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Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question

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Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 17, 2011 10:31PM
Dear forum readers and lovers of Yosemite --

I need your help understanding something. I am an intermediate hiker who has long dreamed of going to Yosemite. This week, however, I am in shock over the loss of a very well-respected teacher from my hometown, a tireless advocate for the preservation of our natural spaces, who died in the accident at Mist Trail last weekend.

My question tonight, as I search for answers (to the unanswerable, of course), is: Why is there no rope or chain line along the edge of the lower Mist Trail steps, if one misstep on them means certain death?


From my research (which also led me to this site), it's clear this is not the first time this has happened to a healthy, intelligent person. Wouldn't such a precaution help reduce the chance that a very minor mistake of foot placement by a fairly seasoned and physically able hiker would not result in a tragic fall?

I am struggling to understand this. I understand the cost of foolishness, of impatience, of hubris; I understand that the stories of people charging up the Half Dome in the rain are stories of people thumbing their nose at Fate, and often paying dearly for it.

But the accident that happened last weekend was not in that category. We are all human. We make mistakes. Some big ones, but often very minor ones. I think we have a duty to ensure that, wherever possible, a very minor mistake does not result in a tragic death.

And it seems to me we owe it to that man and his family and community, and to legacy of his life's work -- and to the families of the other visitors who have died in a similar way, in that same area -- to do what we can to make that stretch of trail safer in whatever way possible.

I feel certain something simple could be done without ruining the beauty of that spot. And even if -- as was suggested in one article -- this was the case of someone stepping aside slightly to allow someone to pass, a guard rope would help discourage that maneuver, and would also provide something to grab ahold of if you lost footing, as so commonly happens (from what I have read online) with even the best of shoes and most careful of hikers.

Perhaps there is a rope line there and I just can't see it in the photos, but I only see one on the upper parts of the trail in the photos. There, the risk is obvious: a drop off a sheer cliff. On a 45-degree slope by the river, perhaps the risk is less apparent. But isn't the risk in each spot the same, and the consequences of one bad step the same, in certain conditions (which happen annually)?

I appreciate any thoughts you have on this. I've really been feeling tonight that this is not just sad, and heartbreaking, it's wrong. Does a popular hike, well-promoted online and in guidebooks (with the requisite two-sentence warning about footing), in our premier national park, have to be such a roll of the dice?

If it is that way, period, more dire warnings are clearly needed, with specific examples of past tragedies and exactly how they happened. If not, something should be done to give people like my fellow Austinite at least a fighting chance in that stretch of the trail when something goes suddenly wrong.



Thank you,

cws
avatar Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 03:10AM
CWS,

I sent you a Private Message.



Old Dude
Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 05:34AM
P.S. I had the thought after posting the above, "I know that I am attempting to control the uncontrollable." This is a wild place, and it should be. And accidents happen. I had a friend who died last year in a home fall -- it was just one missed step on the back steps at night while going out to feed the cat, and a bad landing, and that was it. Really shook me up. But nothing in particular, other than my friend slowing down and being more careful, could have saved her.

I just wonder if in this case there IS something that can be done to prevent even 1-2 accidents over the coming years. Not being able to walk out there today myself and look around, it's hard for me to really know. But I keep seeing a little guard line there in my mind....

Thanks for any positive suggestions on this.
avatar Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 07:53AM
First of all my deepest condolences.

What I recommend that you do is call the park service and talk to a ranger.
I am certain you will be able to have a very meaningful conversation with them
that will benefit both you and them to perhaps let you better understand
this tragic event.

Warmest regards,
Chick-on is looking at you!



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 08:35AM
Thank you -- any recommendations for which office to call, which ranger to speak with?
avatar Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 09:22AM
Quote
cws
Thank you -- any recommendations for which office to call, which ranger to speak with?
I would call 2093720200 and follow the instructions to talk to a ranger.
I have the name Ray Santo written down but you could talk to anyone and just
explain your feelings and I would think they would lend you an ear and
perhaps get you in touch with others who would help you out more.

With respect to the trail, there is really not much railing at all. Only for a very small section.
I could show you pictures if you really want but I'm sure you could find them on the web.

I will probably end up on the trail at some point during this coming weekend.
If that is the case I will take a moment for you on it.

