You can start lining up in March to hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park next summer.
On the heels of a study that said requiring permits to hike Half Dome on weekends in an effort to reduce crowding on those days simply moved crowds to weekdays, park officials have announced that permits will be required every day of the 2011 summer season.
The objective, of course, is to improve the safety of those working their way up, and down, that 400-foot cable-assisted route that leads to the top of Half Dome.
While the permit system utilized this past summer did indeed reduce weekend crowds, it also had the "unintended consequence" of moving the crowds to weekdays, when permits are not required, according to a review of hiker traffic. In the end, the study concluded, "these results suggest that the objectives of visitor safety and acceptable experiential conditions on the cable route cannot be provided with a daily visitor use permit system implemented only on some, but not all, days of the week."
On Monday park officials noted that in recent years the popularity of the hike has resulted in large numbers of people using the Half Dome cables, particularly on weekends and holidays. Saturdays and holidays averaged 840 visitors per day, while peak days saw up to 1,200 people using the cables. "These large numbers of hikers generated significant safety concerns and there was a fatality and serious injuries sustained by park visitors due to these crowded conditions," a park release stated.
The Half Dome cables are generally in place from mid-May through mid-October, depending on snowpack and weather conditions. For next summer, you'll be able to seek a permit beginning March 1 for climbing the cables in May and June.
Subsequent permits will be available at the beginning of each month for permits three months in advance. Reservations for a permit can be made through www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Each person climbing the Half Dome cables will be required to have their own permit. Up to four permits may be obtained under one reservation. The permits are free, however, there is a non-refundable $1.50 service charge for each permit obtained.
During this interim program, visitor use and impacts are being monitored. Yosemite National Park Rangers are studying visitor use and safety, assessing the visitor experience, and compiling data that will be analyzed by park managers. An Environmental Assessment process for a long-term plan for the Half Dome cables began public scoping in spring 2010.