I’m not a big fan of experiencing high places, as most of you who follow this column know! But I do love being in the outdoors in natural places, especially in our national parks, so I appreciate the ability to carry out such a feat vicariously—and virtually.
That’s why the following film, titled Hiking Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, USA, in 4K (Ultra HD), has a tingle going down my spine and has set my heart racing. While watching this video, you and I will take a day hike to the top of Half Dome and gain the kind of outstanding views of the High Sierra, Yosemite Valley and some of the park’s most beautiful falls, such as Nevada and Vernal, that you can only get from such a lofty vantage point.
Yosemite, one of the most amazing places on our planet, is one of those parks that especially calls to all of those who love high places. And, recently, it became the venue for one of the most spectacular climbing events in history.
Charmed and enchanted
In an August 1899 issue of The Atlantic magazine, author, naturalist and environmental philosopher John Muir wrote:
“Of all the mountain ranges I have climbed, I like the Sierra Nevada the best … its marvelous beauty, displayed in striking and alluring forms, woos the admiring wanderer on and on, higher and higher, charmed and enchanted.”
That “higher and higher” temptation has been felt by rock climbers ever since. In fact, the holy grail for many hard climbers for decades has been the granite face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, which towers 3,600-feet above the valley floor and is 7,569 feet above sea level. That is until Saturday, June 3, 2017. That was the day that rock climber Alex Honnold became the first person to scale El Cap without using ropes or other safety gear, completing what may be the greatest accomplishment of pure rock climbing in the history of the sport.
This “free solo” was the subject of the 2019 Academy Award-winning film Free Solo by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. In this National Geographic Documentary Films feature, Honnold ascended the peak in three hours and 56 minutes.
Low and lingering
While mere mortals such as you and I may not be able to free solo El Cap, hiking up Half Dome—which reaches an elevation of 8,836 feet above sea level—via the video below is still a thrill. Created by Milosh Kitchovitch of Amazing Places on Our Planet, the short film features a trail that is 14 miles long round trip (via Vernal and Nevada Falls), with a gain of 4,800 feet. I strongly suggest you view it full screen.
The most electrifying part for me is watching the day hikers ascend the last 400 feet to the summit by using two metal cables. I just hope they (and the camera) don’t look down!
When it comes to hiking, I like my trails low and lingering. But I don’t mind taking a mind-blowing, altitudinous trip by video, now and then.
So, let’s put on our sticky-soled climbing shoes, grab our bags of chalk and go. See you at the top.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,
My great uncle Louis Guy once built, in Merced, 7 lodge chalets. He used to be a ranger at Yosemite with my aunt Dorothy Guy. They knew Ansel Adams family. Thanks for sharing. You almost made me cry. So nice views. I never had the opportunity to visit them. Only my parents and brother. But had always these views since my childhood.
I’m so scared of heights!
Thanks so much for sharing! Many, many moons ago, when I was a reporter at the Fresno Bee, I did the “easy” hike up top to El Cap to cover an amazing story: A school teacher (who was blind) and his friends over several days scaled this granite monolith, and the teacher led the group. We watched as the teacher, and then his friends, arrived to join their loved ones standing & waiting for them on the edge. This incredible video brings it all back. Thanks!