Half Dome Proposal
Carrying a big rock up a big rock
I got a text from Trevor one day at work with an invitation to hike Half Dome with him, his girlfriend, and a few other friends. Unfortunately, the weekend they had planned it, I already had an event and a wedding that I had to shoot. That only left Sunday to do the hike, but would be quite a feat after a full week of work and two additional 10 hour days. I had a huge desire to go as I had been denied getting a permit for the past three attempts that I made. Then Trevor told me that he was planning on Proposing. That did it, I was in.
The excitement continued to grow as the weeks went on and by the week of I was just ready to get down there. I spent the week planning and studying the homework that Trevor had sent us on the knots we needed for the cables. I built a platform in the back of my car to make it more “Homey” as we were only going to be sleeping for a few hours before the hike. As Friday came along, I had 3 bags packed full of camera gear and another 2 for gear and clothes for the weekend. My car was full and I was ready to go.
The first shoot went great, the second shoot went even better, and the minute it ended, I hit the road with a lead foot and headed for the Valley. Making a quick detour in Modesto, Molly and I left her car behind and continued on in the darkness making it to the park entrance just before 1 AM. We found a turn out just outside the park and went to bed. Trevor and friends were already camped near the trailhead and without cell service, we had to make sure were there at the designated meeting time. With timing, the anticipation for the hike, the nerves for the proposal, the second my alarm went off at 5 AM, I was in the front seat weaving down the windy roads. We made it to the trailhead just in time to get dressed, have a bit of breakfast, and meet up with the crew under the moonlight. We set out without even turning our headlamps on and enjoyed the light of the near-full moon.
If you haven’t hiked half dome, right from the get-go, you’re hiking uphill. A steep uphill. And in the dark, you really can’t tell how steep. The thoughts going through your head are continuously echoed by heavy breaths. Everyone begins to shed layers as we realize we could save our puffies and beanies for the summit. As the morning went on, the switchbacks seemed to get a bit easier which easily could have been from the number of times we stopped to watch the sun come out and turn the sky into a glowing pink and purple. Firing off a few photos gave for a quick catch of breath before moving on.
As the sun continued to rise higher in the sky, we continued onward and upward. We really seemed to be on a mission to make it to the top, like something big was gonna happen on the summit that we had to make it in time for. But who knew. We really picked a perfect weekend to be in Yosemite. So many leaves were still yellow from the transition to fall which produced so many ‘Ooh’s’ and ‘Ahh’s’ as we continued up the steep granite staircases. Our breaks were few and far between as we would quickly stop to shovel a Clif Bar or Protein Balls, that Casey had made for us, to get some quick nourishment on the way up. After refueling, we picked up our blazing pace and headed for the top. We only stopped a total of three times to make sure we made it to the top as fast as we could.
The final snack stop was just before the SubDome Staircase, which was one of the parts we had been dreading the most. With everyone else having been to the top of Half Dome before, Molly and I had only heard rumors of how steep and tall these steps were going to be. They certainly lived up to their expectations, but with the views all around you, the pain was quite enjoyable.
Finally the time had come. The cables were staring us right in the face. This was the part that I was looking forward to the most (besides the proposal, of course). We all gathered together to go over a few practice rounds of the knots and strategy we had for ascending the cable. Using an ascender knot called a Prusik Knot, we began the steep climb to the top. With the cables down, rangers remove the metal poles and wooden planks that keep them in position as hand rails during the season. With an ascender knot and a safety line tied into your climbing harness, this helps prevent you from having a serious accident if you were to fall from the face. Being tied in and taking our time to tie our knots made me feel safer than what I thought it would be like to climb with the cables up.
After about 20 minutes of climbing practically straight up, we made it to the summit! Hiking for three and a half hours had us all pretty famished, so first on everyone’s list was food. Lunch Time! Or so we thought. Trevor was adamant on the fact that 11 o’clock is too early for lunch. We HAD to explore the top before anyone could eat anything. What were we thinking. As everyone started to ‘explore the top’ Trevor pulled out a button down shirt and whisked Casey over to the point. I wandered off in the opposite direction to ‘take pictures of the valley’ from afar. As I got in position, I fired off a few test shots to get my composition set and as Casey and Trevor made it to the ledge. As I sat down in position, Trevor and I exchanged a nod. Showtime.
As Trevor got down on one knee, the audible came only from Casey. Words of disbelief and excitement were exclaimed as Trevor was barely able to get out her full name. At that point though, it didn’t matter. Casey quickly joined Trevor on a knee in a huge hug of agreement. SHE SAID YES. At that point, the only thing I could hear was my camera shutter firing off. I was shooting faster than my card could write and ended up taking a good 30-50 pictures of the minute long action. I had chills going through my spine for happy I was for the two of them and how epic of a location this was. The whole group joined them over near our gear and gave our cheers of congratulations. Trevor had even snuck up an entire bottle of champagne in his pack! The two popped the bottle and finally, we were able to sit down for lunch.
As the laughter and excitement continued, we stayed at the top and explored for a couple hours. Taking in the views of the valleys, some quick naps were had, and smiling about the big news that we all had witnessed. There really couldn’t have been a way to make it more perfect. Everyone had a smile on there face the whole time we were there. The trip was only halfway over though, we still had the long descent back to the cars. So after everyone was content, we began our descent. Back down the cables, down the SubDome Stairway, and down the long winding trail back to the trailhead. With smiles on our faces, we stopped for water once, but when we made it to the final mile, our entire group was sprinting down the steep concrete path that only hours we were questioning why we were breathing so heavily going upward.
I couldn't thank Trevor and Casey enough for letting us all be a part of such a momentous day. The photos that I’m sharing will always go down as some of my absolute favorites I have ever taken. How jam packed the weekend had been with the other events we had planned, seeing the nervous excitement in Trevor’s smile before he walked out on that ledge, and witnessing the start to the future of two incredible people made everything about the day worth it. A huge congrats goes out to these two and their families. Can’t wait to see all of your adventures continue from here on out!