Winter must be over in the Sierra, for the cables up the shoulder of Half Dome will be in place Friday at Yosemite National Park.
For park goers who don't mind heights, the long day's hike to the top of Half Dome is a must. Heading up from the Yosemite Valley, the roundtrip hike covers 17 miles, and you're either going uphill, or downhill, with very, very, very little level ground covered. So popular is the hike, though, that a few years back park officials instituted a permit system in a bid to make the trip safer going up and down the cables on the very steep granite dome.
This year's opening date is a week earlier than previously scheduled due to the low snowpack, say Yosemite officials. Hikers wishing to ascend the cables between May 16 and May 22 can apply online at: www.recreation.gov for a first-come, first-served, permit. These early season permits are required, non-refundable and non-transferable.
The regularly scheduled Half Dome season will commence Friday, May 23. Permits for the regular season were available through a lottery during the month of March. Approximately 50 permits per day will be available on a daily basis through a two-day-in-advance lottery beginning Wednesday, May 21. Visitors wishing to obtain a permit can make reservations at www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777.
For more information regarding the lottery and the Half Dome cables, visit this page on the park's website.
Yosemite officials note that hikes from the valley floor gain 4,800 feet of elevation along the trail that passes highlights such as Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall, before reaching the cables on Half Dome's steep granite shoulder. Metal cables and wooden planks are placed along the steep shoulder of the dome to assist hikers to the summit.
Visitors are advised to take appropriate precautions when planning a hike of this length and difficulty, and to be prepared for changing weather and trail conditions. Thunder and lightning are common occurrences in the High Sierra during the summer and fall seasons. Hikers should not attempt to summit Half Dome when rain or thunderstorms are forecasted and are advised to use extreme caution when the rocks are wet.