If you want to stand atop Half Dome in Yosemite National Park this summer, start planning your trek. Beginning March 1, you'll be able to reserve a day-use permit for making the journey to the summit.
Park officials decided late last year that permits, which last season were necessary only for weekend and holiday climbs, would be necessary every day of the week. That decision came 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.
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.
The move to a daily permit system is part of a two-year interim program designed to address crowding on the cables that has been occurring over the past few years. During that interim period, park officials are trying to develop a safer approach for those interested in making it to the top of Half Dome.
Hiking to the top of Half Dome is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite. The iconic granite monolith, at 8,842 feet above sea level, attracts people from all over the world who attempt to climb to the summit. Most visitors ascend Half Dome via the cables, which are in place from mid-May through mid-October. Most visitors begin and end their hike at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. This is an approximately 17-mile round-trip journey.
Permits are available by reservation starting March 1, 2011 for climbing the cables in May and June, 2011. Reservations for the permits can be made online at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Subsequent permits will be available at the beginning of each month for permits three months in advance. 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 per person for each permit obtained.
The previous system did not allow hikers to cancel a portion of their Day Use Permit without canceling the entire permit. However, several user-friendly changes have been made to maximize flexibility for hikers wishing to obtain a permit. These include a feature that allows users to reduce the number of hikers on their existing reservation without canceling the entire permit. Another added feature is that users can cancel unneeded permits up to the day before to their planned climb. Additionally, users can now reserve available permits up to the day before their planned climb.
Hikers who obtained Half Dome Cables Day Use Permits and are unable to use them are urged to cancel their reservations through www.recreation.gov. Although the service charge will not be refunded, this will enable other hikers to obtain available permits. Hikers interested in reserving a Day Use Permit should be aware that the Half Dome cable permit page on www.recreation.gov will not be fully functioning until the week prior to March 1, 2011. However, information regarding the Half Dome hike is currently available on the website.