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Re: Half Dome safety

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Half Dome safety
June 20, 2007 10:51AM
Deadly trek up Half Dome
Rangers re-examining safety of popular hike after a fatal fall from cables during final ascent
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/06/19/BAGHNQHLEV1.DTL&hw=half+dome&sn=001&sc=1000

"Freeman said park officials will be asking visitors for suggestions on what measures, if any, they would like to see taken on Half Dome, whether it be quotas on how many people can use the cables at a time or a public information campaign about the rigorous and dangerous nature of the hike.

Freeman said Yosemite's wild bear education project cut human versus bear conflicts 80 percent between 1998 and 1999, showing that it is possible through education to improve safety without direct intervention. "


Anyone have any comments or suggestions?

I don't remember, is there any signage on the trail that states the difficulty and danger? I took a picture of this sign for the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, Hawaii and wondered if something similar at Half Dome might be a good idea.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/2carolyn/435331599/in/set-72157600028838361/

I understand they want to preserve the wilderness of the Half Dome hike. However, I wonder if a quota for the number of hikers would be appropriate. It seems that the congestion on the cables can be quite a problem. In fact, seeing pictures of all those people on the cables, some going up, some coming down, it seems to be an accident waiting to happen.

I wonder if there could be some sort of traffic flow concept. Kind of like that one lane bridge with the streetlight concept. A bunch of cars go through, then you wait, let the others come through. Seems nearly impossible to implement in a wilderness situation.

Having an informational video at the visitors center for permitted hikers to watch might not be a bad idea.



Post Edited (06-20-07 12:54)
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
June 20, 2007 11:41AM
I suspect that the last fatal fall from the cables had to do with a failure to focus on the hand-holds and footholds on the way up. Jubilation should be held in check until one is off the cables both going up and down. Focus is key in both directions especially when the cables are crowded.

The other fatalities and the one near fatality in the recent months were due to gross error. Cables down, icy or wet conditions.

Accidents are so rare on the cables that any controls put in place would still allow that one-in-a-million event to happen. Most, if not all, of the tragedies occurred because the individual was oblivious to the danger or chose to proceed in the face of it.

The warning sign could include:

While climbing the cables concentrate on not falling to your death.
Don't attempt a climb if:
The cables are down
It's wet
It's icy
There is a chance of lighting or rain before you come back down the cables.





Old Dude
Re: Half Dome safety
June 23, 2007 11:25PM
Why can't the park service modify the cables enough to give anyone who lost his grip and fell a chance to self arrest? Why not add two more cables stretched along the bottom of the poles with shorter vertical cables spaced at one foot intervals? With the additional cables, anyone who slipped and fell would have a chance to grab onto something before he picked up enough speed, lost control and started tumbling. Experienced mountaineers carry ice axes to self arrest; inexperienced hikers climbing Half Dome, in just as dangerous a situation, should be provided some means to self arrest.
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
June 24, 2007 04:47AM
I like Mike's suggestion with the sign. Its message seems like it should go without saying, but same with the sign at the top of Vernal Fall that warns you not to get in the river because you could go over the fall and die.

It should be enough to get people to stop and think about what they're doing.

I don't really understand letterknits' idea; it's early and I haven't had my coffee yet smiling smiley
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
June 24, 2007 10:28AM
A week of contemplating now, I say just leave it the way it is and give good advice. I've done this twice myself: Arrive at the cables around 4 p.m. you will have the cables to yourself.
Re: Half Dome safety
June 24, 2007 11:08AM
If signs and warnings caused people to make intelligent decisions and behave in a cautious manner, then there would be no smokers, nobody skiing out of bounds, and no kids choking on their toys.

But there are lots of smokers, lots of out of bounds skiiers, and lots of kids choking on toys that were intended for older kids.

Anyone who can look at Half Dome without realizing that going up it is a risky proposition that requires great care and focus probably should be allowed to fall to their deaths, preferrably before they have reproduced.
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 03, 2007 12:08PM
After completing the Half Dome climb, I would echo many of the sentiments in this thread.

I was fortunate enough to arrive at the cables at 10 AM - before most of the dayhikers arrived. I also only travelled about 2 miles from a backcountry camping location, so I was likely less fatigued than many of the dayhikers. It really does help to be able to use both hands on both cables.

