Debbie Croft: 'Mr. Half Dome' seizes the day

August 10, 2012 

Rick Deutsch is Mr. Half Dome. The guy who's hiked the granite monolith 33 times.

And the only guy who's written a book about how to do it the smart way. Because any other way could cost you your life. Or a whole lot of unnecessary pain.

The first time he made the hike was in 1990, when he was 39 years old. He figured there must be a book out there, but all he could find were a few paragraphs in a handful of trail guides. He decided to continue hiking and start working on a book.

Around that same time he'd been carrying his bucket list in a binder for too long without making a dent in it.

Things he hoped to do before kicking the bucket were: rafting in the Grand Canyon, hiking to the top of Mt. Whitney (14,495 feet), hiking the Great Wall of China, driving a dog sled, running a marathon, scuba diving in the South Pacific, visiting the pyramids, plus a few more.

Now he's 63 years old. Still married. No kids. What has he accomplished so far? Visit his website, www.mrhalfdome.com, or his blog, hikehalfdome.com to find out.

"I kept doing Half Dome because it's fun, it's hard, and, hey, it's an accomplishment," he says. "I've asked foreigners why they're here, and they say, 'It's Half Dome!' It's iconic."

With the info and photos gathered from his hikes, he finished the book and self-published. Soon he was speaking about Half Dome for a retail establishment of outdoor sports gear in the Bay Area and for other groups across the West.

His wife does not share his spirit of adventure. She stays home and knits.

They do enjoy going on cruises together. And he was able to turn his experiences into the foundation of a career in motivational speaking and often speaks on cruise ships.

Deutsch founded Carpe Diem Experience, and is a member of the National Speakers Association. He travels around the world giving 40 to 50 talks a year.

"People get wrapped up in petty things," he continues. "I see my mission as motivating people to really live their lives, and not wasting them."

He likes to ask, "What can I do to get you to the top of your mountain?"

According to Yosemite National Park, going up Half Dome is a marathon hike and extremely strenuous.

In Deutsch' estimation kids under 10 are too young for it. Other than that, he's convinced anybody can do it. He's hiked with people in their 80s.

"More education should be required before hiking," he said. "A half-hour class before going up Half Dome; then giving folks a certification card. Volunteers who have already done the hike could do the training."

For new hikers there are many unknowns: how to prepare for this kind of physical suffering, the need for filtering water and drinking enough to stay hydrated, what to wear, variances of mountain weather, what the trail is like, what type of boots to wear (no athletic shoes), how to position yourself on the way down and why hiking poles are a good idea.

Deutsch does not like the idea of removing the cables. He believes restricting people from Half Dome is ludicrous. It defeats the purpose of opening the park for our enjoyment.

His book is entitled, "One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome." The second edition is in print, with 30 percent more text and more photos than the first edition. It's available at the Mariposa Visitors Center and online.

Later this month he's planning hike No. 34 with some buddies from high school.

Deutsch concludes, "Most men waste the last third part of their lives sitting on a couch. I want to give them a reason to get up in the morning. I've lived in California since 1975, and I haven't been bored yet."

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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