Off-Season Half Dome Hike: Reaching the Top When the Cables are Down

Half Dome is certainly the most well-known trail in Yosemite National Park and probably one of the most famous and most photographed rocks in the world. Every year, from Memorial Day until Columbus Day, steel cables are held up with poles and wooden planks offer security for the multitudes of feet that carry hikers to the top each day. It looks something like this and presents a unique challenge:


In order to get to this point, you must first hike about eight miles and gain approximately 4,800 feet in elevation, so you generally arrive tired. (Or at least...I do!) It's a strenuous hike, averaging about 10-14 hours round trip. And it is so worth it.

In the off-season, though, the poles and slats are removed, and the cables lay flat on the rock. Reaching the top becomes a very difference experience and one that requires special planning and endurance. You have to lift the steel cables off the rock and essentially pull yourself (while walking your feet) to the summit.

When Mr. Petite Peaker and I decided to attempt this, we took with us certain equipment to make the task safer (though not necessarily easier, unfortunately!). What I recommend:

A harness. I used the Black Diamond Alpine Bod Climbing Harness, and although this is not a harness I would particularly recommend for serious climbing, it served this purpose well.


A standard carabiner.

Two rope loops made with about three feet of rope.

[to be continued]