Verso l’alto, or “to the top,” the motto of the saintly mountaineer Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, was much on the minds of the 17 students of Thomas Aquinas College, California, who ventured to Yosemite National Park with Chaplain Rev. Jorge Lopez and Dr. Sarah Kaiser (’02) over Columbus Day weekend to conquer the park’s formidable Half Dome.
The contingent departed the California campus after classes concluded Friday afternoon, arriving at Yosemite in the early evening. The following morning, they embarked on the 14-mile hike to the base of Half Dome, where they set up camp and enjoyed each other’s company around the fire, praying a Rosary together before bedding down beneath the open sky. “We talked about and enjoyed how vast and beautiful the stars were,” recalled James Hirota (’24).
The hikers rose early on Sunday and began the arduous uphill hike “to the top” of Half Dome. Closing the last 400 feet with the aid of cable and wooden stairs, the mountaineers caught sight of the Sierra Nevada in all its autumn splendor. Fr. Jorge offered Mass for the intrepid climbers at the summit, 8,839 feet above sea level. The hiking did not stop there, however. After a brief rest, they returned to the base and walked another eight miles before bedding down for a well-earned night’s sleep.
Rising on Monday, the group hiked the remaining distance to the trailhead. Before returning to campus, however, they drove to the world-famous Glacier Point. Seeing Half Dome in the distance, the mountaineers saw both the scale of their Sunday-morning accomplishment — and the beauty that had surrounded them the entire time — with fresh eyes.