Tragedy Stalks the National Parks

Hiking up Half Dome in Yosemite; K. Repanshek photographer.

Hiking up Half Dome in Yosemite; K. Repanshek photographer.

It's been a rough few days in the national parks.

A three-day search in Mount Rainier has led to the discovery of the body of a missing hiker, while in Yosemite another hiker has died while trying to negotiate Half Dome.

In the Mount Rainier incident, 47-year-old Jeff Graves apparently had made it to the summit of Eagle Peak in the southwestern corner of the park Saturday evening and was on his way down when he lost his footing and fell 200 feet. When he failed to return, a search was launched Sunday morning. His body was spotted from the air about 3 p.m. yesterday.

The Yosemite incident was similar to many of the previous deaths involving hikers on Half Dome. Thirty-seven-year-old Hirofumi Nohara of Japan slipped from the cable-system Saturday while about three-quarters of the way up the dome and fell to his death.

Just as readers here have questioned the safety of the hike up Angel's Landing in Zion, those on other blogs are questioning the hike to the top of Half Dome. I've been up both, and would have to say the Half Dome hike definitely is more intimidating.


The eyewitness accounts of the man who fell to his death from the Half Dome cables (via the link) were truly chilling. A very tragic sight for his children to see. But as to what the NPS will (note I'm not saying should) do? That depends. If this man's family files a wrongful death lawsuit against the NPS and wins a substantial amount of money, the cables will be taken down permanently. Unlike the cliffs and waterfalls, the NPS puts up those cables each spring and since they aren't a natural feature of the park and since the NPS is responsible for them, the NPS is liable if the presence of the cables themselves created a dangerous situation. I'm not saying whether that's just or right or what should happen. I'm just saying that that is what will happen. The NPS strapped for cash as it is, won't want to have a line in the budget for million dollar verdicts for falls from the cables. The cables will go.

People die. I'd rather fall off Half Dome than die of a coronary in my cubicle or in a twisted pile of tons of metal and plastic on an interstate highway.

People die. Why the morbid fascination with death in national parks?

Your comments are reality in the face. Death that stalks in beautiful places like Yosemite is to find your soul in the creation of dawn.

Snowybird: Whaaaaaat??? What kinda mumbo-jumbo is that??

Mustang Sally:
Go to Olmstead Point (over looking the Tenaya Canyon) in Yosemite and you will find a beautifully engraved plaque that expresses the words "in creations dawn", if you have a soul you will know exactly what I'm trying to say.
Loosen baby and read some's called sensitvity training...I think you need it!

If they have cables, they are encouraging the climb. By encouraging a climb that is knowingly dangerous without mandating (or suggesting or making available clips and harnesss/belt) clipping onto the cable is negligent.

As vast as the US is; I would imagine someone dies in a state or federal park daily. I recently cam back from Niagara Falls, Ca.. The older generation 78 and over do everything the younger generation does. Do not go to Niagara Fallsy and stay on the US side, go to Canada and see parks like they should be.

Gee, Dicky, how about a little civility in your postings?

Rick Smith

If you consider the border parks in Arizona alone, sure, there are deaths in the National Parks every day.
The Morning Report on the NPS site is a good source if you want your daily dose of morbidity.

-- Jon Merryman

I'm not sure what Dickey's point was, but the use of profanity and personal attacks fail to drive discussion and are not condoned on this site. While we are interested in hearing as many points of view as possible, those that resort to such approaches will either be edited or removed.