Considering a Hike up Half Dome?

Waiting to Climb Half Dome; San Fran. Chronicle photo by Michael Maloney

Waiting to Climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park; San Fran. Chronicle photo by Michael Maloney

There is a great article in the San Francisco Chronicle this weekend entitled, "DANGER ON THE DOME". It's subtitled, "Overcrowding: Hikers swarming Yosemite's Half Dome create a bottleneck at the treacherously steep granite climb to the summit". I've never climbed Half Dome, and hadn't realized that a climb to the top could easily be accomplished as a day hike. I guess I'm in the minority of Yosemite travelers that didn't know this, because have a look at the photos in the article! Everyone is climbing that thing. In fact, the article says waiting to ascend may take 45 minutes or more. I don't think I'd feel too comfortable in that position, stuck on a 45 degree slope hoping the guy in front of you doesn't fall backwards. I mean, look at that, people are stacked on top of each other climbing those Park Service provided cables up the mountain.

The article gives focus to the dangers present hiking this challenging route. Among the dangers cited, people are arriving quite unprepared. Folks don't bring enough water, and their hiking gear is sub-par (did you catch the photo of the person climbing the mountain in sandals?). As you may recall, three people have died on Half Dome in just the last year, and according to the article, a fourth would have been a goner if his clothes hadn't caught on the cable before he slipped over the edge.

The article ends with some interesting facts regarding deaths in the park. While Half Dome has received some attention lately, people are more likely to die in water related accidents -- like falling from the top of a waterfall. Gruesome.

Comments

I don't understand why people who know little or nothing about climbing should be allowed to climb Half Dome. Easy solution - take the darn cables off the rock face. Personally, that would mean I'd probably never make the climb -- so be it. People are flocking to complete the feat only because they're available. Yeah, we could install safety nets, jackhammer stairs into the rockface, install telephones every 100 feet, pump water to the summit for those who didn't bring enough, install a giant lightning rod at the top, and hand out distress beacons as a public service, but what's the point? Does the Park Service have an obligation to facilitate people's sense of a thrill or rush? Then to have those same people urinate all over the mountaintop and feed marmots, squirrels and bears all their discarded food scraps along the way... no thanks, I'll spend my time elsewhere.

Can you imagine lightning hitting that cable while hundreds of people were clinging to it for dear life? What a spectacle that would be!

-- Jon

"Does the Park Service have an obligation to facilitate people's sense of a thrill or rush? "

Good question. What exactly is their role when it comes to facilitating anything?

I think the article talks more about stupidity than a real danger on Half Dome. Don't people prepare before they go out to a national park? My guidebook says in big letters that the hike up Half Dome 1. is VERY STRENUOUS, 2. is 17 miles round trip (compared with a mile or 2 for Mirror Lake, Lower Yosemite Falls, or even Vernal Falls, 3. should not be attempted when the cables are down or when there is even a chance of wet weather. The article mentions the possibility of day-trippers biting off more than they can chew. Why on earth would you want to do a "drive-by" of a national park, especially somewhere like Yosemite? And if you have to do that because of kids or other commitments, wouldn't you want to prepare beforehand to maximize your time and enjoyment?

Jeremy: The climb is dangerous... 3 deaths in one year. HalfDome is a magnet and the Park continues the more than 50 year tradition to make the trek "more available" with the cables. The ascent should be like many other climbs: only available to those with the skills and proper equipment. Encouraging the average person to attempt a difficult climb is willful negligence.

"I believe whenever we destroy beauty, or whenever we substitute something man-made and artificial for a natural feature of the earth, we have retarded some part of man's spiritual growth." ....Rachel Carson

I think NPS should issue back country permits with only a limited number of people obtaining them per day. This way people could actually enjoy the peace and solitude of the climb. It would also lead to being more prepared as you would actually have to do something ahead of time in order to climb. And I know this is not popular but a nominal fee for the permit should be charged. And before a lot of people get all up in arms about that comment think about it. You already need to have enough money to buy the right kind of shoes, gloves, backpack and food to make the journy what is another $20 for a permit. If you don't have the money for the permit then you don't have it for the shoes and other things you need so you are more likely to be unprepared. Charging for the permit could give the park service the money to help cover having a ranger stationed up there during the busy season and would help to offset the cost of rescuing someone in an emergency.

