Half Dome: Subdome

You can read part one and part two of our trip up half dome here:

Part one

Part two

The Sub-dome was in sight! After a gruelling but beautiful hike past Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls and through Little Yosemite Valley, we reached a sign to say that Half Dome was a mere 2 miles away.

By this point, I was done in. I was struggling to breath (asthma and altitude do not go hand in hand) my voice had gone almost completely and I was shattered. I also knew that we still had a roughly 4-5 hour hike back down to the valley. I am a very stubborn person and I refused to turn back until I made the Sub-dome. By this point, I’d accepted that there was no way I was going to make it to the top of Half Dome. Physically, I was too knackered to pull myself up those cables, and I’m not sure if I’d have been entirely ok with the height, but I was determined to meet my goal of reaching the Sub-dome.

After some challengingly steep switchbacks through the forest, we passed through the section of the trail where a permit was required and broke above the tree line.

Being that high up, and that close to the Sub-dome was incredible. Despite feeling broken, it was probably one of the biggest highs of my life!

The views were incredible. Snow-topped mountains in the distance, blue skies and harsh granite surrounded us from all angles. It felt like we were in the sky and Wandering Beeb was in his element, snapping pictures of anything and everything! We had achieved our goal and it felt amazing to have been successful at something so physical.

After spending some time taking in the views (and catching our breath), we decide to retrace our steps and head back down the trail. By the time we hit the bottom of the waterfalls, it was almost dark. Torches on, we continued to navigate our way down. There were few people left on the trail and as it got darker, we realised that we must have take a wrong turn somewhere. We could see the lights from the toilet block across the river but there was no way we could see of reaching them. The path had gotten narrower and we were both starting to feel panicky. Afterwards, we admitted to really understanding the dangers of the park at this point, given that we were in bear territory and unsure of where we were.

Trying to remain calm, we hiked back up the path, eventually realising that we had taken a hidden fork in the trail and had headed down a bridal path instead of the main trail. It was such a relief to find the right path and head down past the toilets and water fountains, knowing that we would soon by back in the Valley, surrounded by people rather than bears and mountain lions.

We eventually arrived back in the valley at about 10pm. We were hungry, knackered and sore, and still had a 45 minute drive back to Wawona to our tent. It didn’t matter. We’d reached the Sub-dome, we’d pushed ourselves to the limit and we’d almost touched the sky.

Wash your spirit clean

– John Muir

Half Dome: Nevada Falls and Little Yosemite Valley

You can read part one of our trip up half dome here.

The two trails up Half Dome split at the top of Vernal Falls. The Mist trail takes a short detour to the top of Nevada Falls (adding a little distance on to the journey), whereas the John Muir trail is a more direct route. We never want to miss anything (especially as it takes so much effort to climb Half Dome!) so each time we have taken the Mist Trail.

It’s about a 2 mile hike from Vernal Falls to Nevada Falls, characterised by switchbacks and some rocky pathways through a forest area. The sunlight weaving through the trees and the light reflecting off the water at the bottom of Vernal Falls created beautiful little rainbows in the mist.

The top of Nevada Falls is a beautiful place to sit and chill, having gained an extra 1000ft above Vernal Falls, taking us to a total height of 6000ft above sea level. On our first trip, this was as far as we got. We’d set off far too late in the day and didn’t really want to hike in the dark, so we chose to stop at Nevada Falls, spend some time exploring and then headed back down the trail.

One of my best memories of that particular trip was taking off our shoes and socks and paddling in the calm water of the Merced River before the waterfall. It was a perfect way to refresh ourselves after the steep climb!

Our subsequent trips have seen us hiking much further up the trail. Leaving Nevada Falls behind, Little Yosemite Valley is a much flatter part of the hike. Surrounded by trees, it offers some welcome shade from the blistering heat. I loved the surroundings here; the sounds of the forest and the smell of the trees. The scent was almost overwhelming and it makes me think of adventure every time I smell it. This was a stunning walk with glimpses of Half Dome through the trees.

Little Yosemite Campground was a big milestone for me – I hadn’t expected to make it that far!! If I was to do the trail again, I would definitely consider camping at this campground to acclimatise to the altitude and rest up before attempting the climb to the top of Half Dome.

The Mountains are calling and I must go

– John Muir

When the place you discover by accident becomes one of the most beautiful places you have visited: Tioga Pass / Tenaya Lake

Most of you know by now that Yosemite is my favourite place in the world (so far!). You can read our posts on Mirror Lake and Camping for some background on our trips. I’m working my way up to a big post on the Half Dome hike – there is so much to share on this topic that it has been in progress for a while!

Around every corner is a stunning new view and the way the park has retained its ‘wildness’ just adds to its allure. Even after a couple of visits to the park, we have still found something new each time.

We just had to pull in to the side of the road for this view!

