On February 21, two friends, 45-year-old Jason Torlano and 40-year-old Zach Milligan, completed the first full descent of Half Dome from the top of the dome to the floor of Yosemite Valley . The descent, which is 4,800 vertical feet, took the pair five hours on skis and included a couple of rappel sections, as well. Snowboarding legend Jim Zellers is the first to have completed the descent of the upper “dome” portion of Half Dome, but as far as the history books go, no one has ever attempted to ski or board the entire way down to the valley. It truly was a death-defying feat: one slip could have sent Jason or Zach tumbling down to the valley floor a lot quicker than the five hours it took for them to do it and live to tell the tale.
“If you fall to your left or right, you’re definitely dead,” said professional skier JT Holmes, a friend of Torlano. “If you fall down the middle, you have a small chance of not falling to your death — but it’s a maybe.”
Torlano has been dreaming of skiing down Half Dome since his family moved to Yosemite Valley when he was a child. A Yosemite Park Ranger for years, the thought of descending Half Dome was always in the back of his mind, but he wasn’t able to pull it off until this year, when the conditions lined up. Two to three inches of fresh powder last week presented the opportunity, and Jason went up in a friend’s small airplane on February 19 to scout conditions. Seeing a path down to the valley floor, Torlano called up Milligan, and the rest is now, as they say, history.