Common horse sense...PLEASE! This hike to the Dome requires some basic common sense, and with reasonable decent wilderness skills, and careful preparations. For gods sakes people...THINK!
Rachel Carson was right!!!

I think Half Dome has become too "easy" to get to and it's partially the fault of the Park Service and the concession. There are whole sections in the gift shops devoted to "I made it to the top" shirts, hats, belt buckles, mugs, shot glasses, etc. You can warn people all you like about the strenuous nature of the hike, but if you market it like a competition, you're gonna have out of shape tourists trying it in sandals without enough water or time in a lightning storm.

Removing the cables is admittedly tempting, but they've been climbing those cables for almost 100 years now, and going back would be very difficult.

The easiest and I think most effective way to solve the problem is to take it out of Day Hike status and issue wilderness permits (for Christ's sake, if the top of Half Dome isn't wilderness, where is??) Limit access for the sake of the mounds of garbage left on top every day, for the sake of those who get to the top safely and don't risk the lives of rescuers for their dumb errors and also for the sake of the wilderness experience.

I've climbed Half Dome 3 times, once as a 17 year-old in 1962, once again in 1970 when I worked and lived in Yosemite Valley as a park ranger-naturalist, and finally in 1993 when I took my son up the cables. In 1993, my son just happened to be the same age I was when I first hiked the cables to the top. That ascent was notably much more difficult than was the previous two.

Although in 1993, there was much more evidence of increased hiker use than during the previous two climbs, at no time did I experience crowds on the cables, at least not to the extent like they are depicted in the two photos above by Michael Maloney of the SF Chronicle. I suggest that perhaps the carrying capacity for Half Dome may now have been exceeded, especially if crowds like those in the above two pictures are becoming common-place.

In the backcountry, a hiker always accepts some risk. This risk may be small, say only a small fraction of a percent per outting. But if thousands of people take that risk, then actual fatalities will be elevated from a "might happen" status, to "will happen." It's the consequence of a very small risk per individual multiplied by large numbers of risk-takers.

Of course, in the case of the Half Dome cables, as the sheer numbers of risk-takers increase, so does the risk per person. Thus, an argument can be made for establishing a carrying capacity for the Half Dome cables based on annual use and numbers of fatalities per year.

A sign at the beginning of the cables warning of the risk of an ascent or descent at least turns a seemingly safe adventure (because of all the others venturing up the cables without mishap) into an informed voluntary risk. The question then becomes, given an increasing number of hikers using the cables annually, "how many fatalities per year on Half Dome should be considered an acceptable risk?"

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

The Park service does not need to put the cable up in a wilderness. Since they have, it encourages the action of climbing half dome. Since they encourage it, they should require harnesses and clippin onto the cable. Anything less is criminal.

Take the cables down. Put a bolted climbing route up where the cables were. It would be a nice easy climb. A great experience for a guided beginner climber and much safer. I climbed the cables a few years ago, in May, there wasn't very many people there. If got to the cables and saw that many folks going up I would have gone back to camp. That's not the kind wilderness experience I'm looking for, so you normally won't see me in the park duirng the major holidays. The picture above looks more like an amusement park ride than a back country scramble. By the way, if the park goes through with some of the plans it has to increase the amount of users in the park this amusement park type of "wilderness experience" will be the only kind we'll ever see.

Forget the Access Fund donate to the the Friends of Yosemite Valley.

