Dan's Outside

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

Danger on Half Dome

An interesting and slightly scary article at SF Gate looks at the traffic jams on Half Dome:

The last 400 feet of the grueling 8.6-mile climb to the summit of the world-famous peak was like a holiday scene at a Disneyland ride — a long line and a few thrills.

It was typical of a weekend summer day at the 8,842-foot top of Half Dome. Hikers wearing tennis shoes and sandals, city kids in baggy basketball garb, children, flabby tourists and the elderly were clambering around on the slick granite, where three people have tumbled to their death within the past year — one of them just a few weeks ago.

I’ve been to the top a number of times – including by way of the “Snake Dike” route in my climbing days – but not in quite a few years. I’ve thought of doing it again, but these stories – and the photographs! – make me a bit less inclined to do so. (And, heck, the view from uncrowded Mt. Hoffman is actually better!)

Half Dome, from Mount Hoffman

Half Dome, from Mount Hoffman. Yosemite National Park, California. July 4, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

I never felt that the cable route itself was particularly dangerous. For the most part, one could (and Royal Robbins apparently did – without using his hands!) friction climb the whole thing – the cables are there more for safety than for climbing aid. But the crowds that I’m hearing about add a whole new set of dangers – impatient hikers who push others or climb outside the cables, hikers unused to the exposure having panic attacks compounded by a sense of being trapped in the crowd, and the number of people who regard this as a “day hike.” While Half Dome can be a day hike for those in great shape, a 16 mile roundtrip including a 5000 foot ascent/descent is not appropriate for your average tourist.

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July 7, 2007 - Posted by | Commentary

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