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#54504 - 11/15/18 08:27 AM Death on the Dome
Harvey Lankford Offline

Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1029
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
DEATH ON THE DOME is the title of a recent article in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, based on a multimedia search incl from YNP and AAC.

They considered it a non-technical route when the cable were up, but technical climber deaths anywhere on the Dome and deaths of anyone when the cables were down were both considered as a technical route.

31 deaths over 85 years

11 climbers (incl two technical climbers who made it up the Face only to die on the "easy" descent when the cables were down.

8 suicides ( 2nd leading cause of deaths in ALL Fed Parks)

5 cables-up related falls by hikers

5 hikers -not on cable section, but falling/lightning/medical

2 base jumpers

They concluded that cable falls were"disproportionately featured in public media" despite overcrowding.

I would add that one could argue that by recently requiring a permit and thereby reducing the increasingly crowded cable population that the death rate was proactively avoided, but no proof. Of course, the ambiance is better even if safety is not


#56500 - 10/27/19 12:25 AM Re: Death on the Dome [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7992
Loc: Fresno, CA
This year a study has come out showing that reducing the number of people hiking Half Dome has not resulted in a reduced number of accidents:

From Outside Magazine: Yosemite Permits Aren't Making Half Dome Safer
The logic behind requiring permits on Yosemite's famed Half Dome was sound: smaller crowds equals fewer accidents. In this case, the opposite is true.

Here's the study they reference, same study noted by HL above:
Impact of a Half Dome Cable Permitting Process on Search and Rescue Activity, Hiker Mortality Rates, and Operational Costs Above Little Yosemite Valley

Intro and conclusion from the study:
The summit of Yosemite's Half Dome is reached using cable handrails for the final 146 m (480 ft). Access to these cables was restricted to users with permits in 2010. The authors aim to describe the impact of permitting on search and rescue (SAR) in the region of the park most affected by permitting.

SAR incidents, victims, fatalities, or costs above LYV did not decrease after cable handrail permitting. Parkwide SAR activity decreased during the same intervals. This strongly suggests that overcrowding is not the key factor influencing safety on Half Dome. This discordant trend warrants close observation over 5 to 10 y.

#56502 - 10/28/19 01:15 AM Re: Death on the Dome [Re: Steve C]
StorminMatt Offline

Registered: 06/20/19
Posts: 47
Loc: Norcal
The permit system may have reduced the number of climbers. But by creating scarcity when it comes to climbing opportunities, it is speculated that the permit system has made people take more chances. Because the permit system has eliminated the possibility of easily making another attempt at a later date, people may continue their climb despite dangerous situations like threatening bad weather or just plain fatigue. In fact, climbers slipped on wet rock and fell to their death in May of 2018 and September of this year. It is impossible to know whether these people would have aborted in the face of impending bad weather had they known they werenít giving up a rare opportunity by doing so. But it would be foolhardy to believe that knowing that you canít easily come back later ISNíT going to make at least SOME people take chances they wouldnít otherwise.

Edited by StorminMatt (10/28/19 11:19 AM)

#56527 - 10/31/19 08:44 AM Re: Death on the Dome [Re: Harvey Lankford]
RichardK Offline

Registered: 11/06/09
Posts: 118
Loc: East Coast Florida
We did Half Dome back in 2008 before the permit system. Upon finishing, I realized that we should have worn climbing harnesses and clipped into the cables. That way, a fall is physically impossible.

#56534 - 10/31/19 06:27 PM Re: Death on the Dome [Re: RichardK]
bruce Offline

Registered: 09/27/13
Posts: 131
Loc: Novato, CA
It's not safer because now you have big gaps between people on the cables, which creates pressure for people to "keep up" and end up getting overly fatigued (which is the last thing you want in that spot). People also get more paranoid with fewer people nearby. Before it was a big conga line and slow going, which in a way was actually safer.

#56547 - 11/05/19 02:27 PM Re: Death on the Dome [Re: RichardK]
Fishmonger Offline

Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1034
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: RichardK
We did Half Dome back in 2008 before the permit system. Upon finishing, I realized that we should have worn climbing harnesses and clipped into the cables. That way, a fall is physically impossible.

I wore those in 1989 already. People looked at me like I was some complete idiot. Back in europe on then well established Via Ferrata or Klettersteige, wearing a harness with two biners to clip in and out around the anchors had been well established before my first Half Dome visit.

In 1989, we went up with packs for an overnight (legal then) and it was a no brainer to use the harness for safety. A day and a half later at Tuolumne meadows we put them in a package and mailed them home, then went on our way to Whitney. Photo is from 1989

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