Half Dome
(Via the Snake Dike)

18 May 2002 - by Arun Mahajan

Ron Karpel and Rick Booth had arranged a PCS weekend trip to the Yosemite Valley and one of the objectives for me and Ron was to do the Snake Dike route on Half Dome while others had plans to do other routes in the valley. The Snake Dike SuperTopo route description calls this route the easiest technical climbing route to the top of Half Dome but all my friends who have done it before had recommended it highly as an exhilarating rock climb and a must-do.

While others in our group slept, Ron, David and Anne Canright and I, woke up and crept away from the Lower Pines campground towards the Mist Trail and as has been well described in other trip reports and using the descriptions from friends and led by Ron, we made our way to the base of the climb to get there at about 9.45am after a 5am start. There were a surprisingly large number of people there, all waiting in line for their turn. There were two 5-person parties and three two-person parties and so we waited our turn and only after four hours, 1.30pm or so, did we rope up. Ron led the first pitch (5.7) going left towards a small pine tree that was a good place to put a sling around and then climbed the somewhat slick friction slab to the left end of a roof and using its left edge, made it to the alcove that is a belay stance for a 50m rope. We had 60m double-ropes, so he moved up a little further to set up the first belay at two bolts. He brought me up but then we had to wait till the logjam above cleared. This waiting at every pitch was the most painful part of the climbing. Finally, the upper party moved so I took the short second pitch (5.7 friction, what else?) which involved walking on a thin ledge (small cam goes here, at the feet) to a small but sketchy traverse to a secondary dike that goes off route if you stick to it long. It got a little easier till a horn (small cam under) to a small roof (small cam again) and a quick high step over this got me to the next 2 bolt anchor. Phew! Ron came up and then led the third pitch (5.7 friction) which has a small run out climb to a bolt and then a traverse left on a rather smooth friction slab to a 2 bolt point to meet the Snake dike, proper. A relatively easy (5.4) climb to a bolt and then a long run out section on the dike got him to the end of the third pitch. I think that the first and third pitches offer the most pucker-factor of all the eight. The forth pitch, which I took, was technically easier but I found myself concentrating fully on my foot placements as it is a 140 foot pitch with only one 2-bolt point, somewhere at the 60 ft mark from the anchor below. The climbing is of about the same level (5.4) on an average for the next four pitches, which we alternately led and even though the run out is still there, Ron made a few improvisations like slinging the small horns on the dike and was able to protect it, moves that I copied when on lead myself. David and Anne kept pace with us and just as we would leave a pitch, they would appear and within a few minutes of us un-roping at the top of the climb, they topped out as well.

A much needed break later, we slogged up the low angled friction slabs till the top. There was nobody there at this late hour. After a few photos, we headed down the cables, which had been, thankfully, raised. There we had another food and water break and we were hiking by 7.30pm from the cable base. It got dark and we got slower and slower. Finally, this never ending hike was also over and we were back at camp at 11.15pm, tired, but content.

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