Yosemite Rock Fall Part II

Just as I suspected, a judge threw out that $10 million dollar lawsuit against the Park Service. As I wrote about last week, the family of a young climber was suing because they felt Yosemite National Park could have done more to warn climbers of the known dangers at a particular climbing area. Well, on the surface, it seems like a money grubbing family going after the deep pockets of the federal government. BUT, of course, there is a lot more to this story that I just learned about today. It turns out that the kid who died was actually incredibly brave. He was on the ground, holding the rope for his friend climbing on the cliff above him. A massive slab of granite broke away above the climbers and started slamming into the ground all around this kid. Instead of running for his life, he held tight to the rope which held the life of his friend. It was while he stood there, protecting his friend, that a rock came down, striking him directly in the head, and killed him instantly.

If the story had ended there, I still would have argued, as did the Park Service, that you can't sue Mother Nature. But, the story goes deeper, there are more details here. A geologist investigating other rock falls in the exact same area a year before had found that water from leaky pipes in a park restroom at the top of the cliff may have been partly at fault. From an article in the LA Times:
Preparing to rappel off the cliff face, Watts was surprised by the smell of sewage wafting from leaking pipes at the old bathrooms atop Glacier Point. He theorized that the effluent helped trigger the 1996 rockfall. His curiosity grew as rockfalls occurred in November 1998 and May 1999. Then, on June 13, 1999, the slide that killed Terbush occurred in the same area. Watts believed the culprit was water overflowing from a 300,000-gallon storage tank atop Glacier Point. That water, he concluded, pooled in fractures and put pressure on the rock, acting like a lever that could trigger a slide.
Yosemite has said the science behind these claims cannot be backed up, and besides, the leaky faucet has now been fixed.
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