Journey to the Top

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I need to preface this blog with a few statements:

1. I lived in Colorado for 17 years and never hiked a 14’er…or went on a hike longer than 4 miles

2. I don’t like doing anything in which the end result could be my imminent death

3. If it weren’t for moving to California, I might have never challenged myself physically as much as I have in the past 6 months

Nikki and I had made a “Things to do before we turn 30” bucket list…one of those items was to hike Half Dome in Yosemite. Up until two weekends ago we had never gone to Yosemite Valley, I had only seen Half Dome in photos and hadn’t bothered looking into what all it took to hike from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome. I guess I imagined it to be like a normal hike but with some technical aspects. Viewing Half Dome for the first time immediately changed my view of its difficulty (watching an instructional ‘scare tactics’ video produced by Yosemite did the trick to F with me).

I did my due diligence the night before and purchased new trail running shoes (needed more grip, worked great), batteries and energy gels (love energy gels). Our group (Steve Borland, Josh Phanco, Mike Rizzotti and two of Mike’s friends) departed at 4am day of and got to the trailhead by 6:15am. We understood that the trip would be 14-16 miles and take 10-12 hours. Hiking up the Mist Trail on the way up was excellent. Climbing right next to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls provided a great start to the hike, albeit steep.

We all powered through the flat hike through Little Yosemite Valley and up to the shoulder of Half Dome. Straight up the shoulder was the “hardest part of the hike.” Switchbacks carved into the granite was the last hurdle before the cables and Half Dome. Coming to grips with personal mortality, Steve and I went right to the cables, put our gloves on and said “What the (Heck).” I didn’t look anywhere but the rock right in front of me and after only 10/15 minutes made it to the top for lunch, brotherhood and some of the best views I have ever experienced. After an hour at the top we made out way down…coming down ended up being much easier than I thought but being on “flat ground” was still a huge relief.

All-in-all we spend 9.5 hours on the trail and hiked 16.4 miles…Yosemite is one of a kind but when you can experience the park by foot it becomes something larger than life. Even a 4 mile round trip hike to Nevada Falls would be something special.

I can’t say that Yosemite was a completely physical accomplishment for me as it was just as much spiritual. I was not lucky enough to meet my grandfather on my mom’s side. He and my Uncle Michael never agreed on church/god/spirituality. Michael told me a story years ago when I was visiting him in California about the last trip that his dad took to visit him. They went to Yosemite and did a day hike that put them on a place overlooking the Yosemite Valley. It was at this time that my grandfather and Michael had their spiritual awakening. Something along the lines of “I understand what you have meant all these years…If you can’t see God’s work here, you can’t see it anywhere” was said and a mutual understanding was finally achieved. I never met my grandfather but I felt like he was there with me at every turn. I needed that and I needed the awareness that something larger than me was at work. I would challenge anyone who does this hike to feel anything differently.

I can’t wait to hike Half Dome again and hope to bring Nikki with me to share in the experience.

We’re headed home in a few days and can’t wait to see family and friends again. We are super pumped for B and Sarah and their wedding, we are very excited to spend time with family but we won’t lie at how excited we are to escape 110 degrees and the Fresno inferno.

Ben

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