Winter's Lingering Grip Affecting Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, Half Dome, Kurt Repanshek photo

Winter's grip is keeping the route up Half Dome is closed for the near term. NPT file photo.

Winter's lingering grip is impacting Yosemite National Park in a variety of ways. On the up side, the snowmelt is fueling spectacular waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley. On the down side, the Tioga Road remains closed, as does the route to the top of Half Dome.

The Half Dome situation no doubt is confounding many park visitors, as this year you're required to purchase a $1.50 permit if you want to hike to the dome's summit on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. The permit program is a temporary approach to trying to reduce crowding on Half Dome. While you can buy a permit up to four months in advance, if your selected date arrives and the dome is not open for hikers, you cannot exchange your permit for a later date.

Currently, park officials don't expect the cables up Half Dome's shoulder to be in place until after June 6, at the earliest.

If Half Dome is an important part of your Yosemite experience, you might consider commenting on the park's efforts to develop a long-term solution to crowding along the route.

Meanwhile, another problem winter has caused in Yosemite is that the Tioga Road that runs across the park east to west is still closed by snow drifts and there currently is no estimated date for when it might be open for traffic. Last year the route was ready for traffic by May 19. In 2008 it opened May 21. Back in 1998 it wasn't cleared and safe for travel until July 1.

And clearing the road of snow is just the first step in getting it ready for traffic, as the park explains:

Once plowing of the Tioga Road is completed, additional work must be completed before the road can safely be opened.

Factors affecting plowing operations:

* Avalanche zones (26 potential areas). The Olmsted Point avalanche zone requires a lot of work, including application of charcoal over the snow to help with melting and blasting the snow slab to make it safer for personnel.
* Heavy snow pack slows the whole operation.
* Trees that have fallen across the road and been buried in the snow. These can cause substantial damage to the equipment and result in a stop to all operations until they're cleared.
* Rock slides buried by the snow. These can cause substantial damage to the equipment and result in a stop to all operations.
* Snow storms during the opening require a stop to Tioga Road operations and in order to plow and sand the park roads.
* Road repairs and ditching and brushing operations once snow has melted back enough.