Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Bulletin Bulletin Bulletin Bulletin
Preliminary word out of the park is that a woman hiker was killed yesterday when she was struck by lightning during a hike to the summit of 8,842 foot Half Dome. At this point no other details are available. As information becomes out I will relay it to you. Subscribers will get it into their email in basket. I am in Anaheim now and it rained here. A rain cell was traveling north into the Sierra from the southland and into Yosemite. Monday is calling for a 20% chance of thunderstorms. In June of 2009 it wa also a 20% chance when hail hit the top and one man slipped off the cables. Hike safely.
We are entering the time of the year when you need to be prepared for the summer thunderstorms that appear in the High Sierra. When the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley is baking in 100+ degree temperatures and the cooler Pacific air mixes, beautiful cumulonimbus clouds form. Your August hike will start out pretty clear with just a few puffy clouds in the otherwise blue sky. By 10 am you will see more clouds beginning to congeal into a low overcast. You complete your hike to the summit but notice the dark gray cover. Upon coming back down the cables, you descend sub dome and enter the forest. Soon you may you may be aware of low rumblings in the distance. In about an hour you may hear thunderclaps in the distance. Then the skies open up. Fortunately, you have your hiking poles to keep your balance on the slick trail and your poncho to keep you dry.
Do not take chances. In 1985 2 young men on top died from a lightning strike. Read Shattered Air. The cables are steel and conduct electricity. If you have any hint of lightning or damp conditions, keep off sub dome and Half Dome. Just because you have a non-refundable permit, it’s not worth trying to get to the edge of the safety envelop. Lightning can travel 7-10 miles from the cloud that generates it. The rock will be there for your next trip.
So what do you do if you are caught in a lightning storm? Do not be near a single tall object – like a boulder or tree or Half Dome. You are safer in a dense forest. Get rid of your aluminum hiking poles. Put your pack on the ground and stand on it then squat down as low as you can get. If you are in an open area, try to find a gully and lay in it. I’ve done the hike in August and had a great time. Be safe, use your head and have fun.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “The substance of the winds is too thin for human eyes, their written language is too difficult for human minds, and their spoken language mostly too faint for the ears.” – John Muir
*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com