On our last trip, we were leaving Yosemite by a different exit, crossing Tioga Pass to make our way towards Death Valley. We had passed over Tioga Pass before, but we had done it at 2am in the thickness of night and therefore missed the views. This time, we were leaving Yosemite in the early morning and had enough light to see all of the sights on offer.

Tioga Pass is the highest highway pass in California and the Sierra Nevada. Due to its height, it’s usually the last road to open in summer and the first road to close in winter due to the ice and snow. On the journey, our ears were soon popping and the first time we made the trip, our bag of crisps burst open due to the altitude pressure: making us pull the car over, half in shock, half grateful that it wasn’t the gas canister for the camping stove!

The lake was like a perfect piece of paradise - we didn’t want to leave!

On this trip in the daylight, the trip probably took us twice as long as we stopped every ten minutes or so to pull over and admire the surroundings.

One place in particular really captured our attention: Tenaya Lake. Located at an elevation of 8,150 feet, this alpine lake is incredible. As we drove towards it in the car, both Wandering Beeb and I were lost for words, with “wow” being the only thing we had to say.

We weren’t expecting to see this glacial lake on our route through from Yosemite to Death Valley

Set back from the road, the little sandy beach and picnic table framed the water perfectly. The lake was formed by a glacier and the cliffs in the background stood out against the blue of the waters.

We didn’t know the lake was there, we hadn’t read any reviews and we certainly hadn’t built our route around visiting the lake. This was one of those occasions where going with the flow and meandering to our next destination had paid off, revealing a view we’d never intended to see and one that never left our minds.

Travel Tip: Get the Tent Out!

Travel tips from http://www.travellingzombie.com

When we first started to travel, I was not a camping fan. I dislike bugs, being cold and mud – so it was no surprise that I’d rather stay in a comfy, warm hotel. However, on our first trip to a National Park in the USA, I was persuaded to give it a go. I’m so glad that I did! It was the best part of our trip, with nights around the campfire firmly cemented in my memory.

One of the main reasons I was happy to give it a go was for the cost. Accommodation is one of the most expensive elements of travelling. Camping can help with that. With pitch costs of around $26 per night in Wawona, Yosemite, camping can cut your accommodation costs in half.


When we first travelled to Yosemite and Tahoe, we had no clue about what tent to get and we didn’t want to have to pay extra to fly the tent over to our destination. This meant that we visited Kmart on our first day in the USA and, after much deliberation, we ended up buying a tent that was probably more suited to a backyard sleep over than a week or so in a couple of National Parks. Our main selection criteria was that it was big enough for three of us and had a sewn-in ground sheet (I refused to camp of there was a chance that spiders could crawl into my bed – ugh). We also ended up with sleeping bags that were fairly thin, and in one person’s case – didn’t come up past their chest! To be fair, the tent and the sleeping bags did their job – they were cheep and cheerful (we were not going to pay to fly them back to England and so they would be given away at the end of our trip) and they kept us clean and dry, however, they weren’t really designed for the cold nights of Yosemite.

Learning from our first experience, the next time we camped, we purchased a huge four-man tent in the UK and counted this as one of our bags, splitting the rest of our gear between the baggage allowance for the remaining three people in our party. This actually worked out far cheaper and meant that we had a sturdy, well-made tent for our adventures. Although there was lots of room in this tent (we could fit in four large airbeds!), it took four people, a good thirty minutes and the tips of one of my fingers to put up.

The big tent is great, particularly for camping trips on the UK but it only works out cheaper to take abroad if there are a few of you with whom you can split the luggage. So what do we do if it’s just me and Wandering Beeb? We did a huge amount of research and purchased a much smaller tent. We ended up with a MSR Elixir 3 tent.


This little tent is a beauty! Firstly, it looks the business – it’s fairly low to the ground and has a curved design, giving you lots of head room whilst feeling really airy. The ground sheet is sewn-in and the two doors are well-sealed to prevent any unwanted visitors or rain getting in. Although there is a two-man version of the tent, we were sensible to go for the three-man option to get a little extra room as it’s a very snug inside. It’s small, geometric design made it really sturdy and it was unbelievably easy to put up. Usually there is a lot of swearing and sore fingers when we camp – not in this case as it’s easy enough for one person to put it up in about 10 minutes – winner!! Even better, as it’s so lightweight and can be split up into two small bags, we were able to fit it in with our usual luggage allowance, meaning that we didn’t incur any extra charges.


One of the best things about this tent had to be the option to remove the outer layer and look up through the mesh panels at the stars. The Yosemite night sky is one of the most beautiful sights we have ever seen and to be able to look up at the stars from the comfort of our sleeping bags was incredible – something you would absolutely miss out on in a hotel.

As well as incredible sights, camping brings you together as travellers like nothing else. There is something about a good campfire and nights huddled round a torch that bond you in a way nothing else can.

What tent do you use? Any good recommendations? Tell us in the comments!