I saw lots of stupid behavior on the Thursday I made it up. It wasn't even that crowded, but impatient climbers/descenders went outside the cables because they were in a hurry. I wasn't some macho gung-ho climber and took my time. Sometimes I'd take a break at one of the planks and nobody complained. It works a lot better if everyone is cooperative knowing that it shouldn't be a race to the top or bottom.

One of the things I was thinking was maybe using a harness along the cable, and perhaps even wearing a climbing helmet. I know a harness would slow things down. I'm thinking a helmet might make sense since the primary cause of HD fatalities seems to be blunt head trauma after a fall.

Re: Half Dome safety
July 03, 2007 10:52PM
When you figure the odds of a falling death from the cables, the value of a helmet is questionable. With only one death (when cables were up), if you figure how many hundred people go up per day for 4 1/2 months a year, and how many years it's been, the odds are astronomical.

Some of this has gotten so much attention because of the 3 deaths within the past year, but only one was with cables up. The other two were with cables down, and I believe both were during rainy/wet weather, not a good time to be on slick granite. Nothing can or should be done; those climbers made a choice when they went up.

I really don't know if two hands on one cable or two have any real safety advantage either way. I've never had a problem using a single cable, and in fact have gone around 'frozen' people on the outside...using care, of course, but it didn't seem like any big deal. While it might 'seem' dangerous, the guy that fell recently was on the inside I believe.

When we came down in late May, there was a storm approaching, and a few behind us came down the outside, which probably took them 5 minutes instead of 25, and you have to weigh the hazards of being up top or on the cables during a thunderstorm against whatever extra risk you figure it was for them to go down the outside. I've never been on the cables when they are overcrowded (as in midsummer weekend early afternoon), but imagine it's a nightmare for anyone without a lot of patience.

Hooking to the cables has been discussed in a lot of places, and is generally dismissed as impractical and possibly of little or no help. Plus, think of someone falling with a rope looped around the cables, doing a header down; until they reach the next stanchion, anyone below on the cables is in danger of not only the falling person, but that rope sliding down, which eliminates their handhold. Things like Prussik knots would slow things down ridiculously, and probably not work on those cables anyway.

I've learned to pause (at least in the middle steepest part) every second (or third) stanchion/plank for a short time. I found if I went more, it took longer to recover, so there was really no gain other than getting more tired. The few that want to go faster are easy to let around, but most people seem happy to take it at a reasonable pace, and when the guy in front of you pauses, there's your excuse to do the same 8^). I've never been irritated or offended by the ones that go around the outside...I figure they probably weigh 100 lbs., hike fourteeners every weekend, and are comfortable doing what they're doing, so I just smile and say howdy, and they generally do the same.





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 04, 2007 12:01AM
The number of death at the top of Vernal, Nevada, and Yosemite Falls are much higher. Funny how we don't hear anybody wanting something done there.

Re: Half Dome safety
July 04, 2007 03:05PM
>The number of death at the top of Vernal, Nevada, and
>Yosemite Falls are much higher. Funny how we don't hear
>anybody wanting something done there.

These types of things are more about emotion than about practicality. It's kind of like having a never-ending war on terror when the number of people hurt by terrorists worldwide is miniscule compared to other sources of danger.

Somehow Half Dome safety is a more emotional issue than the safety in the more dangerous areas.
Re: Half Dome safety
July 04, 2007 03:16PM
It's possible the safety could be affected by the increasing numbers of people attempting the hike to the top of Half Dome. There may start to be more accidents due to the large numbers of people on the cables at once.
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 06, 2007 11:38PM
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 06, 2007 11:41PM
That guy on top sure seems to be trying too hard winking smiley

Nice shot!

Re: Half Dome safety
July 07, 2007 02:48PM
Aren't there too many people on the cable in your picture? Is that normal?
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 07, 2007 03:17PM
Lisa wrote:

> Aren't there too many people on the cable in your picture? Is
> that normal?

Looks about right to me.

Re: Half Dome safety
July 07, 2007 03:26PM

>
> Looks about right to me.
>

Good grief. It looks a bit crowded but if that's normal...yikes!
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 07, 2007 03:37PM
Lisa wrote:

> Good grief. It looks a bit crowded but if that's normal...yikes!

