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California Woman Dies In Fall From Half Dome Cables In Yosemite National Park


A 26-year-old California has died in a fall of roughly 600 feet from the route up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, officials announced Monday. NPS file photo of Half Dome and its cable-assisted route.

A 26-year-old California woman was killed by a 600-foot fall while working her way down the cables on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, according to a park release.

The fatality on Sunday was the first since the park instituted a permit system with hopes of improving safety on the route to the top of the iconic granite dome.

According to a park release, at about noon on Sunday the park's emergency communications center received a 911 phone call reporting a fall of a hiker on the Half Dome cables. Hayley LaFlamme, from San Ramon, California, had gone to the top of Half Dome and was descending when she fell 600 feet off the cables, the release said, adding that rangers pronounced her deceased upon arrival on scene.

While an investigation into the accident was continuing Monday, the park reported a "severe lightning, thunder, and rainstorm was present in the area of Half Dome for several hours in the morning and early afternoon on Sunday."

"This type of weather can make for hazardous trail conditions and the granite slopes become very slick," the release said.

The last hiker who died on Half Dome was Majoj Kumar, from San Ramon, California, on June 13, 2009, according to park records. Before that, on June 16, 2007, Hirofumi Nohara, slipped to his death on the cables.  Two other Half Dome fatalities involved women who were hiking on Half Dome when the cables were down. These were Jennifer Bettles, who died on April 21, 2007 and Emily Sandal, who died on November 8, 2006.


That is ridiculous! remove the cables, why because someone died. One person to ruin it the experience for everyone else. When you go to half dome you realize the danger. You could die! if you dont want to put yourself in that situation dont do it. I have a better chance of dieing in my car on the way to half dome. Should we make the world carless so no one dies? No that is the risk you take when you drive a car, when you go on the freeway. Why not just close the whole park so no one gets injured by a wild animal. I say its a steep climb, dont be an idiot and climb in the rain! Those rocks are slick.

Half Dome should be an adventure guided by experienced climbers. It's a solution that's good for the climbers, public and Park.

The time I went up, I never really thought of using a harness. However - that was back when no permit was needed for any day, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I went up on a less busy Thursday, and there was so little traffic going up that most of the time I could grab onto both cables on the way up. I just needed some decent footwear, a good pair of grippy gloves (I made a mismatched pair of rubber-palmed cotton ones from the glove pile), and a lot of patience.

Now bad weather is another matter. I probably would have waited to the next day, although that was a Friday, and tried for Clouds Rest the same day. I'm not a big fan of tethering, but if it were mandated for everyone, then I wouldn't have the same qualms I have now - that one person slipping can knock others off the cables with the tether and/or carabiner. I could still imagine a chain reaction, but at least everyone would be secured to the cables. That was the case in 2009 when one guy slipped and died on the descent. Yosemite SAR went out to bring people down. Many weren't prepared for the conditions, and I heard a few people were near hypothermic. SAR brought in harnesses and makeshift tethers for everyone. They were also aiding people with the use of the harnesses, which I'd imagine can be a problem when people bring their own gear and are unfamiliar with their use.

Wilderness is not without danger.  We all need to take responsibility for our actions.  Reminds me of a trip when I was a kid years ago in the mountains in Europe.  There was a set of steps to climb to the top of the mountain from the pass where we parked.  The climb probably was 300-500' or so, and the steps were high (especially as a kid) and uneven.  At the bottom of the steps, there was a sign that read something like this: "Do not run up and down the steps.  1981: 1 death, 1980: 2 deaths, 1978: 1 death.  Pay attention."  Guess what, there were still some morons who were running. Ultimately, it's not the job of the NPS to try to protect people from their own inability to make smart decisions.

The cables have been up since forever, and I don't remember their safety
being a big issue in the past (though someone has commented somewhere
that the replacement cables from some years ago are thinner and harder
to grasp). I think the issue is that many folks climbing up are
unprepared in many ways, either endurance or strength or shoes.

It's great that people are getting out in such numbers, but they have to
remember that most of Yosemite is wilderness, not Disneyland, and it
needs to be approached on its own terms.

Those cables have been up in one form or another from the end of May to the end of Sept since 1919.  A total of 3, count 'em, 3 people have fallen to their deaths when the cables were up, all in the last decade, out of 10's of thousands of hikers.  As I said above, if you want to make it safer, sand the polished surface between the cables, get rid of the permit process that encourages recklessness, and give the rangers the authority to prohibit people from ascending the cables if they see or hear imminent danger.

Looking at pictures of half dome cables, a harness and lifeline should be required at all times, not just an option. Lifelines are required by workers climbing bridges, like the golden gate bridge. The park does not require this, so they should except some of the blame for providing a structure that is not safe. If the park is in charge of putting up the cables then they are responsible to make them safe... if they can't do that, then they should take the cables down for good, the cables are not a natural part of half dome anyway...

I live in the area where this woman lived and have read all the posted comments in the local papers.  Many have assigned blame to the rangers for allowing people to ascend the cables in poor conditions.  This frustrates me so much!  People, take responsibility for your own actions and stop expecting the government to take care of you.  There are natural consequences to everything and please stop trying to assign blame to someone else.  It’s a bad decision by the individual, not the fault of the Park Service.  Just like those two poor backpackers that drowned tried crossing a submerged bridge just a few miles away.  A bad decision = natural consequence.  It’s a simple concept to me and the Park should not be responsible for poor decisions. 

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