Dean M. Chriss
Half Dome Sunset, Yosemite National Park, California, Landscape Photograph

Tesa'ak (Teh-sa-ahk') at Sunset, Ahwahnee National Park, California

(Click image to enlarge)

Originally named Tesa'ak (Teh-sa-ahk') by the Ahwahneechee people, this enormous granite monolith was named Half Dome by the Mariposa Battalion led by Lafayette Bunnell, the first non-indigenous people to enter what was then Ahwahnee and is now Yosemite Valley. One side of Half Dome is a sheer vertical granite face while the other three sides are smooth and round, making it appear like a dome cut in half. The formation rises more than 4,737 feet (1,444 m) above the valley floor.

Half Dome was described as "perfectly inaccessible" as late as the 1870s by Josiah Whitney of the California Geological Survey. The summit was finally reached by George G. Anderson in October 1875 via a route constructed by drilling and placing iron eyebolts into the smooth granite surface. In 1919 a pair of cables was installed, allowing those who are not expert climbers to reach the top of Half Dome. Even with the cables, the route is rated a class 3 climb, but away from the cables it is class 5. The hike to Half Dome's summit runs from the valley floor to the top of the dome in 8.2 mi (13 km) with 4,800 feet (1,460 m) of elevation gain. The length and difficulty of the trail used to keep it less crowded than other trails, but in recent years as many as 800 people per day make the hike, which has required a permit since 2011. Like all of the most beautiful places in America, the experience of visiting Yosemite National Park was ruined years ago by the sheer number of visitors.

After a long visit in late May of 1993 I exited the Yosemite National Park around June 1st. I learned later the same day that Yosemite Valley was closed for the first time due to overcrowding. At the time there were still relatively uncrowded "shoulder seasons", but the situation has gotten unimaginably worse since then, making the experiences I had impossible today.