In almost every granitic mountain range (but especially in the Sierra Nevada of California) enormous, astounding hemispheres of naked stone—called domes, appropriately—stand above the surrounding terrain to catch the eye and fuel the imagination. In 1870, during a field trip to Yosemite, the renowned geologist Joseph Le Conte described the domes of the Sierra as “concentric structure[s], on an almost inconceivably grand scale.” Among the features that most impressed him was “the grand mass of Half Dome,” which is probably the world’s most famous granite dome.

Jon Krakauer