By Dawn's Early LightFirst light bathes the back (east) face of Half Dome while the hikers break camp in The Ahwahnee (rough life!) and Backpacker's Camp respect- ively and prepare to set out.This view of the northwest face is from Cook's Meadow.Our summit objective lies at 8842' above sea level and some 4800' above the valley floor. Ready to Go"Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out!" With bears all through the park "bulking-up" for the winter, these juicy hikers had better sleep with one eye open!Photo (and sardonic caption) by MTC. With bears all through the park "bulking-up" for the winter, these juicy hikers had better sleep with one eye open!Photo (and sardonic caption) by MTC.Move 'Em Out!" SummitSummit "BECAUSE IT'S THERE!!"The "Yosemite October 2009 Half-Baked Half Dome Expeditionary Force" achieves its objective. Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009.L-R: Bill Yingst, John Somerville, Phil Bugay, Chuck Cagara. John Summit4800' Straight Down! Phil Summit4800' Straight Down! Chuck Summit4800' Straight Down!Photo by John Somerville "Where's the Trail!?"Phil soldiers on toward the grueling, dangerous switchbacks that take hikers over the Sub Dome and down into the "saddle" to the cables.Note that the "trail" virtually disappears in the middle of the photo requiring hikers to navigate often steep, slippery granite.A waning gibbous moon is setting in the scene at the 1 o'clock position. "We Still Have To Get Over That!!?"Say it ain't so. We must still get up, around and over the daunting Sub Dome (hikers also popularly call this formation Quarter Dome) to reach the cables.By many accounts the steep, narrow switchbacks ahead represent the most difficult portion of the entire hike. A chance misstep will almost certainly guarantee a fatal fall.Contrary to my expectations the navigation of Sub Dome engendered genuine fear in me when I had expected the cables to fulfill that role. When I got to the cables I felt no trepidation at all because "all of my fear had been used up at the Sub Dome switchbacks." We Were Here!Looking up at 'The Visor,' I continually think, "Wow - we hiked from here to there and back again, mostly beneath 50-pound backpacks. Let's go again!"View from Cook's Meadow just after sunrise. First Cable ViewThe cables come into view for the first time, but the formidable, daunting Sub Dome (hidden from our view here) still stands between us and them! At the Base of Vernal FallJohn refreshes himself at the base of the seasonally-diminished Vernal Fall, just before dropping his sunglasses down the rock upon which he is standing. They were recovered with Bill Yingst's help in dangling him by the ankles. The Three Stooges would have been proud!Photo by Bill Yingst Well Dressed HikersLooking like an ad from GQ, nattily attired Bill and Phil take a short break while waiting for straggler Chuck (seen down the trail to the left of Bill's red pack.) "Ranger Rick" would be delighted to catch a glimpse of these two.Photo by John Somerville "Big Wall Climbers"Yosemite is known as the "Home of the Big Wall Climbers" - those intrepid, fearless souls, like Royal Robbins and YvonChouinard (Patagonia founder) to name but two, who have stretched the boundaries and made death-defying attacks upon Yosemite's biggest and most dangerous rock faces such as 'El Capitan' whose sheer granite face rises some 3500+ vertical feet above the valley floor.On any given day visitors can catch a glimpse of any number of skilled big wall rock climbers defying gravity and pressing on "because it's there!"Press on yourself to the next group of photos to see these climbers. El Capitan ClimbersClimbers #1 & #2 Climber #3 Climber #4 Why Is This Man Smiling?Chuck rests at the beginning of the Vernal Fall staircase, comprising some 700+ granite steps of varying height and depth.He's smiling because John told him the worst part of the hike was over. Wrong!Photo by John Somerville Are We There Yet?Phil Bugay looks back at one section of the Vernal Fall staircase he just climbed and wonders, "How many more?"Photo by John Somerville Stairway to HeavenThe final push up the narrow stair trail to the top of Vernal Fall.Trail origins date back to the late 1800s, with most modern improve- ments made by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the depression of the 1930s.Let's hope those railings hold!Photo by John Somerville Rest at Vernal FallJohn reclines at his ease and phones home from the broad summit at Vernal Fall.