Half Dome Permits Available For Reservation Beginning March 1

Beginning March 1 you'll be able to reserve a day-use permit for hiking to the top of Half Dome. NPS photo.

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.


Comments

I think this has the potential to cause more harm than good. Why? In my own case, I planned on going on a given day, but postponed my trek one day because there was a 20% chance of thunderstorms, and the chance of storms was essentially zero the next day. We all know that in July and August, thunderstorms are a potential threat almost every afternoon. If I get to the cables and clouds are gathering in the distance, and I can not get a permit for the remaining days I'm there before I have to go home to Oregon, I may well be tempted to go for the summit and hope for the best. I would prefer no permits (it's worked well in the past with rare exceptions in the last few years), but if there must be permits, they should give an unlimited number and charge a $5 fee for them and use the money to pay a gatekeeper to stand at the bottom of the cables and allow only a set number of people above his/her station at a given time. That person would also make a decision as to whether it is safe to go up the cables and could ban people with unsafe footwear (flip flops for example) and children under a certain age/height. I realize the age issue could be fudged by the adults, but at least they will have been given fair warning. This is one situation where the "cure" may be worse than the problem.

For R Stefancik - there are alternatives. One could go as part of a backpacking trip. My understanding is that the "100 per day" quota for wilderness permit holders isn't a hard and fast number. What I've heard from people who asked about it is that 100 is just an average number, and the NPS doesn't actually hold a strict quota if you're already on a backpacking trip. Supposedly you can go up HD any day as long as you have a valid wilderness permit that a HD visit could be reasonably done (i.e. an overnight trip at Hetch Hetchy won't do it). I could imagine setting up at Little Yosemite Valley and if the weather isn't amenable, just explore the area and wait for a day with good weather.

http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,31970

I would venture 95% or more of the folks who went up with me on a Thursday in August of 2004 were day hikers like myself. Backpacking is not an option for me unless I go by myself. Mark my words, the casual day hiker who is in the park 2-5 days is the usual person making the trip up to Half Dome. They are either staying in the valley or in a motel just outside of the valley. When faced with the decision at the foot of the cables of ascending with the clouds gathering or waiting months or even a year or more to return and try again, a number will go on up if they know they can't come back the next day.

I understand where you're coming from, but I think 95% might be an overstatement. When I did it, it was part of my backpacking trip. I talked to people on a Thursday, and there were quite a few backpackers although easily more day hikers. I went with a family camping near my backcountry site. They asked for my help because their camera battery just died and they didn't have a spare. I took photos of them hiking to HD and at the base of the cables, and later sent them the photos.

At the very least, it's the backpackers who are more likely to make it since they can wait longer for the weather, while day hikers on permits are bound to their reserved dates.

There's a reason why the hardest to get wilderness permits in Yosemite are Happy Isle-Little Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point-LYV. That's 40 permits there, and it's safe to assume that most of those permit holders are planning on ascending Half Dome. A lot of people (probably more than 40 per day) also fit Half Dome into a longer trip from Tioga Road or other entry trailheads. It's also a lot easier on the body to break it down into more manageable chunks. My trip was about 9 miles the first day, 6 miles round trip to Half Dome, then more exploration of Clouds Rest and then back to Yosemite Valley via LYV. I don't know if I would have wanted to do it as a day trip. I didn't have to wake up at 4 in the morning, and I could take my time getting back to my campsite.

I've actually heard that it isn't generally a huge issue if one doesn't have a Half Dome day use permit. Quite a few people have turned in extra permits when members of their groups couldn't make it. If they have extra, they'll allow someone without a permit to use one. The main thing is that they're looking to control the number of people going up.

I started my Half Dome hike at midnight on a Saturday and was at the top by sunrise on Sunday. I was about a third of the way back down the trail (not the cables), maybe more, before I saw the ranger hiking up to check for permits. If this is the norm, you should be safe if you get up to the cables by about 9 or 10AM. Could just be the rangers sleep in on Sunday mornings.

I was up at 7am on March 1st to get permits online. After a few refreshes at 6:59am, I got in and acquired two permits for a Sunday in June. Seemed simple enough. However, as a curiosity, I went back online in the afternoon to check on what dates were still available. June was completely booked!