A Petition To Save Half Dome?

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

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     The Half Dome beehive is being shaken again. There is a fellow from the Sierra foothills named Mason Harrison who set up a website and is asking the world to sign a petition to ask the park to put up a 3rd cable on Half Dome. Right. So a 2-channel “up” side and a 2-channel “down” side. A sharing of the inner cable. With the intense pressure put on the NPS by environmentalists to REMOVE the cables, that idea has the proverbial “as much chance as a snowball in hell” of being done.   Mason created a basic website to support his “movement.” Click <HERE>  Let’s get some dialog going here. What do you think? This is a “community.” Reply with comments.  Go to the website – surprise: you will not read a petition – just a place submit your name/address etc.

   My take? Well, since you asked: Question 1 – Did Mason attend the 2010 public presentations on the Half Dome Stewardship Plan and voice concerns then? Question 2 – Did he submit a written comment like 95 of us did (sadly a low number). Seems people only care when they want to go. In my opinion, the overarching reason for the permits was the terrible fall of 2 people a week apart in June of 2009. One fatally. Both were very bad weather days – yes, I was there that day and we got off when the clouds came in. Hail and rain yet people continued going up. The permits were to help provide an escape route when conditions change. Click on this to enlarge and see the people on the cables with that cloud on the right. I’m at the edge of the forest beating feet to get down.

     Just 3 years ago, peaks of 1200 people going up on Saturdays were not fun for anyone. Today’s flow of 400 max makes for a fun and safer experience. The horse is out of the barn. The Park is getting ready to release their alternatives for the Half Dome Stewardship Plan after 2 years of analysis. Maybe in a month or so. Read it and get involved. To borrow from our Burning Man friends: Participate – don’t spectate.

     Sorry about too many people wanting to do the hike – limited supply and excessive demand. 7 billion on earth and 310 million in the USA. Half want to do Half Dome. And sometimes you can’t get tickets to see Pink Floyd.   Get used to it.

 

Unrelated thought worth quoting: Little by little the night turns around. Counting the leaves which tremble at dawn. Lotuses lean on each other in yearning, under the eaves the swallow is resting. Set the controls for the heart of the sun.” – Pink Floyd

 *MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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0 Responses to A Petition To Save Half Dome?

  1. Chris says:

    Big News:

    http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyo.....ermits.htm

    Mason can call off the dogs.

    • Roberto Hernandez says:

      Wow, 50 Additional permits each day, all non-transferable…This makes sense! Make it 100…

  2. Roberto Hernandez says:

    Well said Mason! Information is power! How many times have you gone up Half Dome?

    • Dean says:

      Information is power Roberto but when it comes to Law, interpretation is where it matters.

      For example I tend to think that US citizens should only be allowed to own a gun if they are in a well organised militia, but the Supreme Court and many, many people disagree with my interpretation of the 2nd amendment.

      Many people will also disagree with Mason’s interpretation of the Wilderness Act.

  3. Dean says:

    I recommend checking back on Rick’s blog and reading the public scoping comment from Wilderness Watch regarding Half Dome.

    They don’t start internet campaigns, they don’t get petitions, they don’t get upset or angry – they use the law and the courts to uphold their interpretation of the Wilderness Act.

    Protecting the cables as they are, protecting the history and heritage, making a strong legal case – these should be the priorities in my opinion.

    • Rick,

      Thanks for the reply.

      1) Are you calling me a horse? 🙂 If so, this would be an improvement from some of the things I have been called by extreme environmentalists who truly believe that there is no balance that can be struck and that the cables should be removed completely. This is an extreme position that most Americans do not agree with. The Sierra Club, which installed the cables originally the year Teddy Roosevelt died, recognized the need to allow access. Let’s not buck decades of tradition.

      2) I agree that it would be wonderful for more people to climb Half Dome. The good news is that it is possible and the Park Service is the only thing keeping it from happening.

      3) Hiking Half Dome is safe for people and the environment. Also, I will add that expanding and preserving trails like this help control and minimize the impact humans have on the environment. Good fences make good neighbors, good trails help strike the balance that is needed. Better to have a single set of cables than people damaging the cliff by trying to climb it on their own.

