Backpacker magazine rates the hike to Yosemite’s Half Dome as one of the most treacherous in the United States. Dangers along the trail include, apparently, fatigue, dehydration, scorpion stings, rattlesnake bites, mountain lions, bears, hanta virus, plunging to one’s death from a great height – be it over waterfall or cliff – forest fires, and believe it or not, the plague.
No locusts though.
As a man more accustomed to the excitement of reading a good history book in bed, I was surprised to find myself, an hour before sunrise, facing the infamous cables that enable the final assault to the Half Dome summit. For those of you yet to do Half Dome, after hiking most of the night, one is greeted by what appears to be an impossibly smooth, impossibly vertical, sheer face of granite scaled by a rickety ladder of cable and wood that promises a 2000-foot sled ride to death should one misstep just once on any of the wobbly rungs.
‘No way,’ I said. ‘Not a chance.’ Every nerve in my body told me to turn around and head back down the valley.
Unfortunately, I was with 10 of my closest friends.
‘It’s easy’ they said. ‘Four-year-olds do it’ they said. ’80-year-olds do it. Everyone does it.’
And so I climbed half-dome that morning, not because I faced-down the advertised biblical dangers, but because I was more scared of peer pressure, and what my friends would think.
We were nearly the first to summit – beaten by a couple who had camped the night on the peak. The sun rose above the mountains lighting up Yosemite Valley below, and pretty soon the four-year-olds, the 80-year-olds and the families-of-five started to join us.
Now that I’m home, far from that monstrous granite outcropping, I laugh in the face of Half Dome, supposedly the most dangerous hike in America. Hah!
Just don’t confront me with my deepest fear, the opprobrium of my peers.
With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.
Luke Pease is contemplating paragliding next weekend at Ed Levin Park in Milpitas.