Hiking Half Dome, Yosemite, California
I like to travel a bit in my own country too, and this summer I did one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. I hiked Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in California with 5 friends. While you can just show up to Yosemite to visit, some assume you can just show up and hike half dome.
Turns out, that is not the case, to the surprise of some hikers on the trail. Every March, there is a lottery system set up by the National Parks System where you enter your name, dates available, and number of permits (for the amount of people) you require. You can only do the cables of half dome with a permit, no exceptions. There is literally a ranger at the Subdome (close to the end) checking for your permits, and the number of people you have with you. You are not guaranteed a permit if you apply, you're more likely to get them if you apply for a week day. I was very lucky to get 6 permits for a Saturday hike.
More important than the pretty easy process of applying for a permit is training. You must prepare for this hike, with long, difficult and steep hikes in addition to hitting up the gym. This hike requires a great deal of endurance, the ability to hike a pretty steep trail, and to face the danger of being on cables 7000 ft up. Before doing this hike, I read about a woman who didn't prepare at all and only brought doughnuts as sustenance. Do not be this woman, you must prepare and eat nutritious food the day before and day of to sustain energy.
The hike is about 10-12 hours depending on pace, including there and back. You can also take the John Muir trail, but it's longer so most people don't do it. This website is my favorite one with all possible routes laid out. The route begins on the Mist trail, which takes you through Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall at a pretty steep incline. Be warned, almost all of this is through stairs. So hit up the stair-master before attempting this hike. From there, you've got the relatively flat but very sandy Little Yosemite Valley. Then you got an honestly not bad incline until you hit the granite part of the trail, the Subdome.
Theoretically you could hike half dome up to this point without a permit, but why would you? There's really no cool views from this point, and you're so close you may as well just wait to do the whole thing with a proper permit. I really wish I took pictures of the trail and subdome but we decided to climb it in the dark, beginning at 12:45am in order to reach the cables by sunrise.
Here's me ready to go!!! at 12:45 am:
Anyway, while everybody is scared of the cables (and they are scary, see pics), the subdome is also spooky. It has stairs carved in granite for some of it, then you've got to scale the part with no stairs. Then you hit the cables. When I went, there was nobody on them (TG) so we were able to tackle them at our own pace.
Here's the most beautiful sight, empty cables:
And after the cables, you're only halfway done! Remember you got that back journey, which obviously is the same route, but in reverse. It can honestly take longer, because you're tired and over it, but also because there are many more people on the trail now.
As far as hiking supplies, I took with me:
Clothes: hiking boots, hiking thick socks, workout leggings, tank top, sweatshirt, and a thin sweater to hike in.
Supplies: rubber gloves (necessary in my opinion for hiking the cables - avoids cable rubbing your hands raw while you're gripping to them for dear life), bag of trail mix, sliced apples, PB&J, one mint chocolate Builder Bar and a lot of water. I had a bladder (Camelback style, but Osprey brand) 3L, and brought two water bottles 1L and 1.5L. I was determined to not run out of water. Although since I hiked it when it was cool outside, I didn't require as much water as I thought. But there is no water available after Nevada Falls, so I would honestly carry extra water than run out.
I had all of this in a REI daypack, similar to this one. The major key is the suspended mesh back panel, which circulates air on your back so your back doesn't get as sweaty.
This is bound to be a difficult but rewarding journey, and I would highly recommend climbing it at night and arriving for sunrise if you have somebody who has done it before with you. There are some points where it is not marked, so if you and everybody you're with has never attempted half dome, maybe do it during the day first, then take on the night.