Shaggy K.
Truckee, CA

Yosemite National Park (CA)
Visitor Death On Half Dome Trail

Valley rangers received a report of an unconscious and unresponsive man on the Half Dome trail about a half mile up from the Sunrise trail intersection early on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 11th. Off-duty park safety officer Roger Farmer soon arrived on scene and reported that CPR was in progress. Helicopter 551 was immediately requested and flew to the area. Ranger/paramedic Keith Lober and ranger Jason Gayeski-Peters heli-rappelled to the man’s location. The victim. Jose Vasquez, 53, of Lodi, California, was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was short-hauled from the area. The cause of death has not yet been determined. [Submitted by Leslie Reynolds, Valley District Ranger]

I am going to climb half dome the last weekend in September. I want to be as safe as possible and get a harness and caribiners. However, I have never done such a hike that would remotely require this, so I have no idea where to start looking. All I am finding are harness for those who would do such climbs as the face of half dome. I am doing the back side. Any suggestions?

Yea, maybe we should have elevator shafts running up the inside of the dome too, and an emergency staircase running down the face. Grow up. The park service does not need to put trails in the wilderness either. Since they do, should they put drinking fountains every 500 yards? The truth is, people do not need to go into the wilderness. When they do, they should be willing to accept any risks entailed.

I read the article with great interest. I have heard for years about the deaths of a couple of students who climbed the dome in stormy weather with 7 other companions. Is this the July 25, 1985 occurrence? If anybody knows any more details about this I would appreciate it. I would like to know how the others involved have fared. Thanks

As late as the 1870s, Half Dome was declared "perfectly inaccessible",[1] but it may now be ascended in several different ways. Thousands of hikers reach the top each year by following a trail from the valley floor. The trailhead is only 2 mi (3.2 km) from Half Dome itself, but the circuitous route is 8.5 mi (13.7 km) long. The final ascent is accomplished by following a pair of metal cables raised on posts up the peak's steep but somewhat rounded east face. The cable route was constructed in 1919, but followed close to the route of George Anderson's October, 1875 first ascent made by drilling iron eyebolts into the smooth granite.

The argument that people might die on Half Dome so it shouldn't be so accessible is as illogical as saying that people might die in a car crash while driving Tioga Road so it shouldn't be open. Of course someone could die on Half Dome. Or on the highways. Or at Glacier Point. There is reasonable risk for great reward in Yosemite. The careless fool who climbs over the guard-rail, splashes in the water, and washes to his death over the falls shouldn't be a reason that the rest of us to miss the spectacles that this park offers, including the Half Dome ascent. Check the stats; most of the Half Dome deaths have occurred when the cables are down for the season and the Park Service recommends NOT making the climbg.

One could also make that the argument that if there were NO cables, the risk/thrill takers would still attempt the climb. Furthermore, the NPS is providing a safer alternative during the warm season.

Frankly, I'm aghast to see pictures of that many climbers on the cables. I had no idea there were three deaths there this last year. My husband and I hiked to the top in two days, June 1995, was never that crowded, maybe ten folks there around 10 in the morning. We had on chest harnesses, safety rope with two carabiners, hiking boots, well rested, took all safety precautions. No way would we do this hike in a one day trip, nor would we even attempt to climb with hundreds of folks on the cables. I have a very bad feeling if the crowds are not controlled on the cables to some extent then a horrific accident involving many is brewing to happen. All it will take is one person to fall and start a domino effect. If this type of crowding has been an issue for the last few years, I'm somewhat perplexed that more deaths have not occurred.

I live in NC and was recently researching the Park as I wish to take my children to the Park this Summer. We certainly will not be climbing Half Dome, I would never subject my children to that strenuous, dangerous hike, too young and no experience. I am stunned to read other hikers accounts of inexperienced individuals making the climb, tennis shoes and sandals, young children, what the hell are parents and these thrill seekers thinking? Ah, the mentality of some who don't percieve the risks that are explained, "If the NPS has the cables up, then they must be safe!" I feel the crowds need to be controlled, the Park is clearly enduring the effects of crowding. If an accident involving many deaths evolves, then watch out for the litigating vultures.

