“The Half Dome Cables Study”

Half  Dome – Yosemite Musing


The source document for the decision leading to the impending Permit System for the Half Dome cables is pictured above. The lead consulting contractor was the Resource Systems Group (RSG), with a major role played by Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA). RSG is a Vermont based consulting company specializing in User Capacity Planning. The normative survey was designed by researchers at Colorado State University, in consultation with researchers at RSG and Virginia Tech, as well as staff from Yosemite National Park. This 102 page report was a comprehensive study of the cables conducted from mid July to mid August 2008. (There no falls in 2008.)
    The stated purpose of this study was to assess relationships among: 1) the number of visitors per day embarking on hikes to the Half Dome Trail from Happy Isles; 2) visitor use on the Half Dome Trail; 3) the total number of people ascending and descending the Half Dome cables at one time; 4) the amount of time it takes visitors to ascend and descend the cables route; 5) the number of visitors who are forced or choose to travel outside the cables; and 6) visitors’ perceptions of safety and crowding on the Half Dome cables route. I have no idea of the cost, but I think we all knew it was crowded and can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to go up. But this study was a thesis level quality report complete with simulations, surveys, modeling, regression analysis and photographic observations (green dots on people inside the cables and red dots on those outside). I doubt the lunar landing program went into similar detail. Little known to the average hike, a TRAFx infrared trail counter was installed on the John Muir Trail, approximately 90 feet beyond the Happy Isles Trailhead, and a second TRAFx counter was installed on the Half Dome Trail, approximately 100 feet beyond its junction with the John Muir Trail. That’s a pretty accurate way to get a people count – kinda like before they put a new lane on a road. In the interest of space here – so you don’t change the channel, I’ll stop now but continue this week with this topic as the theme. See you tomorrow. I’ll read the whole thing so you don’t have to!

Unrelated thought worth quoting:Up the mountain they go, high-heeled and high-hatted, laden like Christians with mortifications and mortgages of divers sorts and degrees, some suffering from the sting of bad bargains, others exulting in good ones.” – John Muir, 1888
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com


3 Responses to ““The Half Dome Cables Study””

  1. Al Says:

    I’ve read 3 days after it got published. It is one “nerdy” report. Being an engineer myself, I can’t believe all of the analytics and statistical details involved.

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      I researched RSG and they have done similar studies for other parks. I guess that’s what consultants do. I’ve never been a fan of random surveys. I understand modeling and statistics (Aerospace Engineering degree) but to base conclusions on a small sample size just doesn’t compute.

  2. Mason Harrison Says:

    Well- one thing is for sure…according to the study on this report, most everybody opposes permits, fees and regulations and almost EVERYONE agrees on adding an additional cable. Shouldn’t have taken a study to decide that…

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