Another Yosemite Fatality

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Tonka

 
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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by Tonka » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:03 pm

Wasn't one from a snow bridge collapse?

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by fedak » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:13 pm

Those cables have been there for decades, and every couple years someone slips off and dies


Thats actually not true. There have only been a handlful of deaths since the cables were installed and the majority of those have been in the last few years.

Yeah I don't know what they were doing up there in the storm.


I've yet to see any information as to the conditions when they ascended the cables. (The girl fell on the return leg, so her party's ascent decision would have been at least 30-60 minutes prior)

That storm blew in amazingly quickly- I was about 50 miles north and I have pictures of the Sierra Crest from ~9:30-10am that are completely sunny and cloudless. The storm blew in by noon and there was only a 30 minute lag between the first thunder and complete torrential downpour.

I'm not saying there weren't signs and that you don't need to take extra precautions on Half Dome (with the metal railings and the slick granite) but this party didn't necessarily decide to ascend in a thunderstorm.
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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by simonov » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:18 pm

mrchad9 wrote:Those cables have been there for decades, and every couple years someone slips off and dies whether there is a permit system or not. Just part of the risk really, nothing to be done about it.


Yeah. In the last 24 hours, about 80 Americans died in automobile crashes. In the next day another 80 will buy the farm. And so it goes.

But one person slips off the side of Half Dome every year or two and the wailing and gnashing of teeth reaches epic proportions.
Nunc est bibendum.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by fedak » Tue Aug 02, 2011 10:32 pm

Anyone know what happened wrt to the other 10 deaths in Yosemite? Fourteen in a year is a lot.


There were the 2 that got swept off of the Wapama Falls Bridge and one person managed to fall into the Merced from the Mist trail.

Not sure about the rest. Were those all backcountry or did that total include car accidents and accidents in the developed areas?
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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by mrchad9 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 10:41 pm

fedak wrote:
Anyone know what happened wrt to the other 10 deaths in Yosemite? Fourteen in a year is a lot.


There were the 2 that got swept off of the Wapama Falls Bridge and one person managed to fall into the Merced from the Mist trail.

Not sure about the rest. Were those all backcountry or did that total include car accidents and accidents in the developed areas?

Thanks.

I would think it includes all types of accidents. Similar to how they assume every bear that is run over is do to speeding (I nearly ran over one because I was obsessively staring at my speedometer trying to be sure I didn't get a ticket) /unlrelated short rant.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by fedak » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:00 pm

would think it includes all types of accidents. Similar to how they assume every bear that is run over is do to speeding (I nearly ran over one because I was obsessively staring at my speedometer trying to be sure I didn't get a ticket


Oooh, don't get me started. A few years back I got a ticket for going 35 in the 25 zone near the Tuolumne Meadows campground.
This was in November- long after the campground and all of the amenities that prompted that speed limit were closed for the season.
(I had been hiking up to Cathedral Lake and completely forgotten I was inside the slow zone when I headed out)

Ranger gave me the full speech about bear safety.



BTW, here is a time lapse camera of half dome: (I couldn't figure out how to direct link a given day so you'll need to manually set it to 7/31)
http://archives.halfdome.net/archive/showfile
Amazing how quickly that storm rolled through.
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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by fedak » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:25 am

"This Yosemite death count includes non-hiking fatalities from incidents like heart attacks, natural causes and motor vehicle accidents. Park officials do not have figures for before 2008, when nine deaths were recorded."

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2 ... ngers.html
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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by colinr » Wed Aug 03, 2011 4:14 am

An article that includes discussion of death statistics:
http://hosted2.ap.org/WBZAM/apenviroment/Article_2011-08-02-Travel-Brief-Yosemite-Hiker%20Death/id-f2da0a49a77743599c2545c6dde451c9

FWIW some first person descriptions of Half Dome/YNP condtitions:
http://mrhalfdome.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/half-dome-fall/#comments