How can the NPS regulate hikers on the cables? Permits? Not a bad idea. You'd have to station a ranger at the base, educate the masses with more signage, just what the wilderness needs. What a mess. I would hate to see the cables come down, it's exhilirating for those of us who appreciate the wilderness and the risks involved in experiencing it.

I wonder how different the Park will look since I last saw it.

The risks people are taking aren't just risks to themselves. I've seen people panic on steep trails before, grabbing at the hands of passing strangers. If you want to conquer your fear of heights, do it somewhere that you won't put others' lives at risk in the process. They should definitely limit it to a certain number of climb permits issued for each day, but how do you certify people? You can check their shoes, supplies, etc, but to really be sure they're capable mentally and physically, maybe a little ropes course way up high? Or maybe they start rating trails in all the national parks, and rather than just having certification at the difficult places, you have certification courses available at a lot of parks... then when you want to climb, you just show your card, which could be black/blue/green (like ski trails) and have a number to indicate skill level. If you don't have a black card, you can't climb black trails, etc.

The cables as they are now, look dangerous to me. It looks like an adult could slip under them if they lose the grip. If I were to go up there I would use my VIA FERRATA harness I bought in Italy a few years back when we went climbing in the Dolomites on the via ferratas (exposed climbs with cables to hold on). A via ferrata harness has 2 ropes with carabiners that clip and unclip easily. You are always clipped in with one of the 2 clips, and you undo it only when youhave clipped in the other one in the next cable section. The via ferrata harness also has a "breakeing" system that absorbs an enormous amount of shock in case of a fall.

It seems to me that the cable route at the Half Dome just invites trouble!

Use a harness, people, or don't go!

Gaby,
Do you have a photo of your Via Ferrata harness? I am currently looking to purchase one. I thought I saw somewhere on another blog, you or someone had posted a picture of this particular harness and I am having a difficult time trying to locate it.

I am planning to hike Half Dome the end of June this year.

I'd greatly appreciate your providing any websites, or photos of suggested harnesses you feel would be most appropriate to hike Half Dome.

Thanks! V

Valerie, you don't need a harness of any kind to hike Half Dome. The trail is a well trodden highway for hikers until you come to the very last slope, which is sheer rock. There you have the cables to hold on and the traverses to step on. Unless you are doing something extremely stupid, you will not be in the situation to need any technical equipment. Have decent boots, start very early to avoid the crowds as far as possible and do the last slope in your own pace, then you will be perfectly safe.

But please don't expect too much. The view from half dome is not that much different to that from Sentinel Dome or even Glacier Point. But you can't see half dome from there. Thus making it essentially inferior than other vistas. Its the same in all places: getting on top of the most prominent landmark is nice but you can't see the very same landmark from there, so usually getting to the second or third prominent spot is better as you see the top spots from there.

We took several days of vacation in Yosemite in the early 1990s and I made the round trip from Camp Curry to the top of Half Dome one day. I was in 33 minute 10K shape at the time. I ran every part of the distance that it was possible to run. The first problem I encountered was a guided mule or horse tour on the way up to Nevada Falls. The guide said that I was not allowed to pass them on the trail, so I cut across a switchback to get around them. My next problem was that I couldn't find the water source that a Yosemite hiking guide said would be available on the way from Nevada to Half Dome. But that wasn't a problem at the time. If I were to do it again, I would carry and stash some water for the return trip. The running turned into hiking when I got to the rocky section on the way to the base of the cables. The sight of the other people already climbing was almost comical. There were maybe 8 people total. They would move a few steps up, then stop. Move and stop. Someone at the base said that I should get some gloves from the pile that were there. I did and the ascent was easy for me, but I was careful to be very deliberate on the cables because you don't want to fall. It would be safer to have a harness and a couple of tethers with carabiners to clip on and off the cables, but that's looking back. At the top, I walked around for a few minutes, then noticed some people sitting near the edge of the front wall. I got on my hands and knees and approached them. Some of these people had their legs dangling over the edge of the 2000 ft drop - I couldn't believe it. I inched to the edge and looked over and that was good enough for me. Then it was time to go back. The return trip was not too difficult, but I was getting thirsty and a very kind woman offered me a sip from her water bottle as I neared Nevada Falls. I did have very sore achilles tendons for several days afterwards, and regret that I didn't take a camera with me.

