SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.
Share your tales of travel & adventure with our step-by-step guide. Upload trail descriptions, photos, video, and more. Get Started
THE PULSE - Your source for survival, skills, and more from Rocky Mountain Editor Steve Howe

Bad News Triple Header from Yosemite and Great Basin

Two deaths and a close call illustrate the perils of unroped scrambling, crowded routes, and summit separations

    Image via Flickr

Lessons from Half Dome

On Saturday, June 13th, hiker Manoj Kumar, 40, fell to his death off the Half Dome cables in Yosemite Valley. His fall occurred one week after another hiker fell 300 feet but survived. Rangers had to evacuate 41 gripped hikers from the route. You can read  more on this earlier Daily Dirt post, and in this Backpacker forum. Both include first-hand eye-witness accounts.  Here's my take:

[] Many people underestimate exposed scramble climbs. While weather, heavy traffic, and often-unqualified hikers make the phenomenon worse on Half Dome, the same sort of accident occurs routinely on less famous or traveled scramble peaks. Climbing any Class III or IV route requires thousands of individual moves. It only takes one miss. You can't expect a perfect record, but that's what soloing requires - even when you've got a hand line. It's strictly for very high-mileage, well-trained climbers, and they die by the dozens too. Half Dome averages about three deaths a year, but relative to the visitor numbers, that's not a particularly high figure.

[] The safety answer on Half Dome is a pair of tough leather gloves (to prevent frayed cable wires from tearing your hands), along with a harness and carabiners rigged via ferrata style to attach you to the line. A missing step or two on the ladder (as was the case here) isn't really the cause, because people fall off perfectly good ladders and trails all the time.  If you've got a safety cable or handrail, it's crazy not to use that for anchoring too, or at least have the ability to do so - just like you should always carry a light rope on steep peaks. On a slab like Half Dome, where you'd never actually hang in space, all you'd really need is a rope waist loop with two 3-foot extensions leading to twin carabiners. The Park Service should probably require some sort of leash, and put a sign to that effect at the base of the cables. Most visitors won't violate posted regulations if numerous other groups are enthusiastically pointing out their transgression.

[] One of your biggest dangers on popular mountains isn't the peak, it's everyone else. Iconic mountain summits attract huge numbers. On busy peaks like Half Dome, the Grand Teton, or even Everest, slow-moving crowds are ALWAYS a problem. Many people on climbs like these will continue ascending even when alarmed or in over their heads, simply because everyone else is. When conditions deteriorate, as the weather did during this incident, crowds are guaranteed to freeze up, trapping you in the train. This often happens on descent because of afternoon storms, fatigue, and the fact that descents look and feel scarier than ascending. Avoid crowd bottlenecks by starting out early and staying ahead of everyone else. That is your only solution. Manoj Kumar's death is tragic, but it could have been worse. While falling, he might have tumbled into others and sent them falling too....like the Mt. Hood accident/heli crash several years ago where multiple rope teams were flossed off the summit couloir by a falling party - on a bluebird Memorial Day weekend.

[] On the bright side: Congrats to reader/witnesses Eric and Aydee on their impending nuptials! He proposed on the summit. She accepted. Kumar took a photo of them together.

Body Of Missing Yosemite Concession Employee Found
On Sunday, June 14th, Christopher Hale, 23, of Gainesville, Florida, an employee in training for DNC Park and Resorts, Yosemite's main concessionaire, was reported missing. On Monday, searchers found his body beneath a cliff near Mirror Lake in eastern Yosemite Valley. He had apparently fallen to his death.

[] I've said it a zillion times, but it still bears repeating: Unroped scrambling is the biggest single cause of backcountry fatalities. Don't do it, especially when you're alone. Climbing down steep moves is always more difficult than going up, which makes retreat difficult once you 'sketch out'.

Missing Hiker Lost Overnight Descending Wheeler Peak in Great Basin NP
From the National Park Service Morning Report, June 17th: "Late on the evening of June 8th, the county sheriff’s office notified the park’s chief ranger that they’d received a 911 call reporting an overdue hiker on the Wheeler Peak Trail. The responding ranger determined that a 56-year-old man had become separated from his hiking party while descending from13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, Nevada's second-highest summit. Weather conditions had been poor during the descent, with low clouds, snow flurries, wind gusts up to 30 mph and visibility of approximately 200 feet. The man had not been seen since approximately 5 p.m.

"Family members and other campers had been unable to locate him, finding only tracks in a snow bank suggesting he had left the designated trail.  The missing hiker was reported to be in good physical condition with no known medical problems, but was not carrying food, water, flashlights, maps or any other equipment. He had left his daypack along a lower part of the trail on the ascent to reduce the weight he was carrying."  

Apparently the unnamed victim descended down the mountain's northern flank, then veered west (rather than curving eastward toward trailhead). When clouds broke he realized his error, but was too tired to climb back up. He made for distant ranch lights and spent the night in an unoccupied dwelling, then hiked back into the park the next day, where he encountered a fish survey crew who reunited him with his family.

[] People dump weight too readily. I'm all for ultralight travel, but 5 or 10 pounds isn't going to make or break your ascent, while zero pounds can definitely ruin your day. Setting down a pack, you can easily get stranded away from your gear. I once spent an hour grid-searching for my backpack (and water) after doing that in Death Valley's Funeral Mountains.

[] This separation scenario happens to peak baggers all the time. DO NOT separate on summit descents, or lose visual contact in bad weather. Climbing and descending a peak is like moving in and out along the spokes of a wheel, or going up and down a series of forking tributaries on a stream. When climbing up toward the peak (or downstream on a river), all routes eventually converge, so getting lost is tougher. When descending a peak (or heading upstream on a river system) all routes diverge, and it's much easier to get lost. But groups often split up on descent, because 'it's just a cruise' back down.

O.K., That's all for now. There were a couple more instructive incidents that came up, but two of my friends just got spanked out of the Wind Rivers by rain, snow, and lightning, so they're coming down to Torrey as a fallback plan. We'll be, uh, gear testing until Monday. I'll try to heed my own advice and stay out of the news - never a sure thing. --Steve Howe


READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
cheap jerseys
Oct 22, 2013

Tell everyone a good news, I found a professional selling jerseys store onlie, http://www.iacindustries.com/cheapnfljerseys.html Here have all kinds nike nfl jerseys,mlb jerseys cheap,nba jerseys sale, There have professional and enthusiastic customer service. http://www.iacindustries.com/cheap49ersjerseys.html
http://www.iacindustries.com/nfljerseys.html all kind of nike nfl jerseys for sale http://www.wbenc.org/nfl-jerseys.html

Star Star Star Star Star
http://www.jerseycaptain.com
Oct 20, 2013

cheap nfl jersey sale
http://www.iacindustries.com/cheapnfljerseys.html
http://www.iacindustries.com/cheap49ersjerseys.html
nfl Jersey wholesale
http://www.iacindustries.com/nfljerseys.html
cheap jersey sale, world series patch mlb jerseys, cool base MLB Jerseys, new nfl jersey cheap,2013 new nfl jersey sale,cheap nba jersey,nhl jersey cheap, nba jersey cheap, mlb jersey sale,Hardwood Classics NBA Jerseys, Revolution 30 Swingman NBA Jerseys,college ncaa jerseys . The Best China Jerseys Wholesaler. elite game limited light out nfl jerseys. Australia basketball jerseys. Australia soccer jerseys,

Star Star Star Star Star
nfljerseys
Oct 14, 2013

Every customer satisfied with our china nfl jerseys, they are promised best quality in the market, and our service is the best. Good jerseys is the life of our company. Hope to do more business with you. Hope you can have a try for our jerseys. http://www.iacindustries.com/cheapnfljerseys.html All kinds nhl jerseys on sale,



Star Star Star Star Star
nfljerseys
Sep 21, 2013

Tell everyone a good news, I found a professional selling jerseys store onlie, http://www.bestjerseysale.com/ Here have all kinds nike nfl jerseys,mlb jerseys cheap,nba jerseys sale, http://www.bestjerseysale.com/Nike-NFL-Jerseys-c120.html There have professional and enthusiastic customer service.

Star Star Star Star Star
GSDFGH
Jun 20, 2013

http://www.ncoachoutlet.com/ coach outlet usa coach outlet online usa
http://www.smichaelkorsoutlet.com/ micheal kors outlet usa micheal kors outlet online
http://www.new-michaelkorspurses.com/ michael kors purses outlet online
http://www.mk-michaelkoroutlett.com/ michael kors outlet usa
http://www.guccishoeoutletfactory.net/ gucci shoes outlet online
http://www.northfacenoutletonline.net/ north face jackets outlet online
http://www.monstervheadphones.com/ monster beats outlet online
http://www.coach-storesonline2013.net/ coach outlet online

Star Star Star Star Star
Anant
Jun 19, 2013

Manoj Kumar was my father. I need your support for my signature campaign to prevent tragedies at Half Dome in Yosemite. Please help me by clicking on the button to "Sign Petition" at http://www.gudville.com/causes/Safer-Yosemite-Half-dome--for-climbers/XyBTc8hfAddJY0ZNfe5uIw==?ei=lHVzCERJkwAlOzxCTcgmDfMmFpbg4qv5

It would be very helpful if you can also share it on your social network or via email.

