The First Snowboard Descent of Half Dome

Nov 1, 2000
Outside Magazine

"BASE jumping it would probably have been safer," says Jim Zellers, recalling his snowboard descent of Yosemite's 8,842-foot Half Dome last March—a first that he'll be recounting in a series of slide shows around the West this winter. No kidding: Had the three-inch veneer of snow and ice peeled off the 47-plus-degree pitch (a scenario Zellers witnessed just in time to scuttle his third attempt on the Dome the previous year) the 4,300 feet of vertical to his left would have furnished a swift, albeit scenic, death. Ice ax in hand, crampons on feet, and split snowboard on back, the 36-year-old professional boarder ascended alongside the cabled hiking route established in 1875 by Scotsman George Anderson, who hoped to charge tourists a toll to use it. Once on top, he pushed off and stuck what he calls "the most challenging and precise turns of my life" down the 840 vertical feet on the east side of the Dome leading to a saddle (the rock's other sides fall off sharply). Then he climbed up and did it again. To hear him tell it, check for dates and locations.