Without some research one would not know that Yosemite National Park has two diving boards. One diving board is located at the top of Half Dome and the second located just below Half Dome on the lower west side.
I will introduce you to the diving board located below Half Dome on the west side.
With my two hiking buddies, Clem Bingham and Fred Cochran, we departed from Oakhurst at 5:30 a.m. on a recent fall day and arrived at the Happy Isle parking area in Yosemite and proceeded to the trailhead at 7 a.,m.
The October morning was a brisk 46 degrees which was ideal for the elevation gain. I was thinking that soon the freezing temperatures of fall will be upon us and those oak and dogwood trees will be displaying their multiple colors of yellow, orange, brown and light green.
As our trail increased in elevation it crossed the Merced River and continued up the stairway of the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall.
Next we crossed another bridge before starting our next series of stone steps to the top of Nevada Fall.
At the junction we hiked east to Little Yosemite Valley. This smaller valley would be ideal to set up a base camp (if needed) before completing our adventure or climbing to Half Dome. Of course one will need a permit to stay over-night at this location.
Half way through the valley on the left we located the slightly used trail that will lead us to a plateau and down into the valley between Liberty Cap Mountain and Mount Broderick. Lost Lake is located along the trail at the end of this heavily tree covered valley.
This year Lost Lake is without water because of our hot dry season. Just keep following this trail until it starts to drop in elevation and now we'll start our cross-country route.
Looking north we see the huge granite surface of Half Dome and our destination will be the ridge on its west side.
There are a few markers (ducks) to help negotiate through the thick manzanita bushes and huge boulders. All the class three obstacles are easily negotiated. One 12 foot slot will take a little caution, but difficulty was minimal.
We continued climbing in elevation following the abandoned trail that helped lead us to the saddle before our final climb to the diving board.
Directly in front of us was a choice -- Do we follow the granite ridge line to the base of Half Dome or climb up through the slot that leads to our destination? We decided against the granite ridge because of its steep slope. The slot proved to be the wise choice and we arrived at the diving board before one o'clock.
For the history buffs, Ansel Adams took his famous photo "The Monolith" from this location in April 1927. His group hiked and climbed through the snow to capture the spectacular view.
Once we reached our objective we peered over the edge. The north face cantilevered back 30 feet under us then dropped 1,400 feet to the valley floor. To our right directly under Half Dome, I could see the area where part of Half Dome slid into the valley a few years ago.
On our return we discovered the east side of the plateau has an easier route to descend to the saddle below. This route will also make any future climb much easier approaching the diving board.
Next to follow the old markers to locate the almost invisible forgotten trail that should take us to the saddle between Liberty Cap Mountain and Mount Broderick.
As we were hiking down to the saddle we heard voices. Looking up at Half Dome clinging to the side of that giant hunk of granite were five mountain climbers. Interesting to see how brave people can be clinging to life on the side of a mountain.
Before they disappeared from view we counted a total of eight climbers in this group attempting the summit. Finally we arrived at the saddle and now to pick up the trail to lead us back to Little Yosemite Valley.
We did have a little excitement following this Lost Lake Trail. An ancient dead pine tree at least 80 feet tall shed one of its huge branches less than a minute after we had crossed beneath its canapé. Sure glad we had a fast hiking pace today. Nickname for this type of fallen branch activity is called a "widow maker."
Total trail hiking time on Oct. 27 -- 11 hours and 20 minutes (dark to dark). Elevation at Happy Isle is 4,000 feet and the diving board's elevation is 7,475 feet. This adventure is primarily for the seasoned hiker.
Do not attempt a solo hike. Always take someone with you that is experienced in cross-country trekking.
See you on the trail.