It’s a view many dream to see: the top of Half Dome. Every summer, hundreds upon hundreds visit to take on the long, strenuous hike. While for many the priority is just to make it to the top — the real priority should be safety.

Wednesday marked the 31st time Jeff Firestone made it atop Half Dome. He promised himself to go up year-after-year, after meeting a 74-year-old along the trail who was doing the same thing.

He follows his gut each and every time.

“I tell people don’t do something out of your comfort zone,” said Firestone. “If you’re not comfortable, don’t do it.”

One of the paths up to Half Dome begins seven miles away in Yosemite Valley on the Mist Trail. A big thing park rangers run into are people making their way up when it’s already late in the day.

“We encourage people to set a hard turnaround time,” said park ranger Katie Mullen, who also is apart of the park’s preventive search and rescue team. “A time in the day that if you’re not at the top of Half Dome — no matter where you are — you’ll turn around and head back to the valley.”

Along the way, you’ll run into a lot of steep terrain. Not to mention experience nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain.

Each hiker is recommended to have a gallon of water, enough food to last the trip up and down, and gear such as a water filter if you plan to be out longer than a day.

It’s really important to keep tabs on your limits. First-time Half Dome hikers Trushna and Ronil Patel were ready to turn around when Trushna realized her water pack leaked. She knew she wouldn’t be able to finish the hike without water.

Luckily, she ran into generosity along the trail.

“A couple guys on the trail actually had extra water, so they gave me a liter,” Trushna said. “I came up with that liter.”

In review, keep in mind these things when taking on the trek up to Half Dome:

  • Make sure you’re physically and mentally ready to do the hike.
  • Check the forecast to make sure inclement weather is not on the way.
  • Start the hike early enough that you can make it back down to your starting point by late afternoon.
  • Each hiker should have at least one gallon of water and whatever food is needed to help you do the whole hike.
  • If you are going to be camping overnight (with the necessary permits) then be sure to have gear like a water filter with you.