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Half Dome with 2.5 kids, 10/8/17

By Jim Herson

Honestly, if it weren't for Annie's outrageous three layer chocolate mousse surprise birthday cake in 12 days, 6 hours, I might not handle moving within rounding error of Roth IRA withdrawal age with such grace.

The three kids on Half Dome left me teetering on the edge. Not because the three were goofball boulderers, although that certainly pushed me to the brink. But rather, when the combined age of your three wall partners is notably less than yours, it tends to trigger self reflection. Actually, morbid introspection. So when Connor excitedly asked to climb Half Dome with his little crusher buddy Hobbs, I had to dig deep. I wishfully thought that maybe with a Half Dome playdate for Connor and three friends, the combined partner age thing wouldn't be such a body blow. Until I did the math. Even if I concocted the rope shenanigans to take four little rockers up Half Dome, their combined age would still not be more than mine! Ouch. I was down for the count. Maybe it was time to just get a tummy tuck and Botox my eyes into a permanent horror movie fright and call it good? Fortunately, Hobb's dad, Mike, steeped up to the plate offering to join us and defused my climbing partner combined age existential angst. For now.

Of course, Hobbs' dad does come with his own substantial set of challenges. He's not a boulderer, thank goodness. But he is a mountaineer! Even worse, he's one of those freak of nature endurance runners you were warned to stay well away from. Like running up Mt Rainier in four hours! Or running the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim with psychotic glee. Which would all be fine if he didn't enthusiastically share his need to suffer. He just took three non-climbing buddies up a ridge traverse with no option of retreat. Realizing that his non-climbing buddies couldn't negotiate easy 4th class terrain without a rope and that they were going to be benighted for sure, he jettisoned his pack stuffed with $800 worth of bivy gear. I'm not saying Rob or Eric couldn't and wouldn't have done the same had they thought of it. But Mike's unforced, bitter cold open bivy with three newbies is the new gold standard! I am in no way belittling Rob's misplaced velcro climbing shoe on his back, nor Eric's 21 hour Royal Arches, but Mike has bumped it up a few notches. Mike's a natural. In his whipped, post Half Dome haze, he effortlessly defeated a trillion dollars of post 9/11 TSA security software to check his bags to the wrong city, onto a plane that he wasn't on??? How is that even possible? Undoubtedly, Rob and Eric will now be inspired to also get themselves on every NSA terrorist watch list.

So while I'm truly grateful for Mike tipping the age balance, making sure Mike behaved would be more like climbing Half Dome with two and a half kids.

This was to be Hobbs' longest day by an order of magnitude. I wasn't worried. Hobbs is a crusher. The climbing on Half Dome wouldn't be a problem. Half Dome requires all day endurance and Hobbs has a frightening set of endurance genes. Astonishingly, it is Hobbs' mom, Serena, who is the running nut in the family. Like Olympic Trials Marathon burliness! As Hobbs once told us, "My mom has to work. Otherwise she'll just run too far."

Unfortunately, due to work we arrived in the Valley late and sleepless. The kids, sensing my vulnerability, offered me a nap at the base of Midnight Lightning. I was so sleep deprived that I agreed without realizing that they were bouldering in the Valley! Blasphemy!!! We ran into the bouldering legend John Sherman, the Verm, at Midnight Lightning.

Verm is the inventor of the bouldering V scale and the guy who set off the bouldering revolution. They were filming the hilarious Old Man Lightning. A film about Verm's epic two year comeback to lose a hard earned beer bulge and revive his broken, worn out body in order to send Midnight Lightning. That they were making a film about the really old guy desperately trying to regain his long lost climbing youth where the really ancient decrepit guy is my age, did not help my mood. Fortunately, just the thought of Annie's upcoming surprise birthday cake snapped me out of my funk!

Hobbs, within a handful of tries, got to the lightning bolt. That Hobbs couldn't be bothered to lace his shoes for this internationally renowned classic did not escape the not soft spoken Verm! Verm lit into Hobbs on proper shoe management. Hobbs will be lacing his shoes from now on. The kids were even interviewed for the movie. The best quote we overheard was:

Interviewer: "Do you know who he is?"

Hobbs: "No, but they named the V scale after him."

The Death Slabs slog for the 2.5 kids wasn't an issue. And unlike the whacked bouldering meatballs I took up the route in spring, these kids at least noticed the sheer, magnificent Northwest face of Half Dome!

And then it was just 22 pitches of gorgeous granite and smiles!

For Hobbs' school yoga class, he needed a shot of a yoga pose for an excused absence. What better spot for a yoga pose than Big Sandy!

We moved fast enough for a party of four. But we got a late start and got hung up behind a party and with the shorter days we ran out of daylight. The kids had to crawl Thank God Ledge in the dark which was a shame. Walking, or at least trying to walk, TGL is always a highlight.

Through raw determination, Mike managed to behave himself on route. He must have been saving his game for his inexplicable baggage check-in on the return flight?

Introduced the next generation to the joys of off-widths!

After dark, our pace slowed to a crawl. We topped out way too late to enjoy the magnificent view, which is kind of the point of climbing Half Dome. But the summit was glorious nevertheless!

The kids soldiered on through the night hiking the interminable Half Dome trail for an awesome, albeit long, day! Super proud of all 2.5 boys! Congratulations Hobbs and Mike on your first Big Wall: Half Dome, jumarless, car-to-car, in a huge 22 hour day! And I only had to remind Hobbs to tie his shoes twice.


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