The Diving Board is an off-trail, hard-to-reach location where Ansel Adams took his famous "Monolith" photograph in April of 1927 overlooking the front right-side face of Half Dome. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding and following the correct cairns to use the zero-exposure route, climbing several fairly steep sections of terrain, and using caution around the viewpoint area as there are sheer cliffs dropping thousands of feet all around. Google Earth maps of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the LYV main trail exit point are 37° 43.886'N, 119° 31.301'W. GPS coordinates for the slab bottom crossings are 37° 44.166'N, 119° 32.190'W. GPS coordinates for the low point in the forest are 37° 44.148'N, 119° 32.363'W. GPS coordinates for the Diving Board are 37° 44.541'N, 119° 32.476'W.
Yosemite's Diving Board was a hike which I researched for several years before undertaking. One common misconception about the Diving Board is that it is located on top of Half Dome. That feature which most people are thinking of is actually known as The Visor. The Diving Board is located far below the top. For those who are familiar with my previous trip reports on Yosemite, you are aware that I covered four destinations -- Illilouette Fall, Sierra Point, Rainbow View, and Ribbon Fall. When I decided to do a fifth little-known destination, I decided upon the Diving Board. The Diving Board is a location which gets hikers as close to the face of Half Dome as is possible. This makes for both great photography and an awe-inspiring experience, especially for those like myself who have spent several decades coming to the park. It is quite amazing to stand in front of the face of Half Dome when you have seen it from so many other angles throughout your life. As mentioned in the Overview section, this spot has been made famous by Ansel Adams well-known photograph "Monolith, the Face of Half Dome". To reach the Diving Board, Ansel Adams used the treacherous climbing route through LeConte Gully. A few others have followed in his footsteps in recent times by attempting this route. However, it has been noted that there are areas of exposure along this route. Those who have used LeConte Gully to get down from the Diving Board have said that there were 3-7 different spots where they had to rappel using ropes. In addition to LeConte Gully, there are several other obscure routes starting at places like the Emerald Pool. But I was interested in using a route which had no exposure at all and which would be fairly easy to figure out. These days, I'm a lot less adventurous than I used to be and safety is my top priority on each and every hike. So if I can't do a hike without avoiding exposure, then I don't do it at all. And that ruled out using the main route to the Diving Board, which is essentially the same as the climbers' route to Snake Dike and then continuing a little bit farther beyond. I decided not to use the Snake Dike route because it crosses along some cracks in massive sloped granite slabs which do have some exposure. Fortunately, there are some well-known Yosemite hikers who have really helped me in the past and they were happy to give their essential help in route planning once again. The no-exposure route to the Diving Board and an alternate route back were both explained in detail to me to help our group fully prepare. The no-exposure route is also known as the "brush route", as instead of crossing steeply angled granite slabs, the route involves hiking up a steep hillside covered by brush. This made me imagine miserable bushwhacking and climbing through endless areas of brush. But the route proved to be nothing like this.
Joining me for my first lifetime hike to the Diving Board were my brother Jim and a friend from Death Valley named Charlie. We started out hiking at Happy Isles at 7:30am on a warm Sunday morning in June. Surprisingly, there were very few people on the trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls at this time. I guess outside of Half Dome hikers, most tourists don't want to start hiking that early in the morning. For us, it was kind of a late start, but we were staying an hour outside of Yosemite Valley, so we did the best we could. I had heard that the hike to the Diving Board is about equal in length and difficulty to doing the hike to the summit of Half Dome. Having reached the summit of Half Dome at least eight times previously, I was very familiar with that hike and thus had an idea of what kind of difficulty to expect. Essentially, we followed the main trail on the hiking route to Little Yosemite Valley (LYV). Upon reaching LYV, we took the left fork and continued 1/10 of a mile until we spotted a minor trail heading up a small hill to the left. This trail was very easy to follow as it leveled off and continued for quite some time weaving in and out of the forest. The trail passed by the backside of Liberty Cap, dropped down to cross a small gully, then climbed back up and passed the backside of Mount Broderick. We then reached the southeastern corner of Lost Lake, which was just a meadow during our visit. We stopped at Lost Lake for lunch and enjoyed the views of Half Dome, the meadow, and the surrounding area. We spent even more time at Lost Lake on the hike back because we spotted a bear in the meadow. The trail next continued along the south side of Lost Lake until it reached the other end of it. After that, we climbed up briefly and reached a trail junction. To the right, the more obvious trail turned off and headed up the climbers' route to Snake Dike. This is where hikers who are not afraid of exposure turn off and soon begin their sloped slab crossings. Our group continued straight and we soon came to the very bottom of some sloped slabs. I'm not sure if these are the same massive slabs which other people could be crossing high above us, but our route along the base was quite easy and enjoyable. Upon reaching the end of the slabs, cairns were followed downhill through the forest, which included dealing with some fallen trees, until we reached the low point of our hike on this minor trail. The low point is at about 6,150 feet in elevation, which oddly enough is roughly the same elevation that we were at when we exited the main trail in LYV. We found navigation up until this point to be mostly easy. But keep in mind that I had done extensive research beforehand and had mapped out the route on satellite imagery and added coordinates to my GPS. From the low point, cairns continued to guide us as we began climbing up the hillside. For this climbing portion, the going was slow on the steep dirt trail. We also had to climb through the most difficult spot on the entire no-exposure route, which is a short gully that is very steep with loose footing. Upon completing the first 500 feet in elevation, the route turns sharply to the right (north). Another 300 feet in elevation is gained here as the route becomes a little bit more obscure. There are several faint paths marked by cairns. With trial and error, you can make sure you are on the best one. Next, the trail takes a sharp turn to the left (west) as the next 300 feet in elevation take you out of the forest and through a rocky area to the ridgeline. Breathtaking views of Nevada Fall, Glacier Point, and Yosemite Valley are soon enjoyed. The final 400 feet of elevation starts out by following along the ridgeline for a while. However, the main granite ridgeline cannot be followed all the way to the Diving Board without encountering exposure, so hikers must turn off and head back down to the forested area. The last part of the climb passes through a sandy area of deep gravel and soft dirt. By now, though, there has been increasingly good views of Half Dome as the viewing angle is continually making slight adjustments. It was a great moment for our group when we finally reached the Diving Board and had that majestic view of Half Dome's face for the first time ever. It is definitely something we will never forget and I think we all agreed that this was our best-ever lifetime hike in Yosemite. And keep in mind that I have taken some 50 lifetime trips to Yosemite, so that's a lot to choose from. We ended up taking one of the alternate routes back, but because that route had a couple brief seconds of exposure, I'm not going to publicize that here. Our hike took place on June 21, 2015.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT