Sunday, January 22, 2012

Half Dome-Guest Contributor

This post is by a guest contributor, my own mother, Stacey Thacker. I asked her to write about this experience because I knew that there were details in it that I was interested in exploring myself-no, one of them is NOT to take this hike or any others.

It was on my Bucket List to climb Half Dome. About a decade ago, Karen and I hiked to the top of the falls on the Mist Trail and discovered that the trail head for Half Dome started there. Since then, she and I have talked about hiking it. As I have aged (53 now) I realized I would need to make the hike in two rather than one day. (As it was it took me three). And as I had no experience backpacking, I would also need someone to come who did. That's how it started that Jordan, Hank and I backpacked and climbed Half Dome on July 9, 2009. Karen had hoped to go but had to work. It was hard to go without her but I knew if I didn't do it now, I would run the risk of not doing it ever. Hank estimated about 1 in 50 people on the hike were near my age... I think there is a reason for that!

I can't begin to express what an awesome experience this was for me. In part because it was on my Bucket List (things to do before I die) and in a larger part because of the unique experience of having this adventure with my two new sons-in-law. I had loved them already but this hike brought into a very clear focus why it is that my daughters love them and chose them for husbands and fathers of their future families.

It seemed that their whole focus was on my being successful at this climb. We planned for weeks. I trained for several months in preparation and was so glad that I did. Hank went up the night before to get in line for the wilderness permit. I rented my equipment from REI and we bought food. Jordan and I rode with Hank driving up to Yosemite National Park and began our backpacking experience at Glacier Point and the Panorama Trail. It was amazingly beautiful.

That night we camped at Little Yosemite Wilderness area. I really enjoyed the company of these two remarkable men who helped to keep me motivated and spirited with stories, jokes and puns. We slept in a tent and the next morning after breakfast started the ascent to Half Dome.

We saw a bear outside our camp with her baby. They were beautiful and I strangely felt no fear. As we began our hike, I started to worry about what was ahead. I was reminded of the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." I immediately argued with the Spirit that this scripture is about missionary work and not about my wanting to hike to the top of Half Dome. But I was gently reminded that I am important to Heavenly Father and this was important to me, thereby making it important to Him.

I had been warned about the emotional response many experience when they first see the cables. They give the illusion of being straight up, although it is not much of an illusion. They are much longer than I had anticipated. I sat down and began a dialogue with the guys that went something like this, in a very calm voice. "I am rethinking this. Perhaps I will take this off my Bucket List. I have seen some amazing views over the past two days, I can't imagine I will see anything more spectacular. I am 53 and this is not looking like a good idea". Jordan took on Karen's role of pep talk and Hank patiently waited, knowing I was working through something.

Then two men appeared, neither of whom I knew. The taller one, calling me by name, said "Stacey, you are already physically fit enough to make this climb. The only thing left to conquer now is your fear." I turned to Hank and said "God sent him". We stood up and went to the top. I loved it!

Standing on top of the world is an incredible feeling. As I reached the top I exclaimed "I did it! I am 53 and I did it!" People cheered. We had lunch on top but I still had some trepidation about climbing down the cables which looked more frightening than coming up. But I did it.

When we arrived back at camp, I knew I could not go down the mountain. I prayed that Jordan and Hank would know this and not try to convince me otherwise. I said nothing. Jordan suggested I rest in the tent for an hour and then we would discuss a plan. By the time we were finished resting, they had decided that Jordan would go down, meet John who would have more food for us and bring it half way up to Hank who would bring it up for he and me. John would take Jordan home.

To say that these two became my heroes would be a very accurate statement. Not once did they say anything or act like this was an inconvenience to either of them. I was so appreciative.

To say that this hike has left me changed in many ways is also true. I have felt more of a willingness to confront my own fears. I flew without medication the next week 6 times, something I had not been able to do since I had a panic attack on the plane when Sam was still alive. I confronted some parts of myself in Vermont the next week that involved my having to walk into that place of fear. I can truly see that fear is to be embraced AND that in the end, it must be overcome because faith and fear can not coexist.

A knowledge that God lives, loves me, is mindful of me, was once again confirmed. And a deep and eternal love for my two sons-in-law without whom this experience could not have happened.

[Note from Andrea: The Sam mentioned in this post is my brother Sam, for whom my own little Sammy was named. He died at the age of 11 of a terminal illness]


  1. I love this story Stacey! My mom and Debbie and I talked about climbing half dome about 10 years ago, but I don't know that I could actually do it. Just reading about the cables made me scared! I did give a talk in church yesterday though and it was the longest one I've ever given. I even shared 2 personal stories, which I don't think I've ever done. And I recently made a bucket list, I'll have to consider putting half dome on it. :)

    1. Oh Becky, I am SO proud of you! I wish I could have heard that talk!!!