How 2 Skiers Conquered Yosemite's Half Dome Last month, Jason Torlano and Zach Milligan skied and rappelled down Yosemite National Park's iconic Half Dome in a death-defying journey of nearly 5,000 feet from summit to valley floor.

How 2 Skiers Conquered Yosemite's Half Dome

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At the eastern end of Yosemite Valley, 8,800 feet above sea level is a rock formation called Half Dome. In the 19th century, a report said the granite landmark was so perilous that it, quote, "never will be trodden by human foot."


Well, today, Half Dome is a popular hike for thrill-seeking climbers. Yosemite resident Jason Torlano has always looked at the massive rock with a feeling of wonder.

JASON TORLANO: I went to school right in Yosemite Valley next to Yosemite Falls. And you look up at Yosemite from the playground as a little kid, that's where the big thunderstorms come from. And when it snows, it just gets packed with snow and - man, I just always been attracted to have them.

KELLY: But Torlano's attraction to Half Dome has always been tied to another interest of his - skiing - since the very first time he clicked into skis.

TORLANO: From that moment on, I just looked around, and I kept seeing chutes that were skiable to this age.

SHAPIRO: When he was 17, Torlano went climbing with a friend on Half Dome.

TORLANO: I remember walking down the cables going, wow, I bet you this thing's skiable.

SHAPIRO: And it turns out he was right. This year, Jason Torlano and his friend Zach Milligan finally descended Half Dome on skis.

KELLY: I mean, climbing Half Dome is dangerous enough - descending on skis.

TORLANO: It's a slab with no anchors, so avalanches occur all the time off that. And if you fall or get caught in an avalanche, you're going to fall off the south face, thousand-foot cliff.

KELLY: So they scouted the location a day early.

TORLANO: We walked up there the day before, and we slept at the base in a tree well. We started a little fire and kept warm for a few hours. So we were so cold at 3 in the morning, we're like, OK, we might as well go to the top. We got it in perfect conditions this time. It was, like, an inch layer of ice with about three to four inches of snow.

SHAPIRO: Torlano and Milligan weren't the first to descend Half Dome in the snow. It's been done on skis and on snowboard, but their trip was special.

TORLANO: What made our ascent (ph) a little different is we skied the cables with no ropes, but then we get skied all the way down to Mirror Lake - so another 4,000-plus vertical feet.

KELLY: Achieving this lifelong dream has not stopped Torlano from eyeing other slopes in the park.

TORLANO: Every time I go to Yosemite, I look up into the mountains, and just there's so much I want to do there still.

SHAPIRO: That's Jason Torlano, who skied down Half Dome into the Yosemite Valley last month.


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