      4) I totally disagree with the idea of mandatory classes. So did a majority of hikers in the 2008 study that the University of Colorado did. I should add that this was even BEFORE the permit system was instituted.

      5) Can we at least admit that the current process is a failure? Everyone except for the park service and those who want the cables removed entirely agree on this. Let’s admit we have a problem and go from there.

      6) As you mentioned, too few people (97 to be exact) submitted comments during the public comment period. SaveHalfDome.com has given hundreds of people a voice who care equally about Half Dome and were not aware of the last public comment period.

      7) My point about Macchu Picchu, Pompeii (I’ve also been there) isn’t to neutralize the safety hazard argument, but the environmental argument that hikers are destroying half dome. This is LAUGHABLE. These are ancient ruins that are more sensitive that Half Dome (a granite dome which has existed in it’s current form since the ice age). Let’s save access to this iconic monolith.

      8) To answer ALL of the points about the Wilderness Act. Look people, a third cable is ALLOWED under Wilderness. Read it yourself, it’s on the website. Their words, not mine. Structures are allowed in order to meet the minimum requirements of wilderness (which includes allowing people to realize the benefits of wilderness. Denying thousands of people every week is hardly meeting the minimum requirement. Yes, it would require hearings and paperwork (and dare I say LEADERSHIP) for the park service, but if that is the primary defense against it, then the defense is based on laziness plain and simple. Enough on that point.

      Mason

      • Sönke says:

        In my humble opinion it would be awful if more people would hike Half Dome (it’s not a climb and that does include the cables).

        EVERY SINGLE feedback on several websites I’ve read this season mentioned that it was a MUCH better experience this year than the years before because of less crowded trails and less traffic jam at the cables.

        My own experience during my last hike in the pre-permit era was mediocre at best. Maybe this is because I don’t appreciate pot-smoking “outdoor friends” and walkie-talkie using headcount 20+ parties.

        Probably we have very different opinions what an outdoor experience should look and feel like. This whole thing has nothing to do with “denial”.

    • Dean says:

      Hi Mason,

      Best of luck with your campaign.

      We all know that the cables become intolerably jammed when access is unrestricted – this leads to anti-social behaviour and an unpleasant experience for many.

      Can I ask how a third cable will solve this? There is huge demand for this hike, it is a massive draw for many people…a third cable cannot possibly satisfy this demand and I have no doubt would become jammed in a similar manner as recent years.

      Can you explain how a third cable and unrestricted access wouldn’t result in massive overcrowding?

      Cheers

      • Dean,

        Thanks for the well wishes.

        The cables become jammed because there are only two of them when many people use both to climb both up and down. A third is logical and would make the situation much more tolerable. Visitation will not increase beyond what we would expect, let’s remember that it’s still one hell of a climb to make it up to the top. If you make it that far, you deserve another cable to make the final ascent.

        Mason

        • mrhalfdome says:

          Mason,

          I’ll be at the park Fri – Sun. Come up and we can chat over a pizza. I can introduce you to the NPS staff that you should talk to. Send me a PM to coordinate.

          Rick

  4. Roberto Hernandez says:

    How about just leaving the bare cables all year, and never put in the poles and boards? That would keep most novices away. Then I could always get up without any permit.

    • mrhalfdome says:

      Read about the 2 women who died in Nov 2006 and April 2007. Take everything down then only real idiots will go up. .. and fall then we get a fence around HD.

  5. Andy says:

    While I don’t agree a multi-lane system is the answer maybe the publicity surrounding this whole mess may save the cables after all.
    I still think the decision has been made.
    I hope I’m wrong.

  6. Maureen L says:

    Limits on winter access to Yellowstone have been in place for a number of years.

    When I went rafting on the Merced River west of the park in late May, the outfitter was operating under permits from Forest Service/BLM.

    The outfitter with whom I have signed up for a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon next May operates under permits.

    The Forest Service allows 100 hikers per day in the Whitney Zone.

    There are daily limits for hiking the Subway in Zion.

    Need I go on?

    Keeping wilderness for future generations requires we refrain from loving it and using it to death.

