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CLIMB HALF DOME
The trip: With apologies to Ansel Adams, even the sharpest of photographs fails to capture the American icon of Half Dome, the granite monolith rising nearly 4,800 feet from the valley floor in California's Yosemite National Park. To understand a bit more about geology and the United Statesand yourselfstop gaping and start climbing. The good news: You don't need technical rock-climbing skills or gear like you would for, say, El Capitan. You do need to be prepared for encountering as many as 1,000 fellow hikers on a summer weekend. Go early in the morning and plan for about a ten-hour round-trip hike. The series of trails on the backside leading to the summit pass through woods and waterfalls before climbing up rocky switchbacks to the final, 45-degree section, whose steepness is made manageable by a series of cables. The sheer rock wall is just scary enough to leave you feeling even more euphoric as you stare down at Yosemite from the summit.
Why go? There's no better way to deeply appreciate the 1,200 square miles of Yosemite National Park.
What to pack: Gardening gloves, to wear while grabbing onto the cables for dear life.
Difficulty: 7 out of 10. Hikers should be ready to handle 17 miles and altitudes of 8,000-plus feet.
Your guides: Yourself, a hiking partner, and a map from the National Park Service.
Yosemite National Park
Tel: 209 372 0200