Nautilus

In the Flow on Half Dome

We reached Thank God Ledge on the Regular Northwest Face, of Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome climb, by mid-afternoon.

This 40-foot horizontal plank-like feature is the most famous part of the route: not for its physical difficulty, but for its stomach-churning exposure. When I reached it, the ledge looked undeserving of all the hype. All I had to do, it seemed, was walk right across it. No big deal.

The edge of fear: My climbing partner, Alaina, crossing Thank God Ledge, a part of Yosemite’s Half Dome climb.Courtesy of the author

The first few steps were, indeed, very easy. But then the ledge narrowed, and the slab of rock against my right side bulged out, seemingly pushing me out into the abyss. Scaredy-cat that I am, I quickly found myself on my knees, and I began to crawl.

Then the ledge narrowed even more. Soon, only my right knee would fully fit on top of the ledge; my left knee precariously dangled half on the rock, and half over the empty air below. My vision narrowed, my body grew hot, my mind became fuzzy and unable to focus. I fell into a full-on panic.

“I can’t do it, Alaina!” I called out to my climbing partner.

“Yes, you can!” she immediately shouted back, in a tone closer to an order than a note of encouragement. Suddenly my whole being seemed to exist for the sole purpose of getting

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