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Gaviota Peak a quick challenge

Santa Barbara News-Press 15 July 2005

Leah Etling

TAKE A HIKE / One in an occasional series on local hiking spots

Members of Moms of Motion climb to the top of Yosemite monolith

Hiking Half Dome is a once in a lifetime experience.

For a group of Santa Barbara women who made the journey to Yosemite's most recognizable peak recently, it was that and then some.

A team of mothers, led by Debra Andaloro, made the full-day hike on June 24, starting at 7 a.m. and finishing at 7 p.m. They reached the summit of Half Dome around 1 p.m.

For several of the women who had never been serious hikers before joining the Moms in Motion team, it was a life-altering experience. Their fundraising efforts benefited the children's oncology ward at Cottage Hospital, a cause they picked because one hiker's teenage son was undergoing treatment there.

Elaine Georges had often walked in Santa Barbara during her lifetime of living here, but she had never really experienced the city's hiking trails until she joined Moms in Motion.

She also found that she had joined a group of women who were incredibly understanding during her son's treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"They were great support to me, they really got me through that," Georges said.

"If I hadn't been walking or hiking, I wouldn't have had much release."

When they started training for the hike, a 17-mile round trip journey from Yosemite Valley to Half Dome (elevation 8,842) that can be completed in one very long day, many of the women weren't sure they would make it.

Isabelle Patton, at 62, the oldest member of the group, knew she could get to the base of the final ascent, but wasn't sure she was going to the summit. The final part of Half Dome requires hauling yourself up a slick granite face with the aid of slippery cables. Gloves are a must.

"I have a little fear of heights, so I have to say that I did it under duress. But they were extremely supportive," she said of her teammates. "Every step I took, they were behind me."

The reward of standing on top of the mountain was worth it. "It was a challenge, and a real personal goal. I'd never done anything like it before."

Georges and Patton lauded Andaloro for her personal coaching of the women who were concerned by the daunting final summit or the treacherous descent.

She lauded her team for their courage.

"You could see in a lot of people's faces that they didn't think they were going to make it, but they did," Andaloro said.

To prepare for the hike, the women trained with long weekend hikes on local trails, weekday sessions on the stairs at La Playa Stadium, and used exercise cords to strengthen their arms for the cable ascent to the final summit.

Making it to the top were Georges, Patton, Gail Milliken, Louise Chadwick, Pamela Lombardo, Melissa Curran-Moore, Indra Strong, Leslie Wells, Sonia Schultz, Roma Temkin, Mary Pritchard, Dana Petersen and Andaloro.

A new town and country walking group, also led by Andaloro, starts its season soon. The culminating event for that group will be the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco in October.

For more information, visit www.momsinmotion.com.

e-mail: letling@newspress.com

AT A GLANCE

Where: Yosemite National Park. Half Dome by way of John Muir Trail

How long: 17 miles round trip

What else is there: Hiking opportunies in Yosemite are infinite, from meadow walks to weeklong backpacks.

Exertion level: Strenuous. Hiking Half Dome requires months of physical preparation and the right supplies.

Contact Leah: 564-5281