up and down to Half Dome. Yosemite Valley can be seen on the left side of the photo.

LEFT: One final view of Half Dome from the shoulder pathway.

RIGHT: One final view of Half Dome from the beginning of the trail back down to Yosemite Valley.

LEFT: One final view of Half Dome from the beginning of the trail back down to Yosemite Valley.

RIGHT: Another view of the phenomenal ecosystem of the Yosemite National Park.

LEFT: 2 miles behind us as we continue down the 8.6-mile trail (one-way) to Yosemite Valley.

RIGHT: A rather active black bear along the trail between Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley; this particular bear found a momentarily abandoned backpack along the trail and decided to drag it to a safe distance and tear it to shreds.

LEFT: Hiking back down toward Nevada Fall, the Merced River will be on your left.

RIGHT: Just before Nevada Fall, there are small water pools of slower water where day hikers often stop to eat, rest and swim. We stopped to have a late lunch and treat ourselves to a well-deserved soaking of our feet in the cold Merced River water.

LEFT: We chose to hike down the Mist Trail, which leaves Nevada Fall on the north side and follows along the Merced River down to the Yosemite Valley floor. Here is an image of Nevada Fall from the north side.

RIGHT: A view directly down at Nevada Fall.

LEFT: Another view of the 594-foot Nevada Fall, looking straight down.

RIGHT: The top of the Mist Trail is a series of broken granite steps that is referred to as the Giant Staircase. The trail upward is strenuous and the trail downward is not easily navigatable.

LEFT: A view downward of the steep switchbacks of the Giant Staircase, along the Mist Trail. In this area, there is very little shade to cool from the afternoon sun.

RIGHT: A view of Nevada Fall.

LEFT: Along the Giant Staircase are wonderful views of the 594-foot Nevada Fall. In the early spring, you will come to understand why the trail is called the "Mist" Trail.

RIGHT: Another view of 594-foot Nevada Fall from the Giant Staircase.

LEFT: Chuck Fabijanic, leading the hike down the Mist Trail and through the Giant Staircase.

RIGHT: A view of the bottom of Nevadal Fall.

LEFT: The water of the Merced River calms down as it distances itself from Nevada Fall. A portion of the Mist Trail finds itself in a canopy of trees before crossing over the Merced River (via bridge). In this area, the water is calmer in an area called the Emerald Pool. This photo was taken on the bridge of the water coming down the Merced River from above.

RIGHT: This photo was taken on the bridge of the water going past us and downstream toward Vernal Fall.

LEFT: Once you've crossed over the bridge to the south side of the Merced River, the water is deceptively calm and there is a wonderful slanted granite ramp to the water called the Silver Apron. Hikers are always tempted to enjoy the waters here, but be careful as just ahead is the 317-foot Vernal Fall. There are guard rails at the top of Vernal Fall in which to capture photos like this one on the left.

RIGHT: A view of Vernal Fall from the top and further down the Merced River.

LEFT: A view beyond Vernal Fall and down into Yosemite Valley.

RIGHT: There is a steep lining of stairs along the granite wall that take you down to the lower part of Vernal Fall. Often there are at least a few rainbows created due to the enormous amount of mist created by Vernal Fall. Be prepared, as Vernal Fall can be so deafening you can't hear others speaking next to you. As well, be careful of your footing as the mist causes the steps along this portion of the trail to be very slippery. We encountered more hikers going up this trail than down it. In our opinion, it was a good idea to use the John Muir Trail in the morning and the Mist Trail in the afternoon due to traffic. As well, the mist cooled us off after a long day of hiking.

LEFT: A distant view of Vernal Fall from the bridge we passed over in the early hours of the same day.

RIGHT: Lee Hoedl, relaxed after the 17-mile hike and climb.

LEFT: Chuck Fabijanic, enjoying the final moments of the day's hike.

RIGHT: The Merced River streaming past the bridge below Vernal Fall.

LEFT: Finally, the Mist Trail connects up to the trailhead at Happy Isles. A view upstream from the bridge at the trailhead.

RIGHT: A view downstream from the bridge at the trailhead.

 SOLUS: Hoedl's Haven; All rights reserved; Copyright 2003