June 16, 2006

The Hike of Death
(aka Why Being Pot Committed isn't Always a Good Thing)

Jason and I, along with a few other teachers from Adams, have returned from our day long excursion where we hiked Half Dome at Yosemite on Thursday. I used to think that hike just meant walking on dirt trails with trees, so 18 miles could be done, even by someone as out of shape as I am. How wrong I was.

Despite having to leave the house before 3am to head down to Yosemite, the day started off well. The first 3 miles had steep hills and included running up steps drenched in water. It was tiring, but I felt I would have enough energy to make it the rest of the way. The next couple miles seemed to take a lot longer, with lots more steps and hills. Fatigue was setting in.

When we reached a sign that said it was 2 miles to the top of Half Dome, the hike became The Hike of Death. (Upon further review, I am sure that it was more than 2 miles from that sign to the top.) Jason and I were physically wasted. But we weren't going to stop because we ain't no bitches. We made it up the Hill of Death, and after much struggle, we ascended the Stairs of Death. That only left one thing standing between us and the top of Half Dome: The Cables of Death.

The Cables of Death
The last part of the hike to the top of Half Dome involves going up the side of the freaking rock while pulling yourself up with cables (I borrowed someone's pic until I can get ours). This part is pretty darn steep at times and I gave it a COD(Chance of Death) rating of 94%. My energy level was at 1.7%, but I had come this far and was now pot-committed to get to the top.
Going up the cables was not as bad as I thought. There were wooden boards every 6 to 8 feet to help with footing and the cables were pretty sturdy. About halfway up, I pulled myself up toward the next step and was going to bring my foot over a small ledge when my right quadaceps cramped up. The sudden pain caused me to loosen my grip on the cables and I actually slid down about 2 feet, which is 2 feet more than you want to fall when going up. (Luckily, nobody was behind me for quite a ways.) COD rating just went up to 99.6%.

I'm not scared of many things, but plummeting 4000 feet down a mountain is one of them. During the 0.3 seconds while I was falling I thought 'Oh sh**, I'm dead!' But I managed to get my right foot on the pole that supports the cables for just long enough for me to grab the cables back and re-establish my foothold. It was kind of exciting in a damn-I-nearly-died-exciting kind of way. Then I was quickly reminded of the pain from the quad cramp, so I sat down balancing myself against the pole and the wooden-board step, with one hand trying to massage the muscle and one hand holding on to the cable for dear life, exactly halfway up the Cables of Death.

I sat there on the side of this 45 degree slope unable to move for about 12 to 15 minutes. Should I try to make it to the top? Maybe I should just try and get down before the cramp gets worse? Screw it, remembering my pot-committed attitude, I finally made my way to the top. My left quad actually cramped up because I was favoring the right side so much to get to the top. It felt great. Actually it didn't but the view was nice. Nice and dangerous.

Once on the top, I found a bottle of Pepsi in my backpack, which I gulped down to restore my energy. I believe the Pepsi also prevented any further cramps and injuries, as the descent, with the exception of coming down the Stairs of Death, was fairly easy and non-life threatening.

It was an awesome trip because all 6 of us made it to the top, but Half Dome might have just made my been-there-done-that list. The Hike of Death holds the number one spot on the most-tiring-thing-I-have-ever-done list.

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