Finally, the story regarding my Half Dome climb…
A few years ago, after seeing the Bucket List, I started populating my own list of things I’d like to see and do before I “kick the bucket.” Rather than wait until death was eminent, I set out to start crossing things off of the list. After all, it seems I’m always finding new things to add to the list anyway. My list has doubled since I first created it.
Climbing Half Dome was one of the more physically demanding things on my list. Certainly it makes sense to try to achieve this goal while I am healthy, strong, and most able to appreciate it. There was a man we saw heading out towards the dome that we guessed, based on the equipment on his back, was possibly hitting his bucket list toward the end of his life. The aura about him and his traveling partner seemed to suggest the same. That’s not how I wanted to do it. I’d rather the live-like-you-are-dying approach – then live a long, long time.
After breakfast, we loaded up our day packs and began our trek towards the dome. It was early (0630) and quite chilly. We quickly warmed up and began shedding the various layers of clothing. We traveled through varied views and terrain: winding, rocky, steep, stair-step, dense trees, and open panoramic views. We had it all.
And the people? They were great. Everyone seemed to be upbeat and friendly. You know how I like friendly people. In fact, we chatted up two really cool guys while we were refueling for the final stretch. We ended up getting invited to camp out with them in Tuolumne after we backpacked into the valley. It’s true. But that’s a whole other story.
As we hit the stair-step section, I was cautioned to fall towards the mountain if even I should lose my balance – less I lose life and limb literally. One glance back revealed an impressive view as well as a LONG fall. Fear began coursing through my body as I considered the descent and thoughts of the kids being parentless ran through my head. I paused for some deep breaths and a little self-talk. Then, after regaining my focus on only the task at hand, I resumed the climb.
It wasn’t long before I stood in front of the all-impressive cable section of the climb. After a few final reminders were given to me by my super-smart-and-very-good-looking travel companion, I donned my gloves and took hold of the famed cables.
Right away, I experienced someone freaking out ahead of me. I wanted to offer encouragement but knew that I needed to simply focus on getting myself up the cables. I switched from pulling on the two-cables to let them pass me and opted to just use one cable to pull myself up from that point onward.
Hand-over-hand I pulled my way upwards, periodically stopping to rest my arms and catch my breath. I also braved looking back at what lie behind me. WOW! Talk about impressive! Oh, AND beautiful!
In no time, I was making the final pulls on the cables. And there before my eyes was the top. I gave a high-five and walked towards the most amazing sight I’d ever seen (besides seeing my children being born).
As for going down, it wasn’t so bad. Although the cables were pretty busy by this point, the people were really nice and let us come down ahead of their ascent. And I didn’t fall off the mountain. Instead, I floated down on the crazy high I had from setting aside my fear of heights and living. It was more than just crossing off an item on the list; it was accomplishing a great feat. I’m thrilled to have had someone so wonderful help me get here and pretty darn proud of myself too.