In the Shadow of the Dome

In Onward on September 16, 2008 at 6:33 am

We stood gazing up at the sloping slab of granite.  The giant rose from the trees and rocks like a humpback whale breaching.  Halfdome. The icon of Yosemite Valley, appearing on mugs and thimbles and t-shirts.  It was something of an icon in our family.  A challenging journey our family had taken more than three times.  It was a common goal we rallied around finishing; failure of not summitting was the unspoken fear.

When I was a boy, my dad had carried me in a backpack carrier as far as their group could climb.  My grandfather retaliated against his heart problems by climbing the mountain at 73 years old.  It was mountain that exposed his heart problems.  On the trail a couple of years earlier, his slowness of breath, rolling eyes and drift of consciousness all pointed to his heart blockage.  Within two years of the surgery my grandpa would hike the same trail and summit the peak.  It was our family’s challenge.

And there it was again.  My brother and I, both newly weds, decided to run the mountain in a morning.  We had pushed through cramping to make it nearly to the top.  We had committed to our wives that we would hike for three hours and then turn back to meet them at Emerald Pool, a waterfall’s spilling bowl near the beginning of the hike.  Now we looked up at the dome realizing that we had reached our turn around time.  Continuing on would break our promise to our wives, risking being late.

But, there stood the giant, taunting us.  The Half Dome hike covers 8.5 miles each way, gaining an elevation of one mile.   There are two waterfalls to view, by hiking up stone stone steps in the mist.  Vernal falls and Nevada Falls make available several swimming pools including Emerald Pool.  As my brother and I hiked, we remembered stories of past hikes, talking about our marriages and careers.  Hiking back down past Nevada falls, I pointed off to a hill we had trail-blazed; “Remember when you cut my leg with that stick last time.”  Christian cracked a smile that suggested he wished he did not remember.  My own provocation and taunting was not far from my mind.  I had undoubtedly been agitating him.

Standing on quarter dome challenged my notion of my promises.  On the one hand, we had made a promise to our wives.  On the other hand, we were staring at a great adventure and accomplishment.  Could there be a way to accomplish both, I thought to myself.  Perhaps we could call our wives to negotiate a different meeting time?  But, there was dodgy cell phone coverage in the thin air.  The decision was ours.  I did not like my options.  Up until now, one thing I have done when I do not like my options is to simply not make a decision.  I let my promises become fuzzy in my own mind and even made them fuzzy for others.  This way, I did not have to deal with the discomfort of choosing something I do not like.

Christian and I looked down from Vernal Falls to see the ladies hiking up in the mist.  We had reached them just a couple of minutes before our meeting time.  I stood on the waterfall ledge as gusts of winds blew water upward into my face, soaking my steaty, dusty body.  After  a few minutes, our wives had reached the top with our mother.  We shed our socks and shoes and dipped our legs into Emerald pool.  We had built trust by keeping our promise.  Perhaps, we had accomplished more than bragging rights.

  1. Yes, you did accomplish more than bragging rights. This wife appreciated seeing her husband. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10. You are a trustworthy man and that means more to me than you conquering Half Dome. (Besides, now you’ll just have more reason to convince me to summit with you next time.) ; )

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