All of this talk of "Half Dome is too dangerous" is absurd. Look at the list of deaths! Sheesh. It's a like 2-3 a decade. Sure, it's becoming more popular, but driving in your darn car is more dangerous statistically. Most people know that this is a difficult hike and anyone with a DROP of common sense will be perfectly ok. Don't climb when it's wet... duh? Don't climb it if the [cables] aren't up (unless you know what you're doing)... duh? Bring lots of water for your 12 hour hike... duh? Don't climb the dome if you're scared of heights... duh? Don't climb when there's a storm brewing... um, hello? Don't climb if you're not a healthy person... DUH. Duh to the infinite power. My God.

Half Dome is dangerous. It's like walking on a very steep roof on top of a skyscraper with the aid of cables.

I believe it is poor ethics to discourage the use of safety equipment in such a hazardous situation. The hazard should be respected as well as each individual's physical and mental challenges. Many of the young men ascending wont notice the hazard, but it is there.

The cables are not merely a backup in case your feet slip. They are part of the primary method of ascent. My observation is that feet slipping was the norm, and people relied on their forearms to pull themselves up the slope rather than try to rely on their feet.

Rather than requiring permits, I'd support hefty citations for those who create hazards for others. Proper equipment could be a form of permit, although some may heighten their disrespect for the situation simply because they have a harness and create a danger for others.

I witnessed the 3 instances of dropped equipment: a bottle, a metal thermos, and a camera cap from climbers ahead of me. I saw one of the resting boards get suddenly torqued away from its resting position, most likely because someone was climbing outside the cables. I saw fear on the face of one young man who slipped while he was descending outside the cables. He seemed grateful for the advice I gave him which should have been common sense. I saw a man with a cramp while on the cables.

The mountaineering shops in the valley seemed amazingly inexperienced with the cable system with a mixture of arrogance. Don't be surprised if they downplay your safety in (false) fear of inconveniencing other tourists. The cable posts are about eleven feet apart, not fifty, so a harness system would be useful in keeping you on the mountain. Also, I witnessed the use of a Via Ferrata style harness on this route which didn't seem to increase inconvenience to anybody. That person and I passed in opposite directions--she was going up on one cable, and I was going down on the other cable. Unfortunately, I also witnessed the use of a homemade false-security "harness" which used a plastic buckle! This was a good article: http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/half-dome/cables-tips.htm

It isn't Disneyland. I noticed that the maps along the trail seemed to not show Half Dome, which is probably a good filter of average tourists.

i have climbed up Half Dome and I am only 11 and also two of my other friends did it with me. We were told that if haven't done it before you should so we did. And the 3 of us were beginners and hiked 70 miles in 9 days and at the end of the trip we had the option to go up Half Dome and we did. It was that scary and it wasn't that hard but the view is worth it. The only kind of creepy part was when you go down the cables. But if you have the option to go up Half Dome and you haven't then you should and don't forget a camera.

The exclamation in the article about there having been climbers who are actually hiking in sandals is pretty ridiculous. Obviously the ascent to the top shouldn't be made in flip-flops or things like that. But after clicking on the link to see the hiker in sandals I saw that he was climbing in Chacos. A shoe that is specifically designed to hiking with the traction on the tread, toe and back straps, these sandals are sometimes better than shoes.

I climbed Half Dome for the first time on Aug 5, 2008. I'm 63 years old but in good shape and have done this sort of thing before.

This is not a silly dangerous undertaking. The present Park Service policy should remain, though I suspect that they have decided to limit access to the cables. This is because they were taking a survey there when I came down, and the questions were clearly slanted to get the result that "the overcrowding is too dangerous".

