Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yosemite's Half Dome Cable Controversy

In the picture you are looking at a line of hikers holding on to a cable to take them to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

The Half Dome Cables Route hike starts on the Yosemite Valley floor. This is known as the Mist Trail. It is 8.2 miles to the top of Half Dome, with an elevation gain of 4,800 feet.

Two steel cable are used as handholds to take hikers the final 400 feet to the top of Half Dome. The Sierra Club installed the original Half Dome cables in 1916.

Due to the length of the hike and its difficulty, for most of Yosemite's history the hike to the top of Half Dome did not have any overcrowding issues. But, in recent years, as you can see in the picture, a lot of people were hiking to the top of Half Dome and crowding the cables.

The crowd of hikers going up and down the cable made for a bit of jostling treachery on the steep rock wall. Since 1996 four hikers have fallen to their deaths from the cables. Dozens have had to be rescued after falling or getting stuck.

To solve the problem of too many people hiking to the top of Half Dome the Park Service decided to limit the number of hikers by issuing 300 permit a day to hikers and 100 a day to backpackers.

Some Yosemite aficionados were not happy with this solution, finding it nearly impossible to get a permit.

On the 4th of July a citizens group called Save Half Dome started up an online petition asking the National Park Service to stop requiring permits to climb Half Dome and to consider the installation of a third cable.

There are those who would like to see the cables removed, making the claim they deface Half Dome. Under current rules such cables could not be installed. The reason the Half Dome cables are allowed is because their installation, in 1916, pre-dated Half Dome's 1964 designation as a protected wilderness area.

So much of the Yosemite Valley has been so greatly altered from its natural state it seems, to me, a bit ridiculous to make an issue of installing an additional cable to the top of Half Dome.

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