After a short, early hike, we ditched our packs at the base of Half Dome. I grabbed my camera and a nalgene, and we began our ascent. Once again my father and I fell behind my brother and my friends. As we clibmed the switchbacks my father told me about the first time he summitted the rock slab. He said people did the 20 mile roundtrip hike (starting from the valley, ascending nearly 5,000 ft.) in flip flops and with no water. I thought it was absurd and I had not even gotten to the hard part yet. With the amount of injury and heat stroke that caused, it was easy to see why the National Parks Service makes one apply for a permit to summit nowadays. As we approached the treeline, the beautiful granite quarter sphere came into view. My energy was high; I was excited and ready for the infamous cables. When we had gotten closer, above the treeline, I realized the challenge of the hike. My uncle and father had told me about the cables, but they failed to mention the treacherous switchbacks of the subdome. As we clibmed and scurried up the disappearing act that is the subdome trail, many breaks were necessary. My lungs were frantically searching for oxygen after every other switchback, I could feel the sun bursting the capilleries under my skin, and with each step the fire in my legs burned a degree hotter, but none of it seemed to matter. I was almost there, at the top, and nothing was going to stop me, plus, no matter how challenging it was, the hike was definitely more enjoyable (and rewarding) than anything my previous summer had presented.
As I peered at the summit from the top of the subdome the only thing I could think about was how stupid someone had to be to attempt a summit in flip flops. It was so steep that it was nearly vertical at points. My father said that some people scurry it, which I think is awesome, but I would be taking the cables up my first time up. Our intended route began by selecting a pair of gardening gloves left in a pile before the cables to protect your skin (if you plan on doing the hike, I highly advise a tetanus shot). My gloved hands gripped the wire cables, one of my boots found a wooden tread and we began the last leg of our ascent. One wooden tread at a time, I pulled myself up. At each rest, I would catch my breath and look back onto the Sierra Nevadas, a beautifully serene scene of mountaintops still covered with snow despite the sun exposure then I would look down to see how far I had come.
As the domes steepness petered out, the cables disappated, and I knew I had done it. I was standing nearly 5,000 ft. above the valley floor, and nearly 9,000 ft. above sea level, and I felt amazing. I did it, I made it to the top of Half Dome, I beat cancer and I continue to live an extraordinary life without a chamber or two. The feeling of such great accomplishment could not be quelled within me, but standing on the massive rock does put how miniscule we are into perspective. This was only brought to my attention after I had asked a woman to take a picture of my father and I, which she graciously did. When I got the camera back, we were merely specks in the photo. I was a little peeved then, (Why did I buy a camera with 30x optical zoom to get a photo my phone could have taken?), but I understand it in the context of my life now. Compared to the rock I stood on that day, the valley I peered upon, and the magnificent mountain range I saw off in the distance, my problems and accoplishments are so tiny in the grand scheme of things. If the earth and the universe take both of them in stride, I should strive to do the same.