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Backpacker Magazine – June 2012

Trail Mix: West

Explore high points, see astronomical rarity and experience three perfect days, all this summer and all in the west.

by: Rachel Zurer

Rick Deutsch on Half Dome (courtesy)
Rick Deutsch on Half Dome (courtesy)

Local Expert
Secrets of Half Dome
Rick Deutsch, 63, of San Jose, CA, literally wrote the book (One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome, $10, about this iconic hike (Trip ID 39517). He’s hiked the 15.7-mile route 31 times and counting, and credits his first ascent with inspiring him to tackle other list-life challenges. He shares his insider’s tips:

It’s too late for the main lottery (it closed in March), but you’re not out of luck. Apply in the morning two days before you want to go (such as Thursday for a Saturday hike) for your best chance at last-minute permits (877-444-6777; New rules for 2013 come out later in 2012.

To minimize weight, purify often along the way. Both directions, hit the Merced River at mile 3.2; there’s also a small, reliable spring a few feet off the trail to the left at mile 5.9. To lighten your summit push, stash a few liters in the forest at mile 6.8.

Bring nitrile-coated gloves (available at hardware stores for around $5) or garden gloves with rubber palms to help you grip the inch-thick steel cables at mile 7.1. Ascend with just one cable, not both. “It’s much easier if you crouch down low, keep your feet flat, and use your back and shoulder muscles.” Go back down the same way: facing uphill, as if rappelling. Nervous? Focus 10 feet in front of you and breathe deeply.

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