Elevation: 8,823 ft
GPS: 37.746, -119.533 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: Josh Janes on Jun 15, 2006 with improvements by Harumpfster Boondoggle
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes
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Memorial Day
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55°F - 37°F 13°C - 3°C
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


The classic profile of Half Dome, recognizable worldwide, sits over the east end of Yosemite Valley like a distant guardian. Glaciers cleaved the dome clear in half (hence the original indigenous name Ti-sa-ack or Cleft Rock in the language of the Awahnechee), leaving incredible slab climbs on the sunny southern aspect such as Snake Dike (5.7) and Southern Belle (5.12) to amazingly steep lines on the NW face. The namesake route (the "Regular" route) on the NW face is one of many aid climbers' first objectives, but it makes for a great, adventurous free climb as well.

Even the hiking route up to the summit visor, via the cables, is classic, and it is no wonder why this formation was used for the North Face's logo.

Remarkably, Half Dome was once described as "perfectly inaccessible" by Josiah Whitney of the California Geological Survey in the 1870's. The summit was finally first attained by George G. Anderson in October 1875, via a route constructed by drilling and placing iron eyebolts into the smooth granite near the site of the cables today and remains one of the most historic Yosemite ascents that has contributed to the direction of rock climbing in the USA.

Getting There

Half Dome takes a bit of work to get to. There are generally two approaches used by climbers:

1) Hike up from Happy Isles up the Mist Trail through Little Yosemite Valley (approx. 8 miles to the shoulder of Half Dome).

2) Head over from Happy Isles past Mirror Lake and hike up the "Death Slabs".

Option 1 is smooth hiking and clearly the way to go for the south facing routes. Option 2 is significantly faster (for the NW face), in both directions, but requires skilled route finding, very steep hiking, and use of fixed lines.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Half Dome

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
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Karsten Duncan
Sacramento, CA
Karsten Duncan   Sacramento, CA
The death slabs are not that bad. Find a topo, such as Chris Mac's in Supertopo. It is pretty chill as long as you don't get off route. If it looks scary, you probably aren't on the right path. Oct 13, 2006
John McNamee
Littleton, CO
John McNamee   Littleton, CO  
I haven't done the "death slabs" in years but if I remember correctly the key was being familiar with it prior to hiking it with a haul bag. Zip up it with a day bag to get to know the route.

It's a lot of effort with heavy loads so break it down and do it over a couple of days. It's the only approach I have used.

I echo with Karsten just mentioned as well. I just brought the latest version of the Supertopo's Big Walls guidebook and it has a great description of it. Dec 13, 2006
Sergio P
Idaho Springs, CO
Sergio P   Idaho Springs, CO
When descending the cables on a crowded day you may find it easier to clip into the cables with a binner attached to a sling then step outside of the cables. Use another sling and binner to clip past the poles so that you are always clipped in. Jun 24, 2007
I have done both approaches and absolutly recommend the "Slabs." There were only 2 slightly tricky parts:
1) Finding the right start...the spot where you leave the trail was very inobvious when I did this a few years ago. Maybe it is better now.
2) There is a spot near the end where the route seems to get blocked by a steep wall on your right. At first we actually climbed this darn thing only to figure out that the correct way to go is around a corner to the right. There is a hidden fixed rope (or two) ver that way and provides quick access to the long slpoe that brings you to the base of the wall.
Chris Mac's topo is pretty good, and we figured it all out without checking it out first.
I have also gone down this way and it wasn't bad at all.
The best part about this approach is that you have STUNNING views of the whole wall that almost seems to hang over your head the whole way. If this is your first wall it will make you think "...um...gee...what am I getting into?"
Have fun! Aug 7, 2008
Denver, CO
Eckhard   Denver, CO
Is anybody familiar with which climb was FFA by Jim Erickson and Art Higbee, in 1976. It was captured on the film Free Climb: The Northwest Face of Half Dome? Sep 26, 2008
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
Wouldn't that be the Regular Northwest Face? Sep 26, 2008
I have always heard that Higbee/Erickson did not free the final bolt ladder. Leonard Coyne later freed everything in 1979. Is this correct? May 10, 2009
EldoFiend   WY
A permit is now required to hike up half dome via the cables route on weekends. This does not apply to climbers hiking down the cables after climbing half dome.

HD Permits Apr 28, 2010
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
In 1865, the California Geological Survey was unable to find a way up Half Dome, calling it a mountain "which never has been, and never will be trodden by human feet." Although this is laughable today, Half Dome is remarkable in that there is no easy way to get on top of it, even though the top is gigantic and could easily fit a sports stadium.

When you climb Snake Dike, you get and idea of how big this monolith is. Even after the end of the roped climbing, it is quite a hike to the summit. There is also very little loose rock on Half Dome. Nov 18, 2015
King Tut
Citrus Heights
King Tut   Citrus Heights
Half Dome FA by George Anderson 1875. Never a more badass FA done in Yosemite given the tools available before or since.

sierranewsonline.com/the-st… Jan 21, 2018
Salamanizer suchoski
Janesville Ca.
Salamanizer suchoski   Janesville Ca.  
Half Dome FA by George Anderson 1875. Never a more badass FA done in Yosemite given the tools available before or since.

Now that's a bold statement. Jan 22, 2018
Yannick Gingras
On the road, mostly Southwest
Yannick Gingras   On the road, mostly Southwest
As of last week (May 2018), all but the first and the last fixed lines mentioned in Erik Sloan's topo are missing. The first line (yellow) is in good condition, I don't know how good the last line is (blue). The traverse right before the last time is really exposed (but technically easy). This one could really use a new line if you are going to do it with a heavy pack. The other missing lines are not a big deal and should definitely not be a show stopper. May 16, 2018
After a huge epic and nearly a second, I wanted to update the SuperTopo beta for the slab approach. Approach as instructed on the mirror lake trail. I added a picture of the boulder "next to" the trail which is actually out in the meadow as well as what the trail looks like from the mirror lake trail. If you reach the wooden "Mirror Lake" sign, you have gone too far but not by much. I paced 50 strides back from the sign and was at the start of the trail. Follow the cairns through the woods and eventually you will come to the start of the slabs, which I posted a picture of. From there, the Supertopo is pretty on point. As of 6/25/18, only the 3rd fixed line is absent but you could probably do this section without the rope. The spring was still running strong at this date, and the descent lines were also present and in decent condition. And to whoever stole my rope from the base, the climbing gods will not look kindly upon you. Jun 30, 2018