View of Half Dome - Yosemite National Park CA
The Half Dome cables, originally installed in 1920 by the Sierra Club, were replaced and strengthened by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollees in 1934. These cables allow thousands of people each year to hike to the top of this famous peak.
The Half Dome trails runs from the valley floor to the top of Half Dome, over 8 miles (via the Mist Trail) with a 4,800-foot elevation gain. The final 400 feet are so steep that two steel cables, bolted to the rocks, are needed for handholds. Every Spring the cables are brought out from winter storage and raised onto metal poles (which do not anchor the cables).
Rebuilding the Half Dome cable trail was one of the outstanding achievements of the CCC recruits. In May 1934, they improved the stairway ascending the eastern face of Half Dome and replaced 430 feet of 1/8 inch cable with 1 inch galvanized iron cable, as well as replacing thirty-nine pipe posts with stronger 1-inch pipe.
Workers drilled forty-one holes averaging seven inches in depth by hand in the rock for the new pipe posts. Each man was tied with a piece of rope to the pipe posts while he was drilling to prevent slipping. New wooden steps were installed at the base of each pair of posts so that workers could rest at these points.
Although the weather had been perfect before work began, when enrollees set up a stub camp at the base of Half Dome and started the task, it suddenly changed. Every afternoon a storm blew in with rain, hail, or snow combined with high winds and work had to be discontinued. The stairway was eventually finished later that summer.
It is not known to us how many of the original bolts remain, given the wear and tear of winter weather on rock and metal. The cables and poles have surely been replaced over the years.
Project originally submitted by Andrew Laverdiere on May 17, 2010.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.
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