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September 22, 2023
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93-Year-Old Summits Yosemite’s Half Dome ‘Stubborn as a Mule’

Sidney Kalin, Everett Kalin, and Jon Kalin summited Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Courtesy of Sidney Kalin.

Everett Kalin was looking for an adventure to celebrate his birthday. For a man of his age, that might entail going out to eat ethnic food, but the 93-year-old Californian had other plans.

“When you hit your 90s, you think, ‘What would be some things I’d like to do?’” he told SF Gate. “… I guess Half Dome was the thing that most popped into my mind.”

Half-Dome—the monumental mass of granite in Yosemite Valley is no place for faint hearts or knackered knees. For those with apposite fitness, it’s a 14-16 hour endeavor that involves gaining and then losing over 4,000 feet in elevation. Toward the top, cables embedded in the rocks require upper body strength to pull oneself up steep inclines.

Despite all that, Everett was determined, and requisitioned the company of his son Jon, 57, and granddaughter Sidney, 19, for the excursion.

Training hard, Everett made ample use of the days leading up to the trek to walk up and down stairs, and around Lake Merritt.

Then the day of the hike came, and Everett admits that he probably underestimated the difficulty of the beginning half, with plenty of steep paths that he described as slick.

Jon and Sidney helped him along every step of the way, even pushing on his backside during particularly vertical bits.

It took the hikers, who decided to go steady, until the middle of the second day to summit Half Dome’s pinnacle, all the while the people passing them on the trails marveled at the determination and spirit of the geriatric hiker.

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“He’s stubborn as a mule. When he sets his mind to something, he’s going to do it,” Jon said, adding that when they got to the top, “there were tears in everyone’s eyes. It was like paparazzi, everyone taking videos and photos. It was unreal. I’m choking up just talking about it now. The power of seeing him was so much joy and inspiration.”

They almost couldn’t make the summit as the skies were winking with rain and thunder. But the weather held out for three days—enough to finish the whole trek.

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Jon spoke with several rangers along the route, and while some of them had seen some hikers complete Half Dome in their 80s, none of them had ever heard of one doing so in their 90s—indeed Everett might be the oldest.

SF Gate reported that when Everett returned to his home in Oakland, he was absolutely buzzing, and neither sore nor too eager to find another adventure, such was the excitement manifested by the Half Dome hike.

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