If you want to jump the line to get to the top of Half Dome, go next week. The metal cables and wooden planks that allow hikers to scale the steep final pitch up Yosemite's 8,800-foot rock face are being installed today, a week earlier than usual.
That means there's permit space next week for those who act fast.
Permits for Monday through Thursday are available now at Recreation.gov (filter for "Cables on Half Dome, CA") or by calling (877) 444-6777 to book.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 134 permits for Monday, 175 for Tuesday, 144 for Wednesday and 76 for Thursday. It costs $8 for each permit and $4.50 to $6.50 more in handling fees.
If those dates don't work, you can take your chances with the daily lottery throughout the summer. Each year, the National Park Service issues 225 permits per day for hikers who want to use the cables to complete the last 400 feet of the tough 14- to 16-mile hike from Yosemite Valley.
Permits that aren't given out during a pre-season lottery in March as well as those that go unused or are canceled get distributed two days prior to your intended hike date in a second lottery. (If you want to hike on Saturday, you need to enter the lottery Thursday). Here's the link that explains the lottery process.
Make sure you're ready for the Half Dome hike, which generally takes 10 to 12 hours for fit hikers, the park's website says.
The cables at Half Dome are put in place when weather conditions are clear of snow. California's drought conditions this year allowed park officials to put them up early -- hence the extra window for permits.
The park's east-west Tioga Road that access the backcountry opened early this year too, on May 2. It was the earliest opening in 27 years.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun