This was my annual hike up Half Dome, about the 6th time I've hiked up it. In a way it was the best yet. Normally when I hike down I have terrible knee pain, but the hike (still my favorite) is so fantastic that the pain is worth it. This time however I didn't have that pain, for the first time ever. It felt like it was on the verge of happening, but the hike ended just in time. Perhaps my knees are finally getting stronger, and I'm getting a little better at going downhill.
This year we managed to get a room in Yosemite Lodge for the first time ever (thanks to a last minute cancellation by someone else). It was a real luxury to have our own shower and be able to eat in the room. It will be tough to go back to Curry Village after this. On the down side the mosquitoes were terrible this year.
We got in Sunday and I wanted to get an early start on Half Dome Monday morning to beat the crowds. The shuttle didn't start until 7am, so I decided to just walk from the Lodge to the trailhead. I didn't realize how long it was, though--the route I took was about 4 miles, so an hour of walking before the hike even began. It was a very enjoyable walk in the early morning, but I didn't beat the shuttle bus by much. However this still ended up being the earliest start I've yet gotten. As a reward for that there were few people I had to pass this time, and the cables also were fairly empty although there was still a holdup near the top. Of course there were a lot of people going up when I was coming down.
I didn't feel in as good of shape this time as I've been on previous hikes, and I worried the 4 mile prelude was a big mistake as I felt tired before even starting! But once I started up the trail I got all my energy back--I just love the start of this hike, straight uphill right away. I had a wonderful time and seemed to be going at a good pace, but I reached the top after 3:45, a full fifty minutes shorter than my best time of 2:55 (done in 2000, I think). So it made me realize I am a long way from my form of a few years ago when I was walking more and going on long cycling trips. I hope I can get back to that eventually.
I spent just 20 minutes on top, and then got down via the Mist Trail again in 3:35, surely by far my fastest time down and thus also fastest total time (7:40). I must be one of the few people who are slower going down than up. But then I love going up, and knee problems and general lack of skill at hiking down hinder the other direction. Hopefully both can improve. I'd guess getting in better shape I could cut my roundtrip time down to 6 hours, or maybe even 5:30, but that would be about the limit for me without running, which I'm not about to do.
I caught the shuttle bus from Happy Isles, but it was going so slow I got out at Yosemite Village and walked the last mile. So about 19 miles total for the day.
I thought I'd be tired of Half Dome by now, but at the end of the hike I was thinking that perhaps nothing gives me more pleasure than doing this hike. I'm looking forward to doing it again, and also exploring more of Half Dome.