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Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

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Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

We have a Yosemite trip planned for July and it will include a 5-day hike from TM to the Valley. My son, who will be 11 at the time, will be with me. I had planned to hike Half Dome during the hike -- it would fall on a Thursday.

I just did a solo trip to Zion and hiked Angel's Landing and it's made me question whether I should let my son do Half Dome. I don't have a fear of heights and I'm usually very confident in my son's hiking/athletic abilities but, wow, I think some of the parts on Angel's Landing would have scared me to death if he'd been with me.

I'm thinking some of you will have hiked both Angel's Landing at Zion and Half Dome -- how do you think they compare in terms of risk, fear factor, etc.?

Oceanside...
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1. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

My wife and I have done both Half Dome and Angels Landing and for my wife she felt Angels Landing was much scarier. As I'm sure you'll recall, there are portions of the Angels Landing trail that are right on the edge and one slip and you fall a long way. On the way to Half Dome, there really aren't any sections quite that bad, although they are still close to an edge and if you really tried you could fall. I think the worst section is going up the cables....that's the point where we saw a number of people stop. Anyway, my wife had no issues with the hike to Half Dome and would do it again, but would probably not do Angels Landing again.

The area at the top of Angels Landing is not very big and the top of Half Dome is huge (supposedly the size of 2 football fields, or something like that). I guess my thinking in taking your son is how well he will be able to get up the cables. My wife is 5-2 and my daughter is 5-0 and they both managed just fine.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
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2. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

BeJerky, thanks for your feedback -- it was very reassuring.

I think he'll be fine with the actual hiking/climbing/cables part. I'm aware of the weather warnings and we'll be prepared with gloves and all that. He's not easily scared or intimidated and neither am I but, I have to admit, seeing younger kids on Angel's Landing gave me pause (though, in reality, I'm sure they were all fine.)

Seattle
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3. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

I've happily done Half Dome, but could not do Angel's Landing---too exposed.

I would think the risk of slipping on loose rock, etc. is greater on Angel's Landing. The cable section of Half Dome, assuming it is dry, offers good footing, even between the crossbars, and you have the cable to hold at all times. And it doesn't "feel" exposed---there is a broad expanse of rock on both sides of you. Only if you look down do you feel the height.

The biggest problem on Half Dome is all the other people. Sometimes someone will freeze with fright, and then people have to wait or try to get around them--which causes risk for everyone.

You can always wait at the bottom of the cables and watch for awhile before starting up; see how your son feels about it. You can also easilty turn around and go back down at any point.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
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4. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

>> You can always wait at the bottom of the cables and watch for awhile before starting up; see how your son feels about it. <<

Well, I know that if we get that far, he won't be the one who backs down.... which is why I wanted to make the decision ahead of time. I figured if it wasn't going to be safe, we could make our way to Cloud's Rest instead. I know that we wouldn't be sorry and Cloud's Rest would probably be a better hike anyway but, in the end, I think Half Dome is something we'd like to do, just to do it.

By the way, there were traffic jams on Angel's Landing, too. There are sections where it's impossible to pass so people going up/down have to wait and take turns... and, of course, some people seemed completely oblivious to basic trail etiquette.

Seattle
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5. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

OK, speaking as a mom now. . . I would be much happier doing Cloud's Rest---which is a great hike with a fun but safe little scramble at the end---, than taking my son to Half Dome and worrying the whole time we were on the cables.

Phoenix, Arizona
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6. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

The traffic jam at Angel's Landing drove me crazy. At least half of my hike was waiting for the people in front of me. I actually carried my one-year-old up to the ridge at AL in a kid backpack, but left her with my wife while I finished the remainder.

I have not yet done Half Dome, but really want to....I can't see myself taking my kids though until they're 14+ though. I'd be worrying too much about that last stretch to enjoy the hike!

Edited: 11:11 pm, May 17, 2010
Ann Arbor, Michigan
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7. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

I guess my advantage is that my son and I've done a lot of hikes together in all sorts of terrain. He's a good hiker -- good instincts, both physically and mentally; he's careful and he listens. To be honest, I'd worry a lot more about my husband (who isn't going to do HD with us, btw.)

That said, I felt that Angel's Landing would be about the limit of what I would be comfortable having him do. Now that I've done it once, I might take him the next time since I know what to expect. But taking him that first time would have scared me.

One of the hiking websites recommends clipping in kids (to the cables) and I may consider that. My son is light enough that a basic line would hold him if he somehow slipped under the cable. I think I'll also outfit him with some approach/climbing style shoes. I hiked with a pair of La Sportivas in Zion and it was a great combination of trail + rock (sticky soles) shoes; did well even on wet rock.

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8. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

If you decide to do that, you should get one of the harnesses with 2 carabiners attached that is designed for the purpose---the kind used for a via ferrata in Europe. He'll have to clip and unclip to go around each pole that holds the cable, and with 2 'biners he is still attached at all times.

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9. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

Hello.... I have been to both Angels Landing at Zion and Half Dome with my son, who was exactly 11 years old when we did the HD hike together. His stamina was good for Half Dome by then and he had no trouble on the long way up (I slowed HIM down a bit, I'm afraid), but at that age, he could not pull himself up the cables up the last ascent. He simply lacked the upper body strength. There was nothing I could do to help him - it was too steep for me to pull (or push!) him along - and we would have been really delaying people behind us. So he sat at the base of the cables and waited for me, as I quickly scurried up.... and promptly flew back down, so he only had to wait a short time. It was a pretty emotional thing for him, to make it that far and then not be able to make it to the very top - in fact, he burst out crying, which is something I hadn't seen him do for quite a while. I am just telling you this story so that you are aware that many kids that age just simply lack the arm strength to pull themselves up the cables - doesn't matter too much what their cardiovascular conditioning is. A year later, he began to lift weights and I believe it was a direct response to his emotional day at Yosemite.

A year later, we were at Zion. I had done Angels Landing a couple times before, so knew it was a hike where you had to be very careful. He, at 12 years old, thought it was fairly easy and at the end, wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I think Angels Landing is much easier simply because it is only a few hours, whereas Half Dome is more like a 9-10 hour experience, at least.

Happy hiking!

Mike

Oceanside...
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10. Re: Comparing Half Dome to Angel's Landing (Zion)?

Having the arm strength to make it up the cables depends on your son I suppose. Neither my wife nor my daughter felt they had the arm/upper body strength to make it up the cables, but both managed just fine. BTW, my daughter weighed about 95 lbs back then.

Regarding the harness setup, I don't think you'd need it and I also think it would be a hassle since the cable goes through the poles so you'd have to unhook the harness each time you came to a pole.

Definitely get some good shoes. I don't know about climbing shoes since we had just your basic hiking boots which worked great, but saw a number of people attempting it with athletic shoes and they were slipping.

If you do it, get an early start. We did and avoided the traffic jam that occurs on the cables. When we did Angels Landing we also got an early start and avoided any traffic jams (definitely a lot of people going up when we were coming back down).