Also my sincerest condolences to Hayley’s Family and friends.
I believe Scott is 100% correct regarding rapidly changing conditions. Family, friends and I made the ascent on Saturday, July 30th after a late start from camp. We were amazed at how quickly the weather came in & it was from a direction that was mostly unobstructed from view. We made the decision to go up as conditions were favorable when at the base of the cables. By the time we reached the visor, it deteriorated rapidly & the static electricity was so severe that everyone on top got to lower ground (as much as you can) and waited for a cell to go by to the SE. We turned off all cameras & electronics as static arched across the screens and from person to person. We did not want to be anywhere near the cables during the lightning and chose to rather sit it out. There were about 40 people on top at that time including three that just climbed the face, and to a to a person, we were all spooked. If that cell had backed up at all, we could very well have been in the same position as Hayley…. Wondering how bad this is going to get, should we get down now before it gets REALLY bad and lightning starts striking the top when everyone is wet…
On Sunday, the weather came in more from the West & Half Dome hid many of the cells from view if you were on the east side for any length of time. Although it came in much earlier than the day before, I could see where you could be lulled into thinking it was ok.
We picked up camp & hiked out Sunday, late morning. There were continuous thunder and severe downpours along the way. I know that the reports are stating that Hayley slipped, that is probably true but I believe there was a contributing factor of lightning either very near of directly. Nearly every Ranger that we spoke to along the way spoke of lightning striking a person and then falling. From along the trail, we witnessed a lightning strike directly on the dome in the vicinity of the cables at exactly 12:01 pm. This strike is confirmed by the Glacier point webcam for that day.
I can only imagine the terror for all who were there and they are all in my prayers.

AL Says:

August 2, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Reply
Excellent post Darin. That’s what I thought also as I was hiking up Upper Yo Falls Sunday at 10am. There were clouds from a distance but they did not look scary or ominous. It was light gray in color, no lightning and no thunder heard. If I was at the base of the cables at 10am, I would likely go up. It did not deteriorate until 10:45am, by that time one would be at the top and scared to go down the cables thinking of a lightning strike. At this time, we heard thunder about 10 miles away. So if one is at the top, the question is to risk going down or stay put. A newbie would likely panic and decide to go down. I’d probably be in panic also if it was my first time and end up the same way. RIP Hayley. We will offer a prayer for you on our August 24 hike to HD.

(Edited to provide link to statistical info.)
Last edited by colinr on Wed Aug 03, 2011 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by mrchad9 » Wed Aug 03, 2011 4:46 am

bears/animals...contribute to YNP deaths too.

When was the last time a bear or any other animal lead to the death of anyone in Yosemite?

By car accident perhaps, but I doubt by any other way in recent history.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by Marmaduke » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:30 am

simonov wrote:
mrchad9 wrote:Those cables have been there for decades, and every couple years someone slips off and dies whether there is a permit system or not. Just part of the risk really, nothing to be done about it.


Yeah. In the last 24 hours, about 80 Americans died in automobile crashes. In the next day another 80 will buy the farm. And so it goes.

But one person slips off the side of Half Dome every year or two and the wailing and gnashing of teeth reaches epic proportions.


I haven't been up Half Dome so I really can't comment on the safety cables but the real question if you want to compare auto deaths to those in Yosemite is the ratio to daily drivers and deaths and daily hikers/climbers and deaths. I would still bet the auto deaths are significantly higher.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by colinr » Wed Aug 03, 2011 1:58 pm

mrchad9 wrote:When was the last time a bear or any other animal lead to the death of anyone in Yosemite?

By car accident perhaps, but I doubt by any other way in recent history.


I agree and have replaced that confusing part of my post with a link....reading and typing too fast during happy hour can be detrimental to providing reliable information.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by simonov » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:39 pm

Marmaduke wrote:I haven't been up Half Dome so I really can't comment on the safety cables but the real question if you want to compare auto deaths to those in Yosemite is the ratio to daily drivers and deaths and daily hikers/climbers and deaths. I would still bet the auto deaths are significantly higher.


I knew someone was going to say that.

I am not making a statement about relative safety, I am talking about our reactions to death. We as a society have agreed that 30,000 premature deaths per year is a reasonable price to pay for the privilege of driving a car, and when 80 people a day die i\on the nation's highways it is literally no big deal and of interest to no one outside the immediate families of the victims.

But when someone falls off a rock at Yosemite, it's big news, accompanied by massive hand-waving.
Nunc est bibendum.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by dskoon » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:53 pm

simonov wrote:
Marmaduke wrote:I haven't been up Half Dome so I really can't comment on the safety cables but the real question if you want to compare auto deaths to those in Yosemite is the ratio to daily drivers and deaths and daily hikers/climbers and deaths. I would still bet the auto deaths are significantly higher.


I knew someone was going to say that.

I am not making a statement about relative safety, I am talking about our reactions to death. We as a society have agreed that 30,000 premature deaths per year is a reasonable price to pay for the privilege of driving a car, and when 80 people a day die i\on the nation's highways it is literally no big deal and of interest to no one outside the immediate families of the victims.

But when someone falls off a rock at Yosemite, it's big news, accompanied by massive hand-waving.