    Propaganda words like “deny” don’t help you make your case, Mr. Harrison.

    • Sönke says:

      Thumbs up – I couldn’t agree more.

      By the way: there are many more examples for daily limits, e.g. “The Wave” (20 per day and I love to see that reduced to 5 as 20 is too much already (not too mention I documented unbelievable vandalism in 2008)).

  7. Hi everyone,

    First of all, I’d like to point everyone to the latest news story on this out of Fresno. It is a fair piece that helps explain some of the reasoning behind our petition:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY3qTwx9Mec

    Since we have launched SaveHalfDome.com, the response has been overwhelming. We’ve received emails from so many families and hikers from in and around the area who have been denied access. We have all heard the horror stories.

    I appreciate Mr. Half Dome a great deal for starting this forum, because I really do believe that when it comes to issues involving National Treasures such as Half Dome, our emotions tend to cloud our rational judgement (I’m, on occasion no exception to this). But I do believe it’s helpful to look at the big picture and inform as many as possible about the facts.

    The fact, whether you like it or not, is that the Half Dome Trail might be the most popular hiking trail in all of California- so popular that nearly 1,200 people per day, during peak season, make this daunting, sometimes treacherous climb (despite the crowds even). Half Dome has a place in everyone’s heart, and the opportunity cost of denying thousands of people this life-changing experience is an actual cost that is not accounted for in any report which I am privy to (not to mention the local economic impact for places like my hometown of Sonora).

    The Italians do not have a limit on the number of visitors who can explore Pompeii. Peruvian authorities allow upwards of 2500 people per day to climb to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Since when did America become the kind of country to cap the number of individuals who can explore their Natural Heritage in this way, when such limits are unjustified when there are less than creative alternatives.

    To answer Mr. Half Dome’s 2 questions directly, the answer is no to both. Part of the reason was that despite being a frequent hiker and visitor to the area, I was a resident of Sacramento, lead a busy work life and like thousands of other people who care deeply about this issue, I wasn’t aware of it. I suppose this project is my way of atoning.

    Thanks.

    Mason Harrison
    Founder, SaveHalfDome.com

    • mrhalfdome says:

      Mason,

      Thanks for participating in the discussion. Best to hear from the “horse’s mouth.” First off, I am NOT affiliated with the NPS or any governmental organization. Just a guy with Half Dome as his passion. It keeps me out of bars. My first hike up in 1990 was a magic moment and got me off my duff to do many other adventures. I wrote a life list then and carried it for 25 years. I’d love to see many more experience this – it’s our Mt Everest. But we all can’t. I never got to see Pink Floyd – SOLD OUT, but I got over it.

      I agree with some of your points. All but one of the deaths off the cables were directly related to the weather. I have them all documented on my website. The “Accidents” page gets more visitors than any other. I think anyone can do the hike with Education, Preparation and Motivation – the theme of my 40 talks a year on how to do it safely. I’m sure you’ve seen people in sandals, with 12 ounces of water for all day, who begin at 10 am. The park has done a good job this year in trying to educate people. The yards of advice and tips is right on. I would go further and require anyone who gets a HD permit to listen to a ranger (like Wilderness permits do) or view a movie or take a class – even in an auditorium. Reality shows that they don’t have the resources to implement that. They announced the Half Dome Stewardship Plan almost 2 years ago. Meetingsin Fresno and Berkely were publicized. THAT was the time to voice your concerns as part of the formal process. Or at least meet with the Park Planning Managers – not when the Alternatives are about to be announced.

      I’ve been to both Pompeii and the Machu Picchu. Both are hardly risky activities. They don’t let you plow thru those ruins with abandon. However, the steep climb up Huyana Picchu has strict quotas. In Galapagos you have to almost hold hands with a ranger. I’ve been to the Pyramids – did you know that even Egyptians are denied the right to climb up them to experience their heritage? I think the way a society works is to follow procedures and the 2-year permit process is an interim step. During these 2 years the park is following a strict protocol by soliciting public opinions, weighing alternatives, conducting environmental impacts of those alternatives, then selecting a solution. Come Nov 2011 the Dept of Interior will sign off and the ongoing process adhered to.

