The annual installation of cable handrails on Half Dome's northern shoulder, which permit hikers to ascend a steep, 400-foot slope to Half Dome's 8,842-foot summit, has long been viewed as the unofficial signal that the high-country hiking season in the Sierras is underway.
The cables often go up in mid-May, but a substantial winter snowpack has delayed their installation by a month this year. The park reports that snow still remains on the subdome below the cables. The reward for completing the climb? A towering, straight-down view into Yosemite Valley 4,737 feet below.
For the first time, permits are now needed to climb Half Dome on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays. The goal is to reduce crowding on the cables during days of high visitation. Permits have been claimed for most dates; to inquire about any that remain, visit recreation.com. Permits are not required to climb the cables Monday through Thursday; no permit is needed to hike to the subdome and the base of the cables.
The route was established in 1875 when George Anderson spent weeks drilling holes into the granite for iron bolts that established a route. Just five years earlier geologist Josiah Whitney described Half Dome's summit as "inaccessible." The current cable system, which includes intermittent wooden planks for rest points, was created in 1919.
I have made three ascents of Half Dome (a day hike that covers 16 often strenuous miles) and always look forward to heading up again whenever I get to visit next. What's your total?