October 29, 2001

Cross Country Climbs to the Top

Oct. 29, 2001

by Andrea Gastelum, staff writer
The Santa Clara

Begin mile one. They trekked up the hill. The incline got steeper. Clouds covered the sky but the sun peered through just enough to make the girls break a sweat. The Santa Clara women's cross-country team was about to hike up the infamous Yosemite Half Dome trail.

In her khaki shorts, navy blue tank top, Asics running shoes and Adidas khaki visor, a girl walked steadily up the dirt path. The trail seemed relentless, growing steeper and steeper. She wiped the sweat from her brow, and her heart began to beat faster and faster. She knew that she and the team were only at the beginning of their great adventure, yet 20 minutes of strictly uphill climbing was enough to get her blood flowing and heart rate going.

Looking around she noticed the enormous flat rock with vertical black and tan stripes. The plush green bushes with petite-blossomed flowers were within reach. The tall pine trees stretched into the sky. The thick roots grew in every direction and extended across the trail. Taking note of the scenery made the girls want to go further to see what more Mother Nature had in store.

Begin mile two. Increasing uphill. Large gray rocks naturally formed the trail. Tall green trees surrounding, and the smell of vanilla drifted through the air. The switchbacks were unrelenting and climbed higher and higher. Some girls were running up the hill unaware how much farther the hike would take them. One girl stopped after completing five long switchbacks, put her hands on her hips and looked around breathing heavily. She saw treetops and birds soaring through the gray bluish sky.

Begin mile three. Still more uphill. The switchbacks were not done yet. Girls were deep in conversation although their breathing was heavy. A blonde blue-eyed girl said to her friend, "So what are your plans for the summer?" She responds, "Living with my sister. She is expecting a baby any day now, it could even be born today, on my birthday! I want to live with her so I can spend time with my niece Olivia and help my sister with the new one." The conversation seemed to make time go by faster, but they still had over five miles to go.

Begin mile four. Finally, the trail leveled off. The girl in khaki shorts looked ahead and could see that the trail was wet and muddy. Thick drops of water dripped down off their sticky skin. The girls continued walking, but the pace sped up and there was more chit-chat.

Begin mile five. Only a few trees were in sight, but in place were small green bushes and dry sagebrush. They approached a wide river rushing by so fast there were white caps. A hefty wooden bridge was built across the river and as the girls walked across, they decided to stop and take a picture.

The shot was perfect, with the group of girls directly in the center, the large gray rocks on both sides of the river, the white water rushing behind them, and the sharply cut rocky mountains up above. Soon after the bridge, they came to a plush green meadow. One of the girls spotted a deer that looked like Bambi. "Bambi" looked up with its dark black eyes and hopped away from the girls.

Begin mile six. The trail once again began to go uphill. The switchbacks started, but this time they were longer although just as steep. The girl in khaki shorts had to take quicker breaths to get enough air. The air seemed to be thinner for her as if she were sucking it in though a compressed straw. The clouds were blocking the sun, but the air was warm. Sweat began to form and soak through the girl's dark blue tank top. She took off her visor and wiped off the sweat from her forehead. Noting that her friend was struggling too, she offered to take the backpack from her.

Begin mile seven. The slope steadily increased, but the girls kept trekking. The switchbacks stopped. One of the girls said to the group, "We should be there pretty soon, it can't be much farther." About five minutes later, the girls saw a small metal sign with the words "HALF DOME 1.4 MILES - punched out.

Begin mile eight. The last mile seemed never-ending. No more trees were in sight, only large rock formations and gravel. The girl in khaki shorts turned over her water bottle and watched a single drop fall to the ground. She looked to see if any of her friends had water in their bottles. With each step up the incredibly steep rocky hill, she had to push off her knee.

The actual "Half Dome" was now visible. The cable ropes were flush against virtually vertical rock formations. Three girls decided to go all the way. They latched themselves onto the cables and began pulling themselves up foot by foot. The girl in khaki shorts felt a burning sensation in her arm muscles. She had to stop and take a break once she got half way. There was no tuning back. The top was visible now, and they continued to scale the rock as a group. There it was, what seemed to be the top of the world!

A girl swung her hand on the flat surface, pushed her body up, placed her foot on the ground, and stood up. Her legs were shaking, her hands were raw, but she could not hold back the huge smile as she looked around and saw nothing but the sky.