A guide to hiking Clouds Rest for hikers with acrophobia

If you are reading this page, chances are you are going to hike Clouds Rest and you have fear of heights. You have probably seen a video like this.

and are worried about your acrophobia kicking in on top of the ridge.

I am afraid of heights. In July 2016, I tried to summit half dome and gave up half way to sub-dome since I could not handle the height. Yet, I reached the summit of Clouds Rest with the help of two friends who walked me through the ridge just a couple of weeks later. Yes, you need someone you can trust to guide you, but there is a hack to solving this.

To start with remember two things:

  • These videos are shot using a camera like GoPro from the upper body of the hiker looking downwards. With a wide angle lens on the GoPro and a top down perspective, it exaggerates distances. Objects up close appear big and the objects farther away look smaller thereby increasing the depth perception. Such lenses and perspective also introduces a significant curvature to nearby objects, hence the ridge looks rounded off — while in reality it is flat, if you compare photos taken by a camera to such videos, you will see what I mean.
  • Almost all videos are shot by people hiking on the spine of the ridge, which is the narrowest part of the ridge and possibly the one that gives the highest adrenalin rush. There is a better option.

I first read about it in this thread in a hiker forum. I reached out to @mrcondron via PM and asked for his advise and followed it up with another thread here.

Let me explain what mrcondron means with a few pictures. At the start of the ridge, there is ample space to climb.

As you start walking on top, you are actually walking on the spine of the ridge, or the absolute top of the ridge. In the picture below, the two hikers in front are on the spine. Note the hiker wearing red shorts and another person to his left — the foot trail that mrcondron mentions is to the left of the spine away from the treacherous tenaya canyon side. There is enough space for a person to comfortably hike there. Yes, you are now walking along the cliff there, but the slope there is not as scary as Tenaya canyon with many trees and what not, but also remember that you have the spine on your side. If you hug along the spine for support, you are golden.

There is a stretch of 30–50 feet on the spine where it is super dicey, it is very close to where these two hikers are. The spine narrows to about 3 feet and if you see the video above, the videographer is walking along the spine — but notice the other person who is walking to her side — he is walking along the “trail”.

The “trail” avoids this treacherous 30–50 feet section. The “trail” ends shortly there after and you have to get back on to the spine, but right after this, the spine widens immediately towards the summit.

When viewed from the summit, you can see how the spine narrows towards the middle. The person wearing green is on top of the ridge on a very narrow ledge. Notice the person wearing pink moving to her right — she is entering the “trail”.

A closer view below, the trail is to the right of the spine when looking towards tenaya lake (away from the summit). Find it and stick to you. You will make it comfortably to the summit.