Let me start from the end. I’m headed home after the team’s first Fall training camp in Mammoth Lakes, California. My focus for this camp was a high volume load and technique work in both classic and skate. And drinking a lot, of water. With the higher altitude, warmer temperatures and drier climate staying hydrated was a chore in itself throughout the camp. I think I stayed on top of it well enough. Most of the camp I was roller skiing, but we did do some running for easier afternoons workouts or ski striding for intensities. The highlight of the camp has to be the run we did on the penultimate day. The plan was to do a long run in Yosemite National Park. A couple of the guys were going to run in and then summit Half Dome. I wasn’t quite sure if I could handle that plan. Over the past few weeks, I had been managing a minor injury with my left foot. It had been getting better but a five plus hour run (with multiple summits) is a much different can of worms then an easy hour for recovery. On the day, the foot and I both felt great, so I jumped (cautiously) at the opportunity to summit one of the most significant hikes in the States.
The most popular route up to Half Dome starts in the Yosemite Valley and climbs a lot while wrapping around to the backside of the peak. Along the way, there are several sections where steps have been cut into the granite to create a stairway. However, based on the advice of a local mountaineering store we started our day on the other side of the National Park. In a way, we took the backdoor route. When we did eventually meet up with the main trail, we had run 12.5miles and had 2.5miles left to the summit. Of the Half Dome hike, two of the most famous sections come in the last two miles. First, the Sub-Dome, one of the steeper sections with steps chiselled into the rock. Winding its way up, ending at what is the signature part of the hike: a cable climb. From mid-June to mid-October two cables are strung up to help hikers (or at this point climbers) to get to the summit. As the name suggests, the peak is in the shape of half a dome. Meaning that the section where the cables begin is almost vertical and doesn’t level out until the final quarter of the climb. The smooth granite does allow for some traction (if you have good shoes) but you still need to pull yourself up using the cables.
I have to Thank Robin, Brian and Graham (our summiting party) for some tremendous support. I got up to the top on my own, but they were there to be my safety (second hand). I was super stoked to have been able to accomplish that climb, but the reassurance that the guys had my back made it all the better. It was a memorable adventure that I got to share with them. At times it can be a little stop and go on the cables. As everyone that summits can only go up and down along these cables. The cables are spaced quite close together so it can lead to some traffic jams (quite literally on the side of a mountain). For the most part, we made it up with minimal waiting or standing/waiting around.
The view from the top is a spectacular one, looking all around Yosemite National Park, down the Yosemite Valley and views of El Captain and much more. A landmark of the summit is the sheer cliff face to the front side of the peak or a ledge that juts out over the cliff face. After having some lunch, we headed back down. The descent down the cables was simpler in what you had to do but at times a little more challenging. We got held up a few times on the way down, and all you could do was hang on and hang out until the line started moving again. People further down were having some problems, and maybe some breakdowns too. The tough part was it was easier for me to hold the right side cable and shuffle down but every time I passed someone on their way up I had to switch back to the left cable. It was a bit of dance all the way down but Thanks again to the guys for their help, we made it. Then we charged back down the trail and returned down the way that most people come up. Passing by the Nevada and Vernal waterfalls as we wound our way down to Yosemite Valley. As astonishing as the scenery was, the total number of people on the trail as we neared the Valley was mind-blowing.
That hike was the crowning jewel of this year’s Mammoth training camp. The other days I had some incredible training opportunities, but Half Dome takes the cake for being the most memorable. I know I took a few huge steps in technique in both classic and skate. I’m excited to get onto snow (which isn’t that far away now) and be able to convert the technique into speed on snow. For the next few weeks, I will be in Canmore, hopefully enjoying the great Fall weather before our final training camp of the season. Quite soon after that, the racing season begins!


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