Yosemite Half Dome
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Rick Archer's Note: As of July 2011, this Half Dome page is our newest addition to our Dangerous Places collection.

It is a work in progress.  I will have more stories and pictures as time permits. 

For the moment, I would like to thank Karl Myers for bringing this location to my attention.

How many people have died on Yosemite's Half Dome?

There is an macabre joke about Yosemite's Half Dome climb.  It is the one trail everyone should try before dying and it is the one trail where you are most likely to die trying.

There have been more than 20 deaths on Half Dome itself, and if you count the trail leading up to Half Dome, the number leaps to more than 60.

People have died on Half Dome from a variety of causes: falling off the cable route, heart attacks while climbing the cables, lightning strikes, failed base jumps, climbing accidents, and even a few suicides.

The most recent incident was in June of 2009, when a hiker from the bay area fell to his death while descending the cables. It was the first death on the cables since 2007, when a Japanese climber fell off the cables and died on June 16; another hiker fell to her death the same year trying to climb the route when the cables were down.

The cable route is extremely dangerous; please don't do it unless you're well prepared. These
tips on surviving the cable ascent are a good starting point.

Deaths on the trail to Half Dome, rather than on Half Dome itself, are usually above Nevada or Vernal Falls, and usually occur when someone wades into the the water above the falls or slips off rocks into the water and gets swept away. In many cases, their bodies have never been found.

For more information, read the macabre but remarkable Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite, which chronicles every unnatural death in the park from its inception until the book went to press in early 2007; and Shattered Air, an account of the lightning deaths on Half Dome on July 27, 1985. For accounts of recent mishaps in the park, see the Yosemite Search & Rescue team's rescue reports page.

Source:  Yosemite Hikes at Yosemite National Park


Story of a Mountain Climbing Accident in the Half Dome in Yosemite Park

-----Original Message-----
From: Allen
Sent: Friday, May 09, 2008
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: huashan trail


I came across your website after googling "most dangerous trails". This Huashan one takes the cake!  First of all, this clearly should be a one-way trail. I've been hiking in Europe where there are similar trails, chains, platforms (metal ones), and ladders. Many of these sections are one-way, clearly marked on maps and books. If you get caught going the wrong way, it's a huge fine right on the spot. There's just no excuse for such irresponsibility in my book.

I bet most deaths occur on that Huashan mountain because of passing or inexperience folks who are not in shape. All it takes is one misstep, one instant when you aren't paying attention or someone distracts you, just one slip...

Last June, I was in Yosemite. I've been up the Half Dome a couple of times and decided to go up for a third time. While I was on the cables, I saw someone slip from above and slide to his death. It was the most frantic and shocking thing I have ever been a part of.  People suddenly started screaming, I looked up and saw a guy sliding off the mountain with no way to stop his momentum.  I can still see the look on his face, petrified, he was kicking his feet, he bounced on the rock a couple of times.  He slid by me, and when I looked back, his feet hit a divot which unfortunately caused him to somersault out of view.  Someone below yelled that he was "airborne", falling 4000 feet to the Valley floor.  Lot of good that warning did him.

The poor fellow didn't go airborne for long.  He landed on a ledge about a hundred feet below the "saddle" section where the cables begin. A couple of hikers had the courage to go down there for a rescue attempt. His heart was actually still beating for a few minutes but he succumbed to his injuries.  All of this happened so fast.

About a year before, another person lost his grip on the cables and slid down the other side of the mountain. He lucked out when his pants caught a piece of rock that prevent him from sliding 4000 feet to his death.  The poor guy was stuck there for 6-8 hours before someone rescued him.  Unreal, huh?

After the accident I witnessed, some people still kept going up, but I couldn't.  I just had to turn around; it was no longer fun.  I was so stunned, no words can describe how I felt at that time.

Yosemite Waterfall Deaths Put National Parks' Safety Under Scrutiny

A vista point over Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park, where three hikers are presumed dead after losing their footing in the water.

July 19, 2011
By: Katy Steinmetz

Three hikers were swept over Yosemite's Vernal Fall this week, after bypassing signs and climbing over a metal guardrail to get into the park's swollen waters.

The bodies of the hikers - ages 21, 22, and 27 - have yet to be found, though witnesses saw them go over the falls and struggle in the moments before. The group was roughly 25 feet from the fall's edge. The woman slipped first. A second man tried to save her and slipped. The third man then tried as well.  He failed in an attempt to save the other two.

The waters were, and are, stronger than usual, bolstered by a late snow-melt, and the hikers are all presumed dead. A press release from the park describes the current as dangerous, the waters as "flowing swiftly and extremely cold."

Of the 12 people who have ever gone over the 317-foot Vernal Fall, none has survived, a park official told the Los Angeles Times. And this accident brings Yosemite to its sixth water-related death this year. Two hikers drowned in a reservoir in June; another slipped into a river in May. The park continues to urge visitors to use extreme caution as the winter snowpack continues to thaw, causing higher-than-normal water levels over coming weeks.

The incident has led to questions about whether park rangers are as vigilant as they should be when it comes to reprimanding those who stray from the trails—and whether that kind of zealous policing would have much deterrent effect in any case. It has also brought renewed attention to how the beauty of America's waterways can belie their danger, especially in a year when weather has been so volatile. Some are calling this incident a "cautionary tale."

The dangers of nature, water and land, is a perennial story. Climbing deaths have recurred at Yosemite over the years. Rock slides and high winds pushing over trees have even been deadly for visitors. But there is a balance to be struck between protecting people from nature and facilitating their fullest enjoyment of it at national parks. Such tragic events are powerful stories but also rarities among the some 4 million visitors that annually visit Yosemite National Park.


Two LA Hikers Dead after Yosemite Accident

By Beverly White, Jack Noyes and Beth Stebner

Friday, Jul 1, 2011

Two hikers from Los Angeles are dead after being swept into the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, where one of the hikers had originally proposed to his wife.

Dr. Gregory Meyer, an ER physician, and Richard Fox, a physician’s assistant, were returning from a days-long hiking trip with three other friends at about 8 a.m. Wednesday when they fell into the reservoir, according to the Fresno Bee.

Meyer’s wife Paula said that her husband originally proposed to her at the very reservoir years ago over a shared bottle of wine. She told NBC Los Angeles that her late husband, 54, was a man who loved the outdoors, having been raised on a cattle ranch in Merced.

“He was a man of the earth, completely without pretense,” Paula said. “His greatest love, excepting his family, was reviving his Grandfather's ranch in Merced.” The couple have twin girls together.

“He was an exceptional husband and father,” Paula told NBC Los Angeles. “I will always cherish him.”

The trip started at the O’Shaughnessy Dam, and the hikers were returning to the spot to work their way home, according to the Bee. Officials said that though the bridge was open to the public, water levels were extremely high at the bridge because of melting snow and recent rainfall.

The three other backpackers are uninjured.

Video Clip of the Wapama waterfall that caused these two deaths


Next let's visit the Amazing Gouliang Tunnel.  Click "The Bizarre Tunnel in China"

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