Re: half dome climb
I climbed it in early July 2008 and it was quite a thrill. First you need to get up and leave by dawn so that you can get to half-dome as early as possible. If you don't then you will probably find a line at the bottom waiting to go up and it will take much longer to go both up and down because you can only go as fast as the slowest person on the rock.
No I don't think you need a harness and I don't recall seeing one being used when I was there. In fact some of the younger and more agile climbers got impatient and went outside the cables to get around some people who were having a hard time coming down.
The hike is strenuous but incredible with two huge falls (Vernal and Nevada) along the way and half-dome as the icing on the cake.
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