There are several things people have not mentioned. First, it is perfectly possible to get up and down the cable route without aid of actually holding on to the cables. I in fact got down without a "death grip" on them, just sliding along them prepared to grip hard if my feet slipped: but in fact they did not and I got down on foot friction alone. This was in well-worn Vibram sole hiking boots. I was not able to get up on foot friction alone, and had to pull up with my hands. But ... I saw one guy with "approach" shoes (i.e. shoes intermediate in stickiness between ordinary Vibram and the really sticky climbing shoes) get up without grasping the cables, just sliding his hands along without grabbing. With real climbing shoes an experienced free climber would do it free. This would be seriously dangerous, but that's their idea of fun.

It is a long day hike. At about 16 miles it is still not enough that I felt pooped when I got down (I left at 4:15 in the morning,
reached the top at 9:15, left the top at 10:15, spent two hours on Sub Dome watching the show (which never had a wait
to go up or down the cables) , and made it back to Curry Village at 5 pm in time for a shower and a nice dinner at the Ahwahnee (yes, you can get reservations the day you want to eat there, even at 5 pm.) By 11AM there were lots of people coming up who had started at a "prim and proper hour" from Happy Isles and seemed to me to be not terribly pooped as they started up the cables. At 1 PM on the way down I met the stragglers coming up, and these were those who, perhaps, had bit off a bit too much, with many questions to me "is the rest of they way up harder than THIS???". (Yes, folks, it is!)

Half Dome, and its cables, is a great piece of historic Americana. It's a leftover from a free America that was not overly concerned
with being a nanny state. It is an accomplishmet of sorts to get to the top. Its a place where the nanny state should overlook. Nobody is forcing anybody to do it (well, perhaps a few are trying to shame friends or children into doing it against their will, but that must be rare.)

Just do it, come back, and spend $100 at the Ahwahnee dining room celebrating!

This article makes me happy and sad. I am happy to see so many people enjoyng such as great climb but sad that one of my fav spots is so well known. I like to climb areas that are off the beaten path and this one is not not one of them.

Why is this even allowed? I understand allowing a certain amount of people to hike up at one time, but allowing a whole trail to march up at the same time? Seems irresponsible to me...

I did the hike when I was 17 and 21. One of the most exhilirating things in my life. Whoever suggested shutting half dome down because it is risky is an idiot! Take all the risk out of life and what you are left wirth is oatmeal. Tasteless, lifeless, boring, predictable, utterly mind sucking..but safe. Anyone who suggests this kind of thing should stay home in their nice cozy little houses and leave the adventures to the adventurerous.

(for Christ's sake, if the top of Half Dome isn't wilderness, where is??)

As a former Yosemite Park Ranger, trust me Half Dome is NOT wilderness, even if it has that offical designation. It's sickening to see the crowds of people lining up to make the cable climb, and even worse to see all the trash and refuse that goes along with that amount of people.

I went up with my wife 4 years ago. We got to the cables saw the lines and turned and went down the trail. I wasn't going to take the risk especially after watching morons passing people by going way outside the cables. This year I am going back. We are going to glacier point hiking way around to washburn lake and at last staying just up past the half dome trail. We'll get up early 5 or so and take the 1-2 mile hike up before the morons are even at the falls. I suggest that to all of my friends who are going up.

I think people just like to exagerate. think about how many people climb up to the summit. you probably have a higher chance dying driving up to yosemite than climbming half dome. think about it, that is just three fatalities in one year. have you guys looked at how many people actually die driving in yosemite. its way more!! so i dont know why people are complaining that hiking half dome is not safe enough.

