This past weekend, a hiker died on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. She was only 26. Reportedly it was raining and the granite on the Half Dome climb is slippery enough even when dry. If there is any hint of rain, don’t do the Half Dome climb, “Avoid Half Dome on days when there are thunder clouds in the area – it’s not worth the risk. Even rain without lightning will make the granite on the cable route dangerously slick, so it’s best to skip stormy days altogether.” (Source: yosemitehikes.com) Lightning strikes on Half Dome are common. A book has been written about an incident in which two hikers died from lightning strikes there.
It is at least a 12 mile hike and requires 10 to 14 hours. The elevation gain is 4,800 feet and it is a very difficult hike, meaning you must be physically fit in order to complete it. If you are afraid of heights, it wouldn’t be wise to attempt it. Also, for a person who gets stuck going up the last 400 vertical feet with cables, you could be endangering the other hikers by causing them to go around you or, making matters more challenging, is that the trail and cables up the slippery granite are usually crowded or very crowded. If one person falls, and bumps into another then there could be damage done to the person who is struck or both. Even worse, on the slippery granite there isn’t anything to grab so it is likely the person will fall hundreds of feet until they are killed on impact. The last part of the hike is very steep and you have to have cables to hold onto to pull yourself up. Some people have gone outside the cables and worn the granite down which has made it smoother and more slippery. Permits are now required to do this very strenuous hike. Hiking it without a permit can result in a severe fine. The Half Dome trail, like Yosemite itself, tends to get quite crowded on weekends during summers. Three young adults died this summer when one fell into a raging river right above a huge waterfall, and two people fell in trying to save the first. They were swept over the falls very quickly. Water levels in the Sierra have been unusually high, so rivers and streams are full of rushing, cold water.
People unfamiliar with such conditions are surprised by how strong the currents are, and the coldness of the water. Earlier in the summer two men were swept away by powerful, high waters running over a bridge they were trying to cross. One was trying to save the other who fell. In May, a hiker fell into the Merced River and drowned. With a little knowledge, all of these deaths could have been prevented.