Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Yosemite Valley Glacier Point Half Dome run

Finally I made it to the U.S! In mid September i flew to the states with Ciaran and Kieran, friends from Dublin. FOr Ciaran and I it was the beginning of a three week road trip around a selection of Western States of the U.S. FOr Kieran it was the start of an epic American adventure that will eventually end at the bottom of the continent.

Picture: view of half dome, from Glacier point (10km point). That's where i'm heading, though not in a straight line! Half dome rises 1600 metres above the valley floor, at a total height of 3000 metres.

First stop San Francisco for some sightseeing and culture. Then we picked up our Toyota Camry and hit the road. On to Yosemite for camping and running adventures. Upon arrival in Yosemite, we headed straight to the supply store to pick up maps for the national park, with a mind to plotting out a route on the elaborate network of trails around the National Park.

Yosemite is an incredible place, with stark cliffs plummeting from massive peaks and ridges into deep valleys and canyons. We started our Yosemite adventure in the valley, where nature lovers flock from the Western sea board to seek out a taste of adventure. By the time we arrived in September, the summer peak period had died down and we enjoyed relative calm on the trails. The dominating feature in Yosemite valley is a peak 3000m peak called Half Dome, which looms over 1500m above the valley. Hardy hill walkers wake at dawn and spend up to 12 hours summiting Half Dome from the valley. In short, this place is like natures theme park.

The first morning we woke up to perfect conditions, so took the opportunity to nail a decent training run. THe plan was to climb 1000 metres to Glacier point, a peak that offered a great view of Half Dome. Then circumnavigate two deep valleys and climb onto a ridge that climbs to the peak of the dome.

Picture: View from half dome back down into Yosemite Valley. Glacier point in the background.

I left camp at 10am and started the climb. That was to be the theme of the day. I clocked up 3,600m of vertical climbing over 5 hours and 40km of rough and steep terrain. THe last 400 metres of climbing to the summit is so steep that climbers climb fixed ropes using specially designed gripped gloves. From the top of the dome, you can look down to the tiny Yosemite Village almost directly below you, at the base of the cliff. It was worth the pain.

From the summit, i descended back down to the village. Parched like a beached whale in 43 degree heat and longing for a good meal. Feet covered in blisters after grinding in the dirt filled Salomons trail runners all day.

Here is the route I took mapped out on a terrain map (select terrain or satellite option), and the run stats recorded by my GPS running watch:

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Yosemite Valley Glacier Point Half Dome run

Picture: View looking down the steep slope while climbing to the summit of half dome, exhausted and gasping for air at 3000m.