Half Dome Circus

23 Sep 1995 - by Harlan Suits

This trip was notable for the circus like atmosphere on Half Dome, including a jostling horde of people and a performing lion. It was also a fun trip for my dad and I. His previous biggest peak was Gaylor Peak, a mere 1000 foot climb from Tioga Pass. At age 65, his pinnacle of mountaineering is now Half Dome. He did it in good style.

What was astounding to me on this, my third trip up Half Dome, was the huge crowd of other people making the pilgrimage last Saturday. An unbroken stream of humanity filed up the dusty trail. The cables were a nightmare, with about 100 people jamming them at any one time-half going up, half coming down, jostling, waiting. The hot shots who didn't want to wait in line between the cables scooted up on the outside, hand over hand. One of these fellows happened to be, lo and behold, fellow PCSer Roy Lambertson, sensibly clad in rock shoes and a sling setup for securing himself when he wanted to take pictures. Roy later described the peak as "Lemming Dome." There may have been 1000 people on the summit that day. For future HD hikers, my advice is: (1) not on a Saturday, (2) go early, and (3) use contraceptives (to limit the number of future Half Dome aspirants).

Sunday morning, at our camp at Moraine Dome, another surprise: As I cooked blueberry pancakes, my dad noticed an unusual hiker approaching. One hundred feet away, a big mountain lion padded effortlessly down the trail, long legs moving fluidly, long tail behind. He glanced over at us coolly without breaking stride, then continued toward Little Yosemite.


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