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Hiking Yosemite's Half Dome: My Journey to Loving the Outdoors

Three deer make a religious pilgrimage to Half Dome in the Yosemite Valley. The majestic cliff is stained a deep orange-red from the sun setting overhead

Half Dome: Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Hiten Patel


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Today, I can’t imagine my life without the beauty of the outdoors. In fact, I am absolutely passionate about hiking, camping, and backpacking. I often find myself daydreaming about future hiking adventures, and all of the incredible trails I have yet to explore.

But that wasn’t always the case. Although I grew up in Northern California, surrounded by majestic redwood forests, I was (unfortunately) apathetic to the fact that I had access to some of the country’s best hiking trails right in my backyard.

Guest blogger Ashima smiles for the camera wearing a white parka in front of a beautiful body of water

It was only until I was invited to a last minute trip to hike up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park when that all changed…

Let me set the scene here — I had just graduated from college, and was working my first job as an engineer in a fairly remote area in Central California. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was just a few hours away from some of the most incredible alpine landscapes and trails: the Sierra Nevada. While that didn’t appeal to me at that time, I started meeting people who were “Weekend Warriors”: they’d pack up their car on Fridays at 4pm, drive out to Yosemite or Sequoia National Park or a remote Eastern Sierra campsite, hike and climb all weekend long and get back home by Sunday night.

I started looking forward to Mondays, when I could hear more about their adventures in the wilderness. I soon found myself wanting to join these adventures. There was a sense of freedom, adventure, and lightheartedness that I wanted to experience.

It was a beautiful coincidence that one of my friends had an extra spot on his Half Dome permit, texted me to see if I wanted to come, and within seconds I responded with a firm “I’M IN.”

That simple text set off what would be an incredible journey of exploration, and eventual obsession, with the outdoors.

But let’s not sugarcoat what I was actually feeling at the time  — I was terrified. To be quite frank, I was fairly unfit at the time, and I had never signed myself up for a hike as grueling as Half Dome.

The sun beats through the haze on to Half Dome in the distance. In the foreground lies a rock shaped suspiciously like a reclining walrus

Half Dome: Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Jimmy Fields

If you’re not familiar with the hike up to Half Dome, it’s quite the slog - 16 miles and 4,800 feet of elevation to get to the top. Oh, and you also have to ascend the last 400 feet on an incredibly steep and slippery granite rock face with nothing but two cables and rickety wooden planks to assist you.

Action shot of the final ascent of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Climbers use ropes and wood planks to climb up the last 400 feet or so of the grueling hike

Half Dome: Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Jimmy Fields

While that would have been a cause for concern (and anxiety) a year earlier, now the prospect of a new adventure and even more enticing accomplishment was intoxicating. All I could envision was myself, triumphant on the summit of Half Dome, living up to my namesake: limitless.

It was mid-July when we arrived in Yosemite Valley for the night. As we hunted for our cabin in the darkness of night, my senses were overloaded: the air was entirely saturated with pine, and an infinite number of stars were piercing through the dark blanket of the night sky.

The next day was nothing short of incredible. Half Dome was not even in sight when we began the first of 16 miles, but 6 long hours of hiking later, I found myself at the summit, overlooking waves and domes of granite. Sure, I was huffing and puffing throughout the hike, but I never once thought of quitting. During the entire hike, I simultaneously felt carefree and obsessive — I experienced the addictive taste of accomplishment, and I already wanted more.

Half Dome: Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Ravi Dhanjee

This trip truly was the catalyst to kickstart my passion for challenging myself by exploring the outdoors. I attribute most of my personal growth over the years to my outdoor adventures. I used to shy away from new experiences that pushed me out of my comfort zone, but now I embrace the feeling of being uncomfortable. That Half Dome trip unlocked an endless source of fulfillment, joy and grit that has impacted my life in tremendously positive aspects.

Now, on to the next adventure…

Half Dome: Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue


Guest Blogger Ashima Sharma is an avid outdoorswoman, engineer, and the founder of Dreami. She is on a mission to make mentorship accessible for all women.


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