How NOT to hike a mountain in Yosemite. (Because you’ll freak everyone out and they’ll yell at you.)


I am no mountain climber. I am more of a hiker-until-it’s-unbearable and an avid rest taker. Fourteen years ago, though, I wanted to act otherwise. I had only been married less than a year in 2000. My new husband wanted both of our families to take a trip to Yosemite National Park. He had spent a summer there when he was in college and absolutely loved it. Part of the trip was to make the much talked about hike to Half Dome. If you’ve never been there, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it.

It’s sort of tall.

When he first told me about it, I thought we were supposed to somehow scale the front side of it. I would have made it about 2 feet off the ground before calling it quits. I’m pretty terrible at rock climbing and even more terrible at not being able to sit down for a second already. You sit down on that thing and you’re saying goodbye to life itself all at the same time.

My sister, my husband, his brother and I decided to make the trek up via the back route. It’s a long hike, so you have to stop halfway and camp. His parents made the trip with us to that point. It was fun really camping out. We found pine cones as big as our heads there. We’ve got big heads. We also made bear doorbells. Well, my brother-in-law made a bear doorbell, I should say.

Sort of like a bear alarm system.

I drew a picture of it once.

You see, my brother-in-law put sticks all on the outside of his one-man tent. If he heard the sticks crack, he would know that a bear was within inches of him. Everyone knows that would be enough time to get your Kung Fu on and put that bear into a head lock. It must have worked for him, because I took this picture of him the next morning:

He showed that bear what’s up. After that, I never made fun of him for the sticks around his tent. I might have called it a Bear Alarm System in a previous post, but that’s it. Well, that and this post. So, two other times have I brought these sticks up. There may have been one other time. Nothing over-the-top.

Not long after the bear wrestling occurred, my sister, brother-in-law, husband and I continued our hike up to Half Dome. It really wasn’t a big deal getting to the actual steep part. It was a windy path. The weather was nice. The company was good.

Then we saw this mother:


Where’s my mommy?

Where. Is. My. Mommy?

She was far away back at the original camp, so I had no choice but to grab the ropes and pull myself up. There were no Sherpas in sight. Really, going up wasn’t so bad. You just take it one narrow wooden beam at a time. We went in May. It was a busy place, but not as busy as it was in this picture.


That picture is freaking me out! Too many people! I can’t breathe! Move it! Move it!

You see my reaction? I mean, that is natural. That is how I am feeling right now. I’m sort of short of breath right here at the laptop. You can only imagine what I was like as I was descending this monstrous granite dome.

Descending it was the worst part.

One false move with your hands and you’re rolling down like Jack and Jill, except you don’t just break your crown. You will fall down and make no sound.

I am having a hard time remembering right now, but I’m pretty sure there is only one way up and one way down. Everyone shares the same ropes. That can’t be right, right? I think it’s right, though. I needed both ropes to hold on and steady myself downwards. I think I sometimes had to flatten myself up against only one side of the ropes to let people up. Ack! My heart can’t take the memory!

On the descent down, I remember that it was my brother-in-law first, then my sister, then me and then my husband all in a little line. I wanted the descent to get over with in a hurry. I wanted off of that mountain. I mean, the view was awesome from up top. We saw snow and beauty and majesty and all things awesome, but I wanted off.

And my sister wasn’t going fast enough.

“Lisa! Hurry! I’m about to fall! I’m about to let go! Why aren’t you moving fast enough?? Lisa!”

I was pretty much in a full out panic.

“I can’t move any faster, Kelley!”

“But, I’m about to slide off this mountain and DIE! Why aren’t you moving?? Move it! Please!”

“I can’t!”

“Move it!”

“I can’t!”

Pretty sure we exchanged lines like that for half a decade and then my brother-in-law jumped in. I don’t know if he said “shut up”, but he spoke harshly towards me so that I would shut my yapper and not make us all die. Sometimes you have to tell people who panic to zip the lips in sort of a loud voice. My husband probably said it, too. Maybe even everyone on the entire mountain said it.

I needed to be straightened out.

We eventually made our way to the bottom with our crowns all intact, no thanks to me.

It was an awesome experience after it was done. (Isn’t it annoying how people always say that?)  Something tells me that my husband will want to take our boys back to Yosemite when they get a little older. They are 9 1/2 and 6 now. Something tells me they’ll want to do a little hiking. Something tells me that they’ll want to hike up Half Dome again.

Something tells me I need to go on a hunt for a barrel of Xanax before we go back.

Are you a hiker? Have you ever panicked? Make me feel better! We can have the conversation here or on the Kelley’s Break Room FB page. I would love to hear from you!


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