Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hiking in Yosemite

So for the first little "field trip" we went on was for a hiking trip to Yosemite. I guess they waited until the 3rd weekend so that the interns that were in the quarter system like me could go too. L. and I had tried a few times to go to Yosemite but every time all the camping passes were taken for at least a year in advance. The organizers got around that by reserving spots at a hostel outside the park.
There was one group that was going to hike half dome and the other that just wanted to go around the valley floor. I decided I was goingto the top of half dome since I didn't see the chance to do this again any time soon. So the plan was to have a group start at Glacier point about half way up the mountain. This seemed like cheating so we got a group of people to start at the valley floor and hike the whole 16 miles and 5000 feet straight up. The problem lies in trying to get 30 people to get up early enough; we got off an hour late. There was a land slide that closed the easy road in so we didn't start hiking until 10 when we should have started at 7:30. It was pretty straight up the whole way with a lot of stairs cut into the granite. We took the mist trail on the way up and by the time we got past the waterfall everyone was drenched. We stopped at Nevada falls for lunch... and we had beaten the other group that took the easy way to the mid-way point.
After lunch people started going slower and stopping. I said that I was going to hike half dome and that is what I was going to do. The problem was as I got to the two mile to go point I was not able to go more then 200 yards without sitting and resting. At 1 mile to go I couldn't make it more then 100 yards. I realized when the nausea set in and my heart was beating wildly that I was getting altitude sickness. It felt like I had smoked 2 packs a day for my whole life. I just couldn't get enough air and I could feel my neck moving from my rapid heart beat. I had to make it to the top though- I said I was going to make it to the top. I made it to the cables took yet another break and then headed up, slowly. I met the rest of the people that made it at the top. We took some quick pictures of all of us standing on the edge with 5000 feet straight down then headed down.
Now the rest of the problems set in. They told us to bring 2 liters of water, and I had drunk all mine already as had everyone else. We were quickly running out of light and needed to hurry but I was still short of breath. We basically ran down the mountain and a lot of us resorted to getting water out of the waterfall with the thought that an upset stomach would be less trouble at the bottom then dehydration where we were. Since it was dusk one good motivation that kept me going was that anytime we slowed down to a walking pace the mesquitos caught up started feasting. As we got lower I felt I could breath easier, my heart rate went back to normal and it felt like a huge shot of caffine as I got my energy back. We made it all the way down to the bottom right at 9:00pm just as the last bits of light disappeared. I had pushed myself to hard and that mixed with the altitude sickness made me throw-up. We were the last car back and didn't get back to the hostel until midnight.
So was it worth it? Well I kept my word - I said I would make it to the top and I did. I think it was worth it to do it once. The view from the top was amazing. I don't see any need to hike to the top of half dome any time soon though. I think that 3 liters would have been better to take. We should have started at around 7 so we were not so rushed, or better yet camp half way to allow my body to equalize. It really ticks me off that I got altitude sickness, especially since some guys didn't (It was not just being out of shape since I biked to school once or twice a day. Other people that started at the bottom had the exact symptoms too, one guy could not make it up the cables at the end.) Out of 30 people I was one of 6 that made it to the top.

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