Monday, May 23, 2016

From Half Dome to Pinkeye in Just Over 24 Hours

the majestic Half Dome

I had a positively delightful excursion yesterday, when I ascended Half Dome along with four cohort mates and the older brother of one of the guys in the cohort. As a native Californian -- and a very California-centric one at that -- I operate under the assumption that everyone in the United States with even three-quarters of a functioning brain knows where Half Dome is. Without naming any names, I learned today I was wrong on that count.

Half Dome is a rock formation creating a part of the eastern border of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. Its name comes from one side of it being somewhat rounded, with the other side a sheer vertical drop-off, making it appear as a dome that has been sliced in half. This description is not geologically precise, but I'll dispense with the technicalities about which neither you nor I care.

As late as maybe 1870, Half Dome was considered un-ascendable. The someone climbed it. Now it's easier to climb because a set of wire cables have been set up. Because of the steepness of the final ascent, the cables are needed for climbers to propel themselves up the final distance. People who are rope climbers or people with death wishes (I would consider them to be one and the same) like to ascend Half Dome via the vertical portion. Some people also like to go over Niagara Falls in barrels. Whatever.  Why not handle poisonous snakes or drink arsenic while one is at it?

At times when it is dangerous for weather reasons, the cables leading to the final summit of Half Dome are usually taken down. Some fools attempt to climb it without the cables, often with tragic results. Additionally, sometimes thunderstorms appear before it is safe for the park ranger staff to remove the cables. Despite the signs warning of the danger, thrill seekers attempt the climb in spite of lightning strikes. I don't know how many hikers have been killed under such circumstances, but I know it has happened enough that it's not an unusual occurrence.

On our excursion yesterday, we had no hurdles by way of weather or removed cables. We were the second group to reach the cables, so we didn't have to wait around for long to begin that final and most treacherous portion of the ascent. My friend Raoul's older brother insisted on following me because he didn't want to have to explain to my dad how it was that I had fallen to my death. My dad was an adjunct professor at his medical school. (Kal Penn said that Raoul's brother wanted to follow me just so that he could stare at my butt.  As it was, it didn't  matter whether or why Raoul's brother followed me.. There were no close calls.

For reasons I would rather not share, I cannot post pictures of myself ascending or standing atop Half Dome. Just use your imagination.

Every silver lining has its cloud, though. Somewhere along the climb, presumably on one of the iron railings along some of the granite steps winding along the trail (before reaching the cables, as I used gloves for the cables) I rather unfortunately came into contact with pathogens that cause bacterial conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pinkeye. It feels as though I need to remove my eyeballs from their sockets, scratch the insides of the sockets with a brand-new toothbrush, and then replace my eyes into their sockets, only to repeat the procedure every five minutes. (Remind me someday to tell you about my mom's orbital decompression surgery in which her eyeballs were removed from their sockets. The procedure is fascinating to those who are not squeamish squeamish.) i wrote once before at some point in this blog that I'd rather have pneumonia any day than pinkeye. My conviction remains firm.

If you have not yet been to Yosemite National Park, you really should go there. Yosemite National Park makes people who have visited both it and the Everglades National Park wonder how in hell the Everglades were ever granted national park status. And if you visit Yosemite National Park, get a good look at Half Dome. If you decide to brave the climb, wear gloves for the entire ascent and not just on the cable section so you won't contract a nasty case of pinkeye.

This is not MY pink eye (mine is actually a bit worse) but you get the drift.

No comments:

Post a Comment