Snake Dike is an easy route of 5.7 for a few moments, and lower grade 5 climbing for the rest of it's 8 roped pitches. The crux of this climb is avoiding confrontation with mountain lions and bears, and staying on the trail in the dark. It's a long way to go up Half Dome, even if you just go up the standard route with the cables.
long string of photos here. Hey, It's Yosemite. I hadn't been to the valley before, and now I know why it's a zoo there in some ways. Even if you don't go on a hike, you're looking around in total awe from the campgrounds.
started at 5am. It's about 6 miles to the base of the climb, 4800' to the summit, and 8.5 miles back. We weren't sure how long this would take, or how crowded the climb would be. We were back to the valley floor by 2-3pm, and stopped plenty for taking pictures and hanging out on top. Simul climbing the upper 5.4 pitches and getting there first helped.
The sun hit the rock just about as we started. Snake Dike follows the left skyline in this shot. Other than the cable route on the other side of the dome, this is basically the lowest angle spot on the thing. The "Dike" sure helps you run up there too, with an amazingly long ribbon of pockets for your feet and hands. Bolted hangers are evenly spread out through the 5th class terrain. Look at the guidebook for this info, I forget how many there were. After the first 100', there is no option for pro other than clipping established bolt hangers. So bring a few cams and nuts if you want to protect the 5.7 crack at the start.
After 8 pitches you get to class 4 and 3 goes on for over 1000' more to the summit. we unroped here. The going gets lower angle as you progress, so once you're comfortable, you can put the rope away.
The cable route is how you climb Half Dome without ropes. Not that it's safer. Apparently there are boards every 12" to step on during the summer. At this time, there were boards at every pole, which were about 15' apart. The rock is pretty slick, and most hikers wouldn't have sticky shoes or anything. Gloves are mandatory to grip the cables You have to play some tricks with your stance and grip to safely descend once they take the extra boards away. With climbing shoes and gloves, descending the cable route without boards was no problem. You can always clip the cable if you're still wearing your harness. Remember 70 year old hikers do this in tennis shoes sometimes.
Trees in Yosemite are unreal. Walking around the campgrounds, you can't help but stare straight up a lot. I know the more veteran National Park goers are saying "no duh..." I'm used to the trees on the east side of the Sierra.
This is the south side as seen from the trail during the return hike. Snake Dike is along the left skyline, and is kind of like a ladder of small pockets to step on and grab with ease.
You need to start early and beat the crowds to do any hike of this size. You'll move a LOT slower going around people, and in the hotter portion of the day.
Here's the north side of Half Dome from near Mirror Lake, taken on a different day. Expert climbing only on this side.
Here is the cable route climb/descent on Half Dome. This is late fall, when the extra foot boards have been taken down.
Check out this trail formed with granite blocks.