There’s a big difference between aspiring to do something and actually doing it. Rick Deutsch is quite familiar with that difference. So much in fact, he doesn’t shy away from putting people on the spot with an in-your-face, seize-the-day attitude.
That sheer determination is what helped him hike the legendary Half Dome at Yosemite National Park not just once or twice. Oh no. People wait their entire lives to climb the granite rock formation. And Deutsch has made that taxing, treacherous journey up and down 28 times.
Mr. Half Dome Rick Deutsch
It was 1990 when Deutsch made his first hike up the Half Dome. Now almost two decades later, he recalls that hike as the initial push to motivate his future pursuits—and to help others achieve their lifetime goals. Part-time adventurer, full-time motivational speaker. Deutsch has written two books about his Half Dome experiences and gives more than 40 lectures a year on how to make it to the top.
What are some pointers for first time Half Dome hikers?
Before you go, I suggest buying my book because it’s the only hiking guide for the Half Dome. Anyone can do the hike physically with three things:
- Education- Learn what you are getting into. You’ve got to understand water treatment. Your boots are a big part of it. That’s one of my big three — water, hiking boots and hiking poles. You’ve got to learn about weather … if there’s any sign of bad weather, you get your butt in the other direction. You don’t go up when it looks like rain. 2 died on top after being struck by lightning in1985.
- Preparation- You’ve got to get your lower muscles in shape because it’s a very long day with that vertical assent. It just knocks you out. And going up the cable system? Its 400 vertical feet at a 45 degree angle. That’s really steep and scary. You’re doing that for 600 feet along the cable system. Get your body in shape, not only your lower body, but your upper body, too. Although you want to use your legs, you will have to use your upper body to pull yourself up the cable. There are techniques to go up and down. The stairmaster is great for strengthening your uphill muscles, but it does nothing for the downhill. Downhill is a killer on that hike. The problem is, you don’t go down faster than you go up because you are on a granite wilderness trail. A big factor is your knees. Young people don’t realize that the knees are where most of the stopping takes place. When you are going downhill, that force is transmitted right to your knees. I highly recommend hiking poles when coming down. Without them, your knees are really going to take a beating.
- Motivation – Don’t do it because Rick Deutsch says you should do it. Do it because you really want to do it. Don’t do it because your friends are going. People who are adverse to altitudes and heights—don’t do it. I get Google alerts for any mention of Yosemite or Half Dome and I see it on folks bucket lists. No. 11 – Go to Rome. No. 12 – Hike Half Dome.
Thousands of hikers a year use Half Dome's cable system to ascend the granite rock formation.
You mentioned Vasque Breeze is your favorite. What makes this boot special?
You’ve got to have proper fitting boots. When you go downhill, you’ve got to have room in your toe box. Because if you are coming down and the toes are hitting the end of your boots from the steepness, your toenails can turn black, and they might even fall off. It’s a miserable day.
Boots feel great when you are trying them out in the store. But you need to get on an incline board and make sure they fit properly. Blisters are caused by heat, friction and moisture. What I recommend is a product called Body Glide to lubricate your feet with. Put that on first. And then a thin, liner sock then a mid-weight sock. That will prevent blisters and make life more pleasant.
I’ve been through many boots, and they are great for the first five or six months. What I found was one thing that I don’t like are boots with grommets for laces. Somehow I can feel it over time. They irritate my upper foot. Another pair that I had was flexing in the wrong place. My left foot is a little smaller and when I was walking, the boot would flex a little higher than it should instead of flexing at the metatarsal. It was actually hitting the tendon on my big toe. I did a pretty massive hike downhill. The toe started hurting like mad. I toughed it out, and I kept walking and walking. I got tendentious and needed cortisone shots when I got home.
I got into these Vasque Breeze probably three years ago, and they were just great. They are very lightweight. I mean, the Breeze name means something. They are Gore-Tex, they fit great, no break-in—you just put them on and go. In fact, I did a trip to Yosemite, and camped there. When I got home, I unloaded all my stuff, and I did not have my boots in there. I had somehow left them up there. I went and bought another pair the next day. They were $140 boots, but to me they were worth it. They have just worked out so well for me, when people ask for recommendations, I will say Vasque Breeze.
The sunrise shadow of Half Dome taken from the top.
For the full article by Janette Kozlowski go to www.hikingboots.com or click here. Visit Mr. Half Dome on FaceBook. Images via Mr. Half Dome’s FB fan page.