Stupid Half Dome Stunt

Half Dome 1972

Alex on Half Dome's Edge 1972

I happened to notice this photo the other day while working on something else. Click the image to see the linked full-size gallery image in a new window.

You see, this is the indelible image that still gives me “falling” nightmares about once a month. That’s me perched on the edge of oblivion out there on the “beak” of Half Dome.

The backpack trip was Glacier Point to Nevada Falls to Half Dome. The year was 1972. I would have been 28 at the time, acting half that age.

I just had to show I could push it a little further than my hiking companions. My bravely exaggerated pose looks like that of a show-off, which it was, but there’s more. I was braced against any sudden “boo” and joking push from behind. Of course, I wasn’t thinking about earthquake, rock-slide, sudden gusts or something as silly as vertigo. The vertigo with heights came later, mostly from thinking about that full mile’s elevation of fresh, clean air between me and the valley floor, and the vagaries of chance that make the difference between a solid perch and sudden death.

Not photographed: toes over the edge, I leaned forward so I could see the valley floor between my feet.

I’ve done lots of stupid things in my life, but this takes the cake.

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