Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

More About the Half Dome Death

Earlier I posted a short piece referencing the SFGate article about the unfortunate death on the Half Dome cable route. I now see that SFGate outdoor writer Tom Stienstra has posted an entry in his blog on the subject, and that many have commented on it.

I’m prepared to revise my initial thinking on this a bit, though only a bit. I continue to believe that trying to make the outdoors risk-free is both unwise and doomed to failure. However, it seems that the situation on the cable route has perhaps gotten out of control. While I do not agree with those who would require people to climb the route in a particular way (example: one person suggested requiring an overnight stay in Little Yosemite Valley) I do think that it is time to make the nature of this climb clearer to those who might be tempted to try it.

Of course, the news stories about this death will serve that goal to some extent. This may be one of the situations where the Park Service should amp up the “fear factor” a bit, in the way they have with the bear situation. A 16+ mile round trip with an elevation gain of nearly 5000 feet that ascends an exposed rock face that, while not tremendously difficult, presents a real risk of fatal consequences should not be undertaken lightly by inexperienced hikers. While knowledgable hikers and climbers may scoff at Park service warnings (I certainly do from time to time regarding the bear situation), a greater good may be served by encouraging additional respect for the difficulties this route presents to those who are not experienced or not in shape.

June 19, 2007 Posted by | Yosemite | Comments Off on More About the Half Dome Death

Deadly Trek Up Half Dome

From an SFGate article: Rangers re-examining safety of popular hike after a fatal fall from cables during final ascent

Nohara didn’t have time to speak or even shout before he slid off the side of Half Dome to his death, becoming the third fatality within a year off the 4,800-foot granite dome.

The death of Nohara on Saturday is forcing Yosemite rangers to re-examine safety on the long trek to Half Dome, a grueling 17.2-mile round trip that culminates with a dizzying 400-foot climb up a ladder-like contraption made of cables and wooden steps leading to the top.

“We need to be concerned about visitor safety and look at it seriously, but the fact that it is wilderness makes it a unique situation,” said Ranger Adrienne Freeman, the park spokeswoman.

This accident is tragic but the fact is that it isn’t possible to eliminate all danger from outdoor activities, particularly those in the mountains. There is always some element of risk, even in situations where risk is not the main goal of those participating. Thousands and thousands of people have ascended the exposed Half Dome “cable route” – and they have been rewarded with an astonishing view and a powerful sense of accomplishment and connection with the natural world. There have been very, very few serious accidents or fatalities.

While the park service should look at safety issues (and has probably done so all along) it would be tragic if an accident like this one led to overly restrictive changes in trail management.

June 19, 2007 Posted by | Commentary, Trails, Yosemite | Comments Off on Deadly Trek Up Half Dome

Fern Ledge and Yosemite Falls

From Yosemite Explorer – Yosemite in pictures:

Fern Ledge: John Muir’s Yosemite Falls

There is nothing in Yosemite Valley quite like a hike to Fern Ledge. Within minutes, the Fern Ledge hike will take you from the bustling, crowded, Lower Yosemite Falls area to a quiet, unmaintained trail that leads you past dense beds of flowers (Elegant Brodieia, Larkspur, Yawning Penstemmon, Live Forever, Giant Red Paintbrushes and more), winding up open slabs leading to Fern Ledge, the most staggering place from which to experience Yosemite Falls. Jutting out into the actual waterfall about 200 feet from the bottom and 1400 feet from the top, you can lie on your back for hours and watch the water comets cascade down past you. Fern Ledge was a favorite spot of John Muir’s and the site of Ansel Adams’ famous photo looking up Upper Yosemite Falls. (And my not famous photo of the same, which, surprisingly, is not as good as Ansel’s.) That said, though the hike is [Yosemite Explorer – Yosemite in pictures]

Follow the link to the full article at Yosemite Explorer – it is full of background information and trail information.

June 19, 2007 Posted by | Trips, Yosemite | 2 Comments

Mitchell Peak – I Must Do This Hike!

Tom Stienstra at SFGate describes the hike to a Sierra peak that I must visit – it shares my last name!

An overlooked hike that should be on everybody’s list. From 10,365-foot Mitchell Peak, you can extend your arms and feel like the entire Sierra Nevada is within your reach. Scanning from right to left, you can see nearly 100 miles of the Sierra crest, crowned by the distant row of 14,000-foot peaks in the…
[SFGate: Tom Stienstra]

I think I’d like to organize an expedition before the summer is over!

June 19, 2007 Posted by | Sierra Nevada, Trails | Comments Off on Mitchell Peak – I Must Do This Hike!

Pollution from China Affecting the Sierra

Tom Mangan reports:

China’s pollution landing in California. Airborne crud from the China boom is settling in the High Sierra, according to this story my employer published today.

This story hammers home the myth of “cheaper goods from China.” These goods are not cheap, they’re just being sold at a discount against their environmental costs, which are spreading around the globe, and will have to be paid. All buying cheap stuff from China accomplishes is fobbing off the rest of the cost on future generations.

The story notes that China is primarily poisoning itself — which comes as small relief, frankly. Our buying their stuff is causing this to happen.
[Two-Heel Drive]

See Tom’s blog for more on this story.

June 19, 2007 Posted by | Environment | Comments Off on Pollution from China Affecting the Sierra


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