Well, normal for a weekend or near July 4th.

avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 07, 2007 04:10PM
Erase everyone but the guy on the right and maybe 1 or 2 people way down below and that's my experience on the cables. There are benefits for being a slow hiker sometimes.
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 07, 2007 04:51PM
Vince wrote:

> Erase everyone but the guy on the right

The funny thing is the guy on the right is doing it all wrong. You want to lean back so your feet are pushed into the rock. They way he's leaning his traction will be very low.

avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 07, 2007 04:54PM
Last time I was up there I insisted on putting on the back-up lights and not look down, meanwhile my brother, who almost had a heart attack when he first saw the cables, went down facing toward the shoulder. For me, I seriously don't want to know where I'm going when I'm retreating. Does this make sense?

You say "all wrong," I say "well, let me think about that first."

My two times back down (one in haste because of lightning threat) I basically stood upright and waited for the next 2x4 to slide underneath. No, not that bad but I think you know what I mean.
Re: Half Dome safety
July 08, 2007 11:15PM
Lisa wrote:

> Good grief. It looks a bit crowded but if that's normal...yikes!

Here's a pic of the cables when I went on June 9. I decided to hang back this trip. Next year I'll go during the weekday.

http://yosemitephotos.net/main.php?g2_itemId=4677

avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 08, 2007 11:17PM
carlos49er wrote:

> Here's a pic of the cables when I went on June 9. I decided to
> hang back this trip. Next year I'll go during the weekday.

Yikes! I've never seen it that bad.

avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 09, 2007 12:29AM
Here are two photos. The first was when I got off of Half Dome on Thu, June 21. It wasn't crowded on the way up or down, although I got to use both cables most of the way up.



I took this photo the next day (about the same time of day) on the way back to my campsite from Clouds Rest. Half Dome is very photogenic from the other side, and you can see little dots along the cables. Even a Friday was substantially more crowded than about the same time on Thursday.



Re: Half Dome safety
July 09, 2007 07:44AM
carlos49er wrote:

> Here's a pic of the cables when I went on June 9. I decided to
> hang back this trip. Next year I'll go during the weekday.
>

Looks like a wise decision, that's worse than I've imagined. A good reminder not to go on a weekend.

VPW, what time of day was your first photo taken? It looks similar to what I've seen on the cables early in the season, around noon, which is certainly tolerable.

On our last Half Dome visit at the end of May (not Mem. Day!) we were at the top end of Upper Pines and could get a hint of what traffic was headed up to Half Dome by the number of hikers going up toward Happy Isles early. There was a very noticeable increase in traffic Friday, many more than we saw on Tuesday through Thursday, so Friday may not be the best day either, if you have a choice.

With a crowd like Carlos posted, I'd have enjoyed the view up to subdome (or perhaps even skipped "satan's staircase"winking smiley and just enjoyed it as a hike to that point. Seems like that crowd in itself would serve to lessen the popularity of the hike over some time...it certainly would keep me away.



Post Edited (10-26-07 22:30)



Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
July 09, 2007 09:56AM
Sierrafan wrote:

> carlos49er wrote:
>
> > Here's a pic of the cables when I went on June 9. I decided
> to
> > hang back this trip. Next year I'll go during the weekday.
> >
>
> Looks like a wise decision, that's worse than I've imagined. A
> good reminder not to go on a weekend.
>
> VPW, what time of day was your first photo taken? It looks
> similar to what I've seen on the cables early in the season,
> around noon, which is certainly tolerable.

About 12:45 PM. Going down was not a problem. I can't imagine doing it on a weekend, or even a Friday.

avatar Re: Half Dome safety
October 26, 2007 02:53PM
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
October 27, 2007 11:35AM
Now you know why I'm confining my Yosemite visits to February and March smiling smiley Been there, done that, want snow, please snow
avatar Re: Half Dome safety
October 27, 2007 11:47AM
Vince wrote:

>please snow

Lots and lots of snow!

avatar Re: Half Dome safety
October 27, 2007 04:37PM
eeek wrote:

> Vince wrote:
>
> >please snow
>
> Lots and lots of snow!

Like this?



avatar Re: Half Dome safety
October 28, 2007 11:10AM
y_p_w wrote:

> Like this?

No, I can still see the sign. winking smiley

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