Half Dome, Summit to Valley, on Skis

Jason Torlano, 45, and Zach Milligan, 40, are old enough to have known better, but last Sunday the two Yosemite Valley residents completed one of the riskiest skis in recent years. They skied iconic 2,694m Half Dome, from its shoulder to the valley floor. It’s been mostly skied at least once before, but never all the way to the bottom.

Tackling Half Dome on sticks has been Jason Torlano’s dream since the age of five. He grew up in the Valley, does not get paid to ski, but is one of those hardcore guys who take on such challenges for the love of it.

His partner Zach does not even consider himself a skier — he’s more a climber — and almost took a fatal whipper near the top when he tripped over one of the cables bolted into the wall to help hikers scramble up that side of the Dome in summer. Luckily, “I was able to get my ice ax in and not die,” Milligan matter-of-factly told the Fresno Bee. Thereafter, he cautiously sideslipped his way down.

Their partial ski route

Part of their route. Photo: Jason Torlano


Torlano had tried to ski this not-so-gentle giant three times before, but the snow wasn’t right. Even this time, he and Milligan had to rappel on very sketchy rope down the so-called “death slabs” because of lack of snow — due, perhaps, to their verticality.

But after five hours of strenuous work along a route they described as “high consequence”, they arrived safely at Mirror Lake.

The Fresno Bee compilation below includes a few clips of the descent.