      Congress put Half Dome into the Wilderness. The NPS is tasked with honoring that Act. My hope is that a good solution is agreed to that keeps the cables up for citizens to enjoy and are not pulled down by pressure from environmental groups.

  8. andy says:

    A lot of great comments and suggestions. Everyone is making the assumption there is a good way to keep things open.
    The Park Service is managing the CLOSURE of the cable route. That’s what all this about. That’s why there is no attempt to really have a working permit system. The wilderness act is very clear as Rick has stated.
    Tragically, this is a done deal. The wall climbers are next on the wacko hit list.

    • Maureen Lahiff says:

      If you’re inclined to attribute this sort of motivation to the Park Service, I think removing the 5 High Sierra camps in the backcountry is next on the “keep Yosemite wilderness as pure as we can” list.

      Those camps do generate a LOT of mule traffic for food supply (and garbage removal). I’m pretty sure they run generators for their refrigerators. And they have office telephones (the land line kind).

      • mrhalfdome says:

        Maureen is dead on. The Lake Merced camp is right in their scopes. Environmental groups want the park to be like it was in 1800. The 2 slip/.falls in June 2009 were the straws that broke...you know the rest.

    • mrhalfdome says:

      I’m not that cynical.There is intense pressure from Congress et al to “do something” about Half Dome. I feel they will go with an improved permit system as the solution. Any court action/injunction would recgonize the NPS efforts by reducing the impact from 1200 daily hikers to 400. Stay involved and COMMENT when the aternatives are issued.

    • Scott Baines says:

      Andy, I suspect you are right. By no means do I imply malice on the part of the NPS, but I do think there is a favored outcome.

      On the other hand, I do not think a decision to close the cable route would stand. Mr. Half Dome has (rightly) deplored the low level of participation seen in the process to date, but the spotlight would shine much brighter if such a decision was announced, and I think it would be reversed, even if legislation was required.

      I agree that nothing like the cable route would be built today. But, since it was built and is such a huge part of the heritage of the park system (the cables have been in place for 92 of Yosemite’s 121-year existence as a National Park), let’s manage the problems instead of writing them off.

      I would add two sets of bolts and pole holes – one to the left of the current left cable, and one to the right of the current right cable. There would be either 3 cables (right side for ascent, left side for descent) or 4 cables with two completely separate paths up and down. The configuration could be changed periodically to reduce the effect of hiker-induced erosion. It would probably make sense to start with the 4 cable configuration to give the path that has been used for the last 92 years a bit of a break, then make an assessment of the condition of that original path in 5 years. Would 5 years’ worth of natural weather erosion abrade the rock enough that it is much less slippery? My guess is yes. If not, wait another 5 or even 10 years and reassess.

      • mrhalfdome says:

        WOW, reminds me of the photoshop image with about 5 cables running up HD.

        The best action would be to get Congress to stop working on the budget, Afganistan, Health Care, taxes and vote to take HD out of the Wilderness. 1200 sq miles of it and we are haggling over the last 400 vertical feet??

      • Scott Baines says:

        There would only be 2 lanes open to hikers at one time. The third lane would provide:

        1) additional safety with dedicated up and down routes in all three configurations

        2) additional safety by allowing the ability to rotate the paths in use. (Configuration A moves traffic off of the same path that has been worn smooth and can later be alternated with Configs B & C to prevent or mitigate future “polishing”.)

        3) with only two lanes open to hikers, the third lane could be used as a dedicated means of access for YOSAR.

        Again, I realize that I have a better shot at Mega Millions or getting an In-N-Out Burger here in New York, but it really would be much less intrusive than a staircase or a tram (or an In-N-Out Burger on the summit!)

  9. Maureen L says:

    I think it’s worth taking a look at how the Forest Service runs the Mount Whitney lottery. It’s run early enough in the year (February) to give people a chance to make travel and lodging plans if they get a permit. Also, Whitney lets people request a permit for up to 15 people; the limit of 4 per permit for Half Dome has been a source of unhappiness in the posts here.

    The fee is $15 per person for Whitney. Small enough, IMO, so as not to be a barrier, large enough to require serious thought about the trip.

