Harness chat

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

To wear a harness or not when going up the Half Dome cables? This seems to be a never ending discussion. After the 2 falls off the cables in June (1 fatal) I see more people with “Uncle Fred’s homemade harness” around their gut. Many are just a web strap tied to a carabineer. I saw a group of Japanese tourists descending with straps around their shoulders connected to 2 carabineers. Better but still bad. For the record, I don’t think you need a harness to safely go up the cables. But since the only rule is that you can’t camp on top, do whatever brings you peace of mind. The major flaw with homemade Gerry-rigged devices is that they typically use non-shock loaded straps. This means there is no give and when you fall; you have nothing to break your acceleration gradually. The result can be a sudden jarring of the dynamic forces leading to a snapped strap  – boink – and down you go or you snap your vertebrae.  Here’s what’s recommended by climbers. This one is made by Black Diamond and goes for $80. 

They call it the Via Ferata. Notice the 2 lanyards and carabineers (2 are needed to go around the poles on the Half Dome cables.

The name comes from a WW1 technique of adding ladders and holds onto almost vertical ridges to allow troops to access them. Today in Italy and France climbing using the Via Ferata technique is a big tourist industry. The harness is so named to pay honor to that experience. But you are not done yet. Kick in another $45 for a real mountaineer’s harness to attach to the lanyards.  If you are interested the fine staff at the Yosemite Mountain store can fix you up.

 Unrelated thought worth quoting: “There need be no lasting sorrow for the death of any of nature’s creations, because for every death there is always been a corresponding life” – John Muir, 1873

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch www.HikeHalfDome.com


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