SPECIAL REPORT – Permits !!!!!!!!!!

Half  Dome – Yosemite Musing

In the first major change to the Half Dome hike since 1919, the Park is now beginning a mandatory permit system for hikers who want to go up the cables. The excessive loading has resulted in the cable route being clogged in times of “get down fast.” Weather is the primary culprit. Even in good weather, waits of up to 1-hour result in unsafe ascents by tired hikers. An intensive survey of the user experience on the cables was done in August 2008 and those results and the recent falls off the cables by 2 hikers (one fatally) in June led the park to enact an emergency Superintendant directed interim solution until the issue can be debated in a public forum (beginning this spring) and a better remedy found. 84,000 people now climb the cables every year. The previous estimate was 50,000. Busy weekends now see upwards of 1200 attempting the cables – a system now 90 years old. This negatively affects the promise of a Wilderness setting devoid of human interference and a place of solitude. I have read though the reams of material and provide links to them below. Here are the highlights:

1. 300 permits will be available for hiking per day on weekends and holidays. 100 will be set aside for those getting backpacker permits on routes that will include the HD cables. No permits required on other days – for now pending experiential studies.

2. Cost is $1.50 non-refundable per permit with 4 obtainable with each call/email request. You cannot get one within 7 days of your requested hike. NO refunds for any reason. Permits are transferable (no names on them) or given away – no resale.

3. Everyone must have a permit to go beyond Sub Dome.

4. Rangers will enforce this with a possible misdemeanor / $5K fine / 6 months in a federal jail levied for abuse.

5. NO onsite in-park (or walk-up) permits given.

6. To hike in May or June, operators will be standing by on March 1. To hike in July and August, call on April 1; For Sep and Oct, call May 1.

7. Book at http://www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.

We will discuss all this in upcoming blogs. The impact will be felt by all of us. Tune in for Mr. Half Dome’s 2-cents and enter your praise or rant here.


1. NPS Half Dome permits Press Release <HERE>

2. Permit Description <HERE>

3. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) <HERE>

4. Long term planning process for HD <HERE>

5. NPS Half Dome hike primer <HERE>

6. 2008 Half Dome visitor study (102 page PDF) <HERE>

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “After dinner sit awhile, after supper walk a mile.” – English Proverb

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


3 Responses to “SPECIAL REPORT – Permits !!!!!!!!!!”

  1. andy Says:

    What mess this is going to be. What a surprise, as soon as they announced “survey” you knew permits were next. There is so much wrong with this it’s hard to know where to start. First of all let me say I agree something needed to be done for the weekend crowding. Unfortunately this ain’t it.

    1) Ironically the fee is to low. These permits are going to swooped up and be for sale on the internet instantly. Who’s going to stop that?
    2) We have reduced or Park Rangers to ticket takers, where’s the hot dog stand?
    3) What happens when bad weather hits? Who makes the decision to go up the cables? Right now it’s your personal choice. If the park “accepts” your ticket do they then accept liability? Do I get a rain check?
    4) No walk up permits??
    5) This one is purely selfish. I’m a weekday hiker! This will push some amount of hikers out of the weekend. That blows. HaHa

    I’m sure there will be “adjustments” to the system in the future. To bad that won’t include just building another set of cables…

  2. Jim Y Says:

    Mr HD, great job as always. I read the entire study. The net to me seems to be that there really isn’t a serious crowding problem and that the public doesn’t perceive a safety problem. The study makes no attempt to “prove” a safety problem either.

    Why implement a permit system then?

    At $1.50 this isn’t a big revenue generator for the park. Seems like a administrative pain for everyone — the park and hikers.

    I do this hike every year. We try to hit the base during off peak times but aren’t always successful.

    Thanks again for the blog and your efforts to educate and inform. Much appreciated.

    • mrhalfdome Says:


      I think that after reading the whole RSG study, it does not lead to a conclusion that permits need to begin. However, when we are at the cables it’s clear that crowds do build. The park is correct that in a “get off quick” scenario, the mob impedes evacuation. To me, education as to the changing weather conditions would make sure people use common sense and not go up. But they don’t and the NPS felt complelled to take some action. This process is an interim “emergency” superintendant directive. Let all be sure to participate in the long term solution development prcess. They will hear all perspectives before rolling out the “2012” rules.

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