The allure of waterfalls, wildlife, streams, trees and plants was not the reason that led Riverbank resident Steve Hutton to Yosemite National Park for the 10th year in a row. Reaching the goal of 100 hikes on Half Dome in Yosemite was the accomplishment that drew him back and Hutton achieved that goal through a lot of hard work and training.
In the spring of 2005 Hutton was invited to hike Half Dome with a pastor friend from “The House” in Modesto so he accepted.
“I did not make it that day but I was determined that I would go back and make it to the top,” stated Hutton.
Surprisingly, he was not sore and felt pretty good the day after that initial outing.
“I love to exercise and being outdoors at one of the most beautiful places in the world made it a fun day for me every time I went,” expressed Hutton. “After the first hike I was hooked but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would make it to 100 ascents.”
After the first hike, he went back to Half Dome for three more hikes in 2005, and in 2006 he made 12 ascents. That was followed by 14 more in 2007, 10 in 2008, 11 in 2009, nine in 2010, 10 in 2011, 10 in 2012 and 12 during 2013.
At 56 years old, Hutton made eight ascents on Half Dome in 2014 and reached his goal of 100 hikes in September. The final hike almost didn’t happen due to a fire that started on Sept. 7. Every day he would check Yosemite’s website which had a message posted, “Half Dome closed until further notice.” Finally, they reopened the trail on Saturday, Sept. 13 which is the date that Hutton set for his landmark climb, number 100.
“To say I was a little discouraged is an understatement,” explained Hutton of almost not getting to make the historic ascent. “I was a little concerned about the smoke but I was determined to get it done and most of my friends that were planning on going came and we had a great hike.”
The climb up and back down Half Dome is 16.4 miles total with a 4,800-foot elevation increase and the top is at 8,842 feet.
Hutton said there were a group of friends that were there on the September hike to support and celebrate his achievement. When he finally made it to the top, his friends were all there cheering him on and presented him with a plaque for his 100th climb.
On the days that he hikes Half Dome, his day will start by leaving Riverbank at 4 a.m., arriving at the trail head at 6 a.m. and making it to the top of Half Dome preferably by 10 a.m. to miss the afternoon thunderstorms. He arrives back to his vehicle at approximately 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. and makes it home just in time for dinner.
Hutton explained that he hikes Half Dome for the exercise and the physical challenge that the hike offers.
“Best way to train for Half Dome is to hike other trails so you train your legs for the up and down on the hike,” said Hutton. “It’s a great goal to do; if someone really wants to do it you probably could.
“You would have to train hard; hit some shorter trails, get yourself in shape and do it.”
The breathtaking beauty of Yosemite National Park is a tourist attraction for many people around the world and the park spans the eastern portion of Tuolumne, Mariposa, and Madera counties. Yosemite National Park is the perfect venue for backpacking, birdwatching, fishing, art, photography, picnicking, biking, and sightseeing.
“I’m always amazed and feel very blessed that I have been able to get to the top of Half Dome this many times,” Hutton expressed.
“My 100th ascent was very emotional for me. I started crying just before the top when I saw all my friends waiting for me,” he added. “I was still not believing I actually did it.”