    The Whitney lottery does away with the on-line crush at 7 am on the first of the month for Half Dome permits.

    The picture of crowded cables with lots of people outside that ran with the front page story in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle is a good argument for some sort of permits.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/.....1K7367.DTL

    I find Mr. Harrison’s site infuriating. First, the name, savehalfdome.
    Then the big statement on the Home page, which at this point is not true — “The National Park Service will close Half Dome to the public if you don’t act…” and saying the petition is to “reopen” Half Dome.

  10. I think adding another cable would be unnecessary, but I think they could probably double or triple the number of permits available per day if they issued permits in two hour increments. (Like Disneyland had “fast-passes” that say return between 8:00 and 8:55). I would have happily started my hike at 4am if that was what was required in order to be able to do it. I think spreading around the climbers and forcing people to not all show up at 1-2pm would keep the flow steady and even. And if someone shows up late/early – the ranger has the discretion to make a judgment call based on the current level of crowds or some max number allowed up at any given moment. If it was maxing out at 1200 people per day – I think limiting the permits to 300 per day was a little too restrictive. The 1200 could easily be accomodated over a 6 hour span (10am – 4pm). And with the sky lit by the sun until 9pm – there would be plenty of time for people to get back. Just a thought….

    • mrhalfdome says:

      Dean,

      Thanks for the thoughts. You really in Japan? Done Mt Fuji??
      The odds against of hundreds of people arriving at their assigned times would be very high. Even though they are optimistic, many just poop out. Then a line would start at the Sub Dome for “check in.” Unlike Disney, there are not enough rangers to manage/enforce such an idea. Push and shove would result. And how would we control the downward flow? …. a timer on top so everyone gets 20 minutes then they gotta come down? 1/3 of the people who try Half Dome should have gone to the mall instead of half dome. They panic and freak out when on the cables….and it’s easy to see why.
      The rangers can’t make judgment calls… if they say it’s OK to go and someone falls the park can be liable. Think $$$$$$ lawsuit. By congressional decree it’s in the wilderness…..assess the risk and deal with it. The park is NOT going to ask Congress to remove it for that designation. No one wants to catch the arrows. They continue to study the issue and perhaps the 400 limit may grow. We shall see what the plan lays out.

      • josh says:

        There’ s no way to get it perfectly locked down, even now – if all 400 people show up at the same time, there would be a huge crowd. The rangers are already there collecting permits, so it would really be any different. They would just not only have to check the date, but also the time. You can’t time people at the top, but really people are going to flow down at about the same rate as they go up most of the time. You can only spend so much time up there before getting bored.

        If it really seems like a problem to do that – then just say “no exceptions” – you get turned away if you don’t get there within your timeframe. If your permit is from 11:25 – 12:25, and you come at 12:30, then too bad. It’s no different than now – if you show up with yesterday’s permit, the ranger will say “sorry, wrong day”

        There’s just gotta be SOME WAY to spread out the climbers over a few hours to allow more people per day.

        btw – I’m not in Japan anymore….wordpress just recognizes my email linked to my old blog when I was…. never did any climbing there though …. 🙂

  11. Pete James says:

    A few comments:

    Until a few years ago, my wife and I lived in central North Carolina. When you wanted to go on a backpack to pretty much any national forest or wilderness within weekend distance (with one exception: Linville Gorge), you just went. No quotas, no permits, you just went. We could decide on Thursday or Friday to go backpacking Saturday and Sunday (and decide where we would go that late).

    Last summer, we learned we would be moving to California. Want to hike up the tallest mountain in the state (and the lower 48)? You have to sign up 6 months early for a lottery. Want to climb Half Dome? You have to sign up months in advance and get a permit (if you’re lucky) on the Internet or go on a Monday-Thursday (then after we moved here, they took away the Monday-Thursday option without a permit.) Want to go backpacking? Many of the wildernesses have permits and quotas, some have permits but no quotas, some are free-access like I’m used to. Major bummer.

    I’m not currently in shape to do the 17 mile out-and-back as a day-trip anyway (although with a lot of workouts, I probably could eventually get into shape). The only way I’d be able to do it right now is as a backpack, spending a night at Little Yosemite camp area on the way there. But, I object to the NPS’s actions restricting access to Half Dome on principle. With every action they take to make access a lot more difficult, the outdoors is a little more of a nuisance to access, and people who are inclined to sit on the couch in front of their TV or computer are even more inclined to do so. Yes, there are many other trails that can be done in Yosemite or other areas, but some of us like “signature hikes” such as Half Dome and are sorry to see them go.

    I really hope the environmentalists don’t win and the Park Service is not forced to say at the end of their process: “This is wilderness, and therefore, non-rock-climbers are denied access to the top of Half Dome permanently”. 🙁

    • mrhalfdome says:

      Good thoughts. Part of it is that Calif has more people than any other state. 80% of Yosemite visitors are from CA….and most from the SF Bay area…It’s an easy drive. Sorry, but the Carolina’s are not as popular. Part of the Wilderness designation is that it should have no structures or installations. The cables were put up in 1919 and aren’t the original cables, so no grandfathering. HD is hardly in the Wilderness hen you can hear cars in the parking lot!! 1200 sq miles of Wilderness at Yosemite but a small group is hassling us over the last ¼ mile of a great hike.

  12. Dean says:

    I sympathise with Mason but his campaign has the potential to do more harm than good.

    Groups like Wilderness Watch could point to Mason’s website as proof that hikers have no regard for the law (Wilderness Act prohibits installation of 3rd cable) and are determined to spoil the Wilderness.harm than good.

    Groups like Wilderness Watch could point to Mason’s website as proof that hikers have no regard for the law (Wilderness Act prohibits installation of 3rd cable) and are determined to spoil the Wilderness.

  13. Roberto Hernandez says:

    Add a 3rd cable, and Blast N Build steps to the top similar to the subdome stone stairs.

  14. David Moore says:

    The permit system is a good idea and the reduction in numbers on that trail can only be good thing. However, I don’t think it’ll have much of an impact on the number accidents that occur on the cables. It’s the weather condition, slick rock and unprepared hikers etc. that is the real issue.

    I would argue that the permit system currently used may even increase the number of accidents as people could be more determined to reach the summit to make their ‘prized’ permit worthwhile (regardless of conditions).

    Looking forward to seeing what the National Park service come up with shortly.

    • mrhalfdome says:

      David,

      You are spot-on correct. Is half ‘dome a major goal for folks from the UK?? I went up in 2009 with 3 blokes from the Wales Search and Rescue.

      Rick

      • David Moore says:

        Hi Rick,

        I think a lot of the folks here aim for Disney Land 😉 Seriously though, people head to various places in the US as well as to the Alps, Dolomites etc. in Europe. I know there’s a lot of respect over here for how the US National Parks are managed and run.

        Where I live in Scotland outdoor pursuits are popular and hiking in the Scottish Highlands is great, but we rarely get decent weather. It’s the same for Wales and a lot of England too.

        I got the opportunity to visit California in 2008 and have been back twice since. There’s some really beautiful places and Yosemite in particular just blew my mind. I’m hoping to go back again next year with my wife and would really like to hike Half Dome again. Perhaps the new system will be in place by then?

        David

  15. I don’t have a problem with the permit system; I have a problem with the accountability. Make them non transferrable maybe, except to turn them back in on recreation.gov. Maybe add another 100 per day….I’m not sure how the magic number of 400 was decided upon but it seems not all are being used which is a shame. I was disappointed like everyone else and was only able to get 4 permits when we needed 6, but I’m not going to complain. We’re going to keep trying to get another 2 until the moment we reach subdome. I’m ready to stick a sign on my back if I have to. The lack of a permit isn’t going to ruin our vacation.

    • mrhalfdome says:

      400 was based on weekday flow studies. There is no refund of the $1.50 for cancelling so many don;t bother. If the fee was $20 per ticket they would..but then the poor citizens could not afford it…denying them access. A real hairball!!

      Signs on your back do work!!

      • josh says:

        I’m a “poor” citizen…. once you pay for the gas to get there, and $25 to get in the park, $20 is really not cost prohibitive, but it would keep people from just buying up permits at 7:00:01 “just in case” they can make it

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