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Mr. Half Dome among authors at Bookfest
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Rick Deutsch gets geared up for another hike. - photo by Photo Contributed


• WHAT: Great Valley Bookfest

• WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• WHERE: Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley


Rick Deutsch is Mr. Half Dome for good reasons.

He’s made the hike to the top of Yosemite National Park’s 8,842 foot high granite monolith a total of 40 times in the past 22 years and counting.

Deutsch, who is from San Jose – he’s retired from the high tech world of the Silicon Valley but stay busy by teaching Nordic walking and public speaking aboard cruise ships – published the only book dedicated to Half Dome.

The author of “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome” will again be at the Pro Bass Shops in Manteca for the third annual Great Valley Bookfest on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Deutsch is published by Wilderness Press. His second edition book has sold over 12,000 copies.

An avid adventurer, he’s been to six of the seven continents in the world, doing everything from dog sledding to scuba diving. His other hikes include Mt. Whitney and the Grand Canyons, to name a few.

But it’s Half Dome that is Deutsch’s great fascination.

“For many, it’s a much anticipated once-in-a-lifetime achievement,” he says in his book. “Although the hike is non-technical, with hikers climbing fixed cables up the granite side of the rock, many would-be hikers are hesitant about this potentially risky trip.”

Deutsch acknowledges the risks, but is quick to point out that the two of the recent fatalities came as a result of two hikers making ill-advised decisions to go up the landmark after a storm while the other was a Japanese tourist who suffered a stroke due to heat exhaustion.

His first trek up Half Dome was in 1992 with his sister serving as the tour guide. Needless to say, Deutsch was ill prepared for the grueling 16-mile round-trip hike with 10,800 feet in elevation gain and loss.

At the time, there were no books on the Half Dome hike other than a few pages here and there listed in the Yosemite guides.

“I thought I was in great shape since I played basketball (for the University of Maryland),” he said.

Deutsch had so much muscle pains in his legs from this first-ever hike that he was forced to walk backward on the return trip. He also didn’t have enough water or the proper shoes.

These are things he covers in his book. 

“I’m an advocate on water,” said Deutsch, who stays hydrated on a Half Dome by consuming seven quarts. His book details areas of where to get drinking water along the trail.

He also recommended purchasing good hiking boots and a pair of hiking sticks for balance and stability.

Because of the cables, Deutsch also brings along good-gripping gloves for the ascent and descent to the top.

But he didn’t figure out the hike on that first or even second time. Rather, Deutsch made the trip 15 times before he took $2,000 out of his own pocket to publish his first edition book on Half Dome.

In it, he covers everything from pre-tip advice to on-the-trail tips. The book is a guide aimed at both casual and experienced hikers.

An estimated 50,000 people attempt the Half Dome hike each year, including 800 per day during peak season.

That’s why Deutsch favors the permits for the hike. “It used to a thousand people here on the weekends including a caterpillar of people in the line for the cables (to top of Half Dome),” he said.

Deutsch applies each March for the permits. This allows him to plan accordingly, with getting a good night’s sleep beforehand being equally important to the preparation. Deutsch will often book a cabin tent in quiet spot in Curry Village.

He doesn’t hurry the hike. Deutsch will plan on an 11- to 12- hour day, enjoying the many splendors of the park.

“Of all the hiking adventures in Yosemite National Park, (this is) probably the single most compelling to visitors from all over the world is the hike to the summit of Half Dome,” said Deutsch.

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