Again, my condolences.



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 09:05AM
Quote
cws
And even if -- as was suggested in one article -- this was the case of someone stepping aside slightly to allow someone to pass, a guard rope would help discourage that maneuver, and would also provide something to grab ahold of if you lost footing, as so commonly happens (from what I have read online) with even the best of shoes and most careful of hikers.



Point of Information: Most people are unaware of the 'rules of the road' which should be observed while hiking.

Similar to the case with vehicles, persons going uphill have the right of way. The proper etiquette for the person who is letting the uphill hiker(s) pass is to stand immobile against any uphill slope at the side of the trail and, if necessary if the trail is narrow, grab the passing hiker to make certain that they pass safely and not slip or be bumped over the downhill slope.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/18/2011 09:09AM by szalkowski.
Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 10:34AM
Like most of you, I have been on the Mist trail numerous times over the years. I have never thought that the trail was that bad when passing or being passed by another hiker. You just need a little common sense while hiking this trail and watch out for others who do not .Bowing to his greatness
Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 10:28AM
CWS,
I can hopefully answer your questions and allay your fears.

I have hiked the Mist Trail at least 100 times in my life, in all sorts of conditions. I've hiked it with headlamps at 2:00 am and descended it many times on a Labor Day weekend when the trail was crammed with non-hikers who were sightseeing.

The Mist Trail does have ropes in places, towards the top and also towards the bottom. As an experienced hiker of 30 years, I would say that when the trail is reasonably empty, it's safe (the shoulder leading into Little Yosemite Valley is FAR more dangerous). The Mist Trail is a little dicey because there are two sections with very high steps (About 2 feet high). When you are descending and tourists are ascending it can get pretty bad. Why? Because they are not fit, they are not hikers and they have no concept of yielding or getting over for anyone.

I can't imagine falling off the Mist Trail at any point, it's perfectly safe... UNLESS someone pushed him, joustled him or blindsighted him so he lost his footing. IOW, the Mist Trail is safe for any prudent person. The thing you have to worry about are the high steps towards the top, and afterwards, ropes are installed.

The Mist Trail is not nearly as dicey as the Half Dome cables or the shoulder leading into Little Yosemite Valley. Please don't alter your plans to do this hike because of a terrible tragedy. And if you descend the JMT, you avoid almost all of the danger of the Mist Trail. Also, if you do it early in the morning, all the crowds will be gone, and it's the ONLY time to do it.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/18/2011 10:35AM by Ulysses61.
avatar Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 12:23PM
I can only think of one short section, where you're starting to come around the corner into the start of the worst of the mist, where a person might be in danger.
And even then only if you step too far off trail.
Although the amount of mist and conditions could seriously worsen things.

Like so many things in Yosemite, it's not inherently dangerous, but has very little margin of error.

Without knowing more about the specifics of this tragedy I hesitate to say more. It happened, we morn, lets leave it at that. sad smiley
Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 10:48AM
In addition, as this sad article points out, conditions this Spring are especially dangerous:

http://www.modbee.com/2011/05/16/1691287/2-die-in-yosemite-accidents.html

Depending on the wind, a big hazard on the Mist Trail in high water years is that the spray from the falls which can temporarily blind a person.

Such a tragic story.
avatar Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 11:25AM
I do find the Mist Trail to be something you have to be really paying attention to in high flow on the descent. The steps are pretty wide, but they can be really slick, and of course crowds complicate things. If you descend this trail it is an absolute must to have shoes/boots with good grip. I can understand if you'd rather not do it, in which case you could get to the same waterfalls taking the roughly parallel John Muir Trail. It really is an amazing experience to do those steps up to Vernal Falls in high flow though, and even the descent. For example, the rainbows are incredible if the sun is in the right place; I saw one rainbow descending the Mist Trail a couple of feet in front of me that was a complete circle and so bright it looked like it was painted onto the air. I know this tragedy has to hit really close to home, but I hope it doesn't stop you from seeing one of the most amazing places on earth.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/18/2011 11:26AM by mbear.
Re: Lower Mist Trail safety question
May 18, 2011 05:58PM
Thanks to all for the thoughts, comments, suggestions. I consider this a learning process and I appreciate the insights.
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