True, and well-put, Simonov.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by mrchad9 » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:59 pm

simonov wrote:
Marmaduke wrote:I haven't been up Half Dome so I really can't comment on the safety cables but the real question if you want to compare auto deaths to those in Yosemite is the ratio to daily drivers and deaths and daily hikers/climbers and deaths. I would still bet the auto deaths are significantly higher.


I knew someone was going to say that.

I am not making a statement about relative safety, I am talking about our reactions to death. We as a society have agreed that 30,000 premature deaths per year is a reasonable price to pay for the privilege of driving a car, and when 80 people a day die i\on the nation's highways it is literally no big deal and of interest to no one outside the immediate families of the victims.

But when someone falls off a rock at Yosemite, it's big news, accompanied by massive hand-waving.

I feel the same way about terrorism. 3000 people were killed on 9/11, and the country went up in arms and started two wars, drove America's economy straight into the toilet. Nevermind the number of people that die every year from car accidents, cancer, or even the flu.

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Re: Another Yosemite Fataility

by ROL » Wed Aug 03, 2011 6:23 pm

There is so much bologna in this thread that I feel compelled to set some things straight, for those who care about fact, rather than uneducated speculation.

The weather conditions – all over the central and southern were NOT sudden and unexpected. Severe thunderstorms had, in fact, been forecasted (quite accurately as it turned out) by the NWS early in the week for Friday through Monday, with emphasis on Saturday and Sunday. The speculation that "weather" came in from a certain direction is nonsense, even though it may have appeared that way to a grounded observer. The large scale macro dynamics, driving weather conditions last weekend, a southeasterly flow into eastern California around a massive retrograding (east to west, northern hemisphere) high pressure area baking the center of the country dragging up "monsoonal" moisture from the Mexico, ALWAYS results in "apparently directionless" unstable meso-scale (regional) convection, given normal summer temperatures, and orographic lifting within the Sierra.

It is a well known and media–documented phenomena that threatening clouds need not be overhead in order for lightning strikes to occur. In fact the "storm" may be miles away, and hidden by higher terrain. Now, if I had been on the saddle preparing to ascend or on top to descend, would I have retreated or waited it out? I don't know, as I wasn't there. But the decision one way or another would be informed, and the result would be my assumed risk alone.

Maybe a little common sense (whatever that is), planning, and discretion in the case of backcountry users participating in assumed risk activities is called for. For my own part, I delayed a trip into Pioneer Basin all weekend long, not because of reasons of personal safety, but because conditions were not optimal for photography. Stable weather and clear skies being the case now, the weather is too good for my purposes, this week. Had I gone, been struck by lightning, slipped on a wet rock pitching headlong over a thousand foot cliff, developed hypothermia, suffered a heart attack, or any number of other potential calamities for which I was "unprepared", I can assure you that I would still be out there, and not blaming anybody but myself. This is the nature, and to some extent the lure, of assumed risk backcountry activity.

FYI: There have been six water related deaths in the park as of 7/20, two being drownings in Hetch Hetchy (http://www.nps.gov/yose/parknews/vfallsar11b.htm). A near record snowpack – high water year, go figure. One "out of shape" hiker disappeared at the top of the Yosemite Falls Trail earlier in the summer.

Palisades79 wrote:I think that the National Park has to re-engineer the cables because the present setup is clearly is inadequate and dangerous. The path should be widen,every person should wear a harness ,and should be clipped into an ascent cable on one side while going up and a descent cable on the other side while going down . No one should be allowed to ascend in bad weather and the costs of the system should be included in their permit.
The present situation is going to result in new rules and regulations that will have unintended impacts on peak baggers and technical climbers .


What are you smokin' man?!? The Sierra Nevada is not the Alps. Your solution would absolutely open a can of worms resulting in regulation of all kind of any and all "assumed risk" activities throughout the authority of the Park. Can you say "hand holding nanny state"? Think chain link fence with razor wire from the top of Vernal Falls to the bridge, simply because visitors are no longer even expected, much less required to exercise proper caution and exhibit "common sense" (again, whatever that is, but think natural selection). But as unreasonable as that scenario may seem, I think it unlikely. To assume otherwise is to deny, or be ignorant of the history of, the NPS' policies. Go ahead, complain loudly enough about the safety of visitors on Half Dome and I feel confident the only reasonable and historically relevant solution will finally result. The cables will come down. Problem solved. Sorry to harsh your buds, man.

BTW, this whole discussion of the cables is dealt with elesewhere on SP: http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/save-half-dome-t59224.html

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