Star Star Star Star Star
www.nfljerseysalecheap.com
May 20, 2013

Cheap china jersey sale, china jersey cheap, new nfl jersey cheap, 2013 new nfl jersey sale, nfl jersey 2013, cheap baseball jerseys
http://www.nfljerseysalecheap.com
baseball jersey for sale, cheap ncaa jersey, wholesale nba jerseys,wholesale nhl jerseys,discount nhl jerseys,
http://www.nfljerseysalecheap.com/Nike-NFL-Jerseys-c124.html
nike nfl jersey wholesale ,new nfl jersey wholesale
http://www.nfljerseysalecheap.com/MLB-Jerseys-c94.html
cheap mlb jersey, mlb jerseys cheap cheap nhl jersey
http://www.nfljerseysalecheap.com/NBA-Jerseys-c77.html
wholesale mlb jerseys cheap nhl jerseys wholesale nhl jerseys, basketball jerseys cheap, nba jerseys for sale. college ncaa jerseys
http://www.nfljerseysalecheap.com/NHL-Jerseys-c96.html
Australia basketball jerseys sale. Australia soccer jerseys cheap.
http://www.nfljerseysalecheap.com/Soccer-Jerseys-c118.html

Star Star Star Star Star
cheap nfl jerseys
Jan 20, 2013

As a online store,3cjerseys.com provide all kinds of cheap nfl jerseys with wholesale price, just like NFL Jerseys,Football Jerseys, Basketball Jerseys,NHL Jerseys,We also provide Customized NFL jerseys. More information please visit www.3cjerseys.com!!Here, you can buy all kinds of cheap nfl jerseys ,we provide jerseys which wholesale from China with high quality.It¡¯s our principle in business to honor the contract and keep our promise .more information visit http://www.3cjerseys.com/

yourjerseyhome
Oct 28, 2012

Welcome to our jerseys shop http://www.yourjerseyhome.com we would off you the best jerseys and best servise. We are professional jerseys manufacturer from china,wholesal.cheap nike nfl jerseys, mlb jerseys, nhl jerseys,nba jerseys and shoes. we offer the latest 2012 nike jersey, with the best quality and the cheapest price,
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/Nike-NFL-Jerseys-c124.html Cheap Nike NFL Jerseys, the perfect jersey to let you enjoy the sport, to make you crazy for sports.
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/MLB-Jerseys-c94.html cool base mlb jerseys and throwback mlb jerseys.
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/NBA-Jerseys-c77.html Revolution 30 swing nba jerseys
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/NFL-T-Shirt-c126.html wholesale NFL T-Shirt,
All Our Jerseys Are Sewn On and Directly From Chinese Jerseys Factory, hope to do longtime business with you.

LB Dad
Aug 18, 2012

California is already a nanny-state, please don't hold our hands on this too. People slip and fall and sometimes die. it's sad, but it happens, and not an an alarming rate.

Bryce
Jul 26, 2009

Definitely agree with the above comment. Given the unfamiliarity of the general public with via-ferrata type systems, and that people would almost certainly lack proper training for correct use, I would figure that a well intentioned safety system would only cause further problems. Simply, the summits of mountains are the realm of those who are mentally and physically capable of reaching them, and the park service should keep it to: "climb at your own risk".

aliza
Jul 01, 2009

:)
ya very simple rule of life not only in this game. If you fall you die, so don’t fall.
<a href="http://www.exam-builder.com/642-145.htm">642-145 exam</a>

Jeffrey & Denise
Jun 23, 2009

Like the Fire Fall the Half Dome Cables are litter. They are not natural to the park and should no be but up. This would also have the benefit of reducing the amount of foot traffic on one of the most over used trails in the park.

Kolby
Jun 19, 2009

Thanks for the ferrata style pdf. Is this common practice on Half Dome? I'm all about safety, but it seems like if I did this on something as busy and backed up as Half Dome, I'd have people punching me in the nose by the time we got to the top/bottom. I suppose someone well trained in this technique could clip on/off fairly quickly. Great article, btw.

ChrisJ
Jun 19, 2009

Seriously, Steve, a 3 foot leash on Half Dome? Happy belated April Fools! Dang, dude, think this through. You’re talking about a huge expense for gear and extra rangers to coordinate this effort, which can only mean some kind of trail fee because the NPS can’t afford it. Not only that, you’re opening the door to litigation when someone unclips and falls. How about “Climb at your own risk” and “Don’t ascend cables during the threat of inclement weather”? If you fall you die, so don’t fall. Kumar’s death is tragic, but people die in the mountains and this sort of ridiculous hand holding will not prevent that. It will only ruin the experience for the rest of us. Jeez!

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
Even conservative Christians are beginning to
Posted On: Aug 26, 2014
Submitted By: High_Sierra_Fan
The Political Arena
The audacity of coal mining companies. They want
Posted On: Aug 26, 2014
Submitted By: High_Sierra_Fan
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions