The summer of 2011 was a tough one for Yosemite National Park. The number of deaths was very high at 17. So what was up? Why so many? If we look at the causes of death, the high snowmelt and consequent big water in the rivers and waterfalls was a direct connection. Let’s take a look the 17.
* Man stepped or fell off Half Dome
* Teen dies from fall on Mist Trail
* Woman falls off Half Dome cables
* Three people go over Vernal Fall
* Man dies after slipping into
* Merced at Mist Trail
* 2 men die after slipping off bridge at Hetch Hetchy
* Man apparently fell into Yosemite Falls
* Man has heart attack on Yosemite
* Falls Trail
* Man dies in auto accident
* 5 die from natural causes
There are an average of 12 deaths per summer at the park. Between 2006 and 2010, 38 people died in the park and 1,225 more had to be rescued. So is 17deaths that many? Certainly, the high water cannot be ignored, but people slip every day. People make bad decisions, People do dumb things. The park finished 2010 with over 4 million visitors. The highest since attendance plummeted in the years following the 1997 flood. When you have more visitors, statistically you will have more possible deaths.
The economy is a contributor. People tend to stay closer to home rather than spend bigger bucks to fly overseas or venture out on expensive trips. 2011 attendance numbers have not been released by the park yet, but 2 other factors contributing to more people at the park include the wildly popular Ken Burns National Parks PBS-TV special and consequent DVD. The second was the national hype over Oprah Winfried’s televised trip to Yosemite. We also have more feet on the street with 7 billion earthlings and 11 million Americans all packing the SUV for their Yosemite trip.
But by far it’s a casual attitude taken by many visitors. The first rule of the wilderness is: Assess the risk and deal with it appropriately. Climbing over a guard fence, 30 feet from the edge of a 317 foot waterfall in Class V rapid conditions is not a very good assessment. Nor is going up Half Dome’s cables soon after a morning thunderstorm in wet conditions.
**I will be in the hospital Thurs – Sunday, so no blog. They are going to rotor-rooter my lung cavity. OH BOY. Also, the Livermore talk Sunday is therefore postponed.***
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday. Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be. There’s a shadow hanging over me. Oh, I yesterday came suddenly.” – Beatles
*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com