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Eight-Year-Old Takes On Half Dome
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Eight-year-old Nick Toledo has now accomplished what has become a Toledo family tradition … climbing Half Dome. - photo by Photos Courtesy Of The Toledo Family
It is estimated that over 1,000 pairs of hands and feet clutch the cables and make the climb up Half Dome on any given weekend.
An attraction of Yosemite National Park, the awe-inspiring granite dome rises nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley. Climbers and adventure seekers are allowed to climb the dome from May to October of each year. Cables, supported by poles are placed to aid visitors as they ascend to the top.
In late spring of 2008 young Nick Toledo made it as far as backpacker’s camp at the base of the dome. Just seven years old at the time of this 8-mile hike, he set up camp with his parents Chuck and Tracy Toledo and older brother C.J. and the following day — he waited. Older brother C.J. would be the first of the two youngsters to take on the task of hiking Half Dome with dad Chuck and uncle, Johnny McDonnell.
“Now, it’s sort of a family tradition,” Tracy Toledo stated in an interview following C.J.’s hike to the top. “When the boys turn eight they get to go on a climb.”
In late June of this year, Nick Toledo took his turn at the family tradition. With the mystery and excitement of his brother’s experience still fresh in his memory, he too decided to climb Half Dome.
Dad, Chuck admitted that he was initially a bit uncertain of C.J.’s desire to climb Half Dome in 2008. One year later, as this father of two active boys recounts the latest climb with both sons, it quickly becomes evident that there are no regrets.
The Toledo trio and Uncle Johnny were not the only ones to make the climb in honor of Nick turning eight. Family friends Vince Eisman and 11-year-old daughter Sophie joined the foursome, as first time climbers.
Following a chance meeting in the supermarket one week prior to their scheduled trip, Chuck shared the news of their plans with Eisman and invited his family along.
Eisman said he had always wanted to make the climb and felt this was the perfect opportunity for not only himself, but his 11-year-old as well.
“It was really nice having Sophie and the Eismans there,” Chuck stated. “It put a new twist on it. It was great.
“A lot of people go up there unprepared,” Chuck, a five-time Dome climber, said. “And it is difficult, but if you go prepared, it’s not that bad.”
“It’s just relentlessly up,” Eisman added of the climb from the base to the top, boasting of his enjoyment in watching the faces of the adult climbers as they watched the pint size climbers scale the granite dome.
According to the two fathers, the youngsters were adorned with a variety of titles by passers by including: ‘Trooper,’ ‘Tough Guys,’ and ‘Mighty Man.’
“The climb was worth it,” Nick said.
Admitting to a slight fear of heights and a little apprehension, Nick said he was inspired and encouraged by older brother C.J.
“It’s a lot better the second time,” C.J. said of his revisit up the dome.
Taking the lead position on this climb, C.J. led the group of climbers without hesitation.
While younger brother Nick was excited to be taking the long awaited trek, he was also eager to get to the top.
“Remember what you kept asking,” Chuck questioned Nick. “How many more minutes?”
What may have felt like eternity was actually a mere 120 minutes of constant movement — up.
“It was more than I expected,” Nick admitted, recalling reaching the top.
According to Eisman, once at the top Nick’s video confessional stated, “I can’t put it into words.”
“I was exhausted and wasn’t really sure if I could make it,” Sophie admitted of her initial feelings the morning of the climb. “When we got to the cables that’s when I really got nervous.”
“Sophie was great,” Chuck said, “the kids were great.”
Both adults beamed as they recalled the expressions of the adults climbing up the Dome as their crew made its descent. The men described the looks of shock on the faces of struggling climbers as they were passed by their pint size counterparts.
“It was as if they saw them (the kids) and thought, okay I can do this,” Chuck said.
For Nick, the smallest of the climbers, the attention was a bit unnerving. Admitting to be a bit uncomfortable with all the attention, he described it as “Weird.”
“I felt like I didn’t belong, because of all the grown-ups,” Sophie agreed.
“It was an incredible experience,” Eisman added. “Doing it with these guys was really cool.”
With the initial climb of each boy now behind them, Chuck shared he would like to continue the tradition.
“Hopefully we can make a family and friend hike every year,” he said. “Maybe look at exploring different hikes in the area.”
As for big brother C.J., no longer a novice climber, he held just one hope for his younger brother.
“I hope he does it again,” he said of Nick. “It really is so much more the second time.”