I personally think the cables are great as with the wilderness in general. I have been climbing the cable since my father first took me back in 1967 (that’s 43 years ago). I lived in Yosemite back in 1973-74 to climb…I am taking one on my sons this summer (2010) to do the cables…Perhaps the park service should limit the number of folks allowed up during the season to 50 or so a day instead of the insane numbers I have seen in past years and what I hear for 2010 during the weekend they are requiring permits (Friday-Sunday) to 400 people a day (more than half pissing on the rock)…That is far to many…As far as folks being stupid and not wearing proper footgear or bring adequate food and water…Hey it is America and it is their life and foolishness…

I am 66 years old and in good shape. I play adult baseball and take long walks every day. I'm planning to climb the cables in July and I'm wondering if somebody could advise if I'm biting off more than I can chew. The comments posted here are decidedly mixed between "too dangerous" and "worth the risk." Also, what is the slope of the cable climb in degrees?? It looks nearly vertical in the photos.

Tom,

Some factors you should consider: Where do you live, in terms of elevation? Folks coming from sea level or near that can sometimes require a couple of days to acclimate to the High Sierra, and the top of Half Dome is just about 9,000 feet.

Then, too, there's the arid climate, which can quickly dehydrate you if you don't carry enough water.

They say it can easily take 10-12 hours to make the roundtrip from the valley floor. Are you up for that long of a hike, carrying enough water and snacks?

As for the slope of the final 400 feet, I'm not sure what it is off the top of my head, but I can tell you that when I reached Half Dome's shoulder and looked at that last pitch, I almost turned around;-)

I'd suggest that, if you haven't already, check out the park's page on Half Dome hikes:http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm

You might also consider picking up Rick Deutsch's book, Yosemite's Half Dome, Everything you need to know to successfully hike Yosemite's most famous landmark. If there's anyone who knows anything about preparing for a hike up Half Dome, Rick would be the guy.

My 2 ct: Get to know the park first. Don't hike Half Dome because you expect an iconic view from there. Actually, never climb the most iconic landmark to expect a great view. That is because the very landmark will not be visible from its own top. The most iconic views of Half Dome and surroundings are from Glacier Point and even better from Sentinel Dome.

Spend a day in the Valley, a second on Glacier Point (with a small hike to Sentinel Dome), Wawona and the eastern park, a third on Tuolumne Meadows and do small to medium hikes there. When you have adopted to the elevation, and you still want to do the hike, go for it.

Don't go on a weekend. Get up early, July will be crowded. Terribly crowded. Leave the trailhead before seven, actually even before six might be appropriate, if your style is to hike steadily but not so fast. Carry lots of water, some trail food, additional snacks. Wear boots with a sole that is suitable to sheer rock.

Think if you want to enjoy the up hike or make time on the first leg. If the year is relatively wet, Vernal Fall and Mist Trail could be spectacular in July. It is not dangerous when you are fit, but please take care, if you decide to do it on your way back, when you are or might be tired.

Most parts of the trail are boring. They are well trodden, but every now and then, there is a truly spectacular view of the Sierra.

The last 400 feet: Gloves are useful, you need a good grip of the cables. Take your time on this last part. Do not allow anyone to push you beyond your own speed.

Most of all, have fun. Go for it. But please keep the option to turn around if you get tired or dehydrated or what ever goes wrong. If you can't make it to the top, spend time at the two waterfalls or make a short side trip into Little Yosemite Valley.

All of you that poo-poo the NPS building trails and rails, forget that without trails etc. people that are going to go in anyway, so they would make their own trails, or bring their motorcycles, 4X4s tearing up the wildlife, not to mention allowing more people to enter open those people to the wonders of our natural resources, thus making them advocates for the wildlife / resources. So before you high-and-mighty-types think you're better than all the hapless tourists you complain, think about the benefits that overcomes the negatives. Watch Ken Burns' recent documentary on national parks, and you'll see what people did back then without the NPS's work.

Yes, individuals are responsible for their lives.

I am hiking half dome in August with my cousin. I woud consider myself in pretty decent shape (I can run 5 miles with out stopping and have hiked 11 miles on up and down terrain and been fine). I half just gotten into the outdoor thing so am trying to figure out what kind of shoes to wear. I saw these hiking sandals that are like a sneaker but have cut outs in them. They seem to make the most sense for hiking half dome since you go by those waterfalls. Input or advice from anyone?