Happy Birthday John Muir

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

To request, trade or give permits, Click HERE.

** Put your contact info on the request. **


     April 21 is John Muir’s Birthday. 1838. I don’t think he’ll be able to make the party. The guy had his act together.  Are you going to the John Muir parade at Yosemite? Oh, there isn’t one. Going to watch  the celebration at the White House. Oh, there isn’t one. How about the ceremony at the Sacramento State Capitol? Oh, there isn’t one. WHY NOT?? 

    Now for some comments on the publicity about scalping Half Dome permits. In a previous blog I quoted the legal words that prohibit it. 

This hiking permit is transferable, but cannot be resold or auctioned. Resale of this permit is a violation of Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, section 1.6. You are allowed to give this permit to anyone else, but each permit can only be used once.

     So, violations are against a Federal Law. You are talking FBI here. If the park wants to pursue it the scalpers could be drawing the wrath of the big boys here. Sing Sing, Leavenworth, Alcatraz. August permits are available on May 1, just a few days away. How will the publicity affect our chances of getting permits?  Well, it could discourage the bad guys from doing it again and open up more slots –or – it could greatly increase the number of honest people we have to compete with. They all read about it (Front page of San Jose Murky News). “Gee, we better get our permits NOW so at least we can go in 2011.”

      Reminds me a lot of the early days of EBay. We paid for automated programs that would enter our bids a nanosecond before the closing time. It’s called snipe-ing.  Unless the park puts a limit of say, 4 permits from each IP address, there is nothing they can do. But then clever people would just use multiple systems to buy. But what about groups of 10 friends all hitting BUY at 7:00:0001 am to get 40 of the 300 permits for their group? I guess the safest strategy is to go on an undesirable day – like Tuesday. You might have 4 seconds of pad time instead of trying for a Saturday.

Unrelated thought worth quoting:A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” = Paul Dudley White

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com


3 Responses to “Happy Birthday John Muir”

  1. Norman S Says:

    The goal of the permit system was never to maximize access to Half Dome. By 2009, weekend crowds had reached a point that ‘risk taking’ behavior (ascent / descent outside the cables) was occurring with frequency. Although to my knowledge, none of the recent deaths had been associated with that behavior it was considered an accident waiting to happen and a primary focus of the corrective action taken by NPS. So by reducing access, NPS would reduce one risk taking behavior.

    In 2010, weekend numbers fell dramatically. And although the crowds on Mon and Thurs reached 800 – that was still less than the weekend numbers in 2009. More importantly, no one died. Scalpers may be further reducing access this year. But if there are no fatalities, NPS may consider the system to have served its primary purpose – safety.

    But were the accidents that occurred in recent years due to travel outside the cables or to lack of preparedness? If the latter, then the real corrective should be education.

    NPS is right to make safety its primary concern. In that regard, why not require people to take a class. Have NPS certify which courses are acceptable and how many hours. Many would consider that beneath them, especially if they’ve done the hike before. But consider this, if there are fatalities going forward the other option that can be exercised is no access. So the experienced hikers may want to encourage the education option on the premise that a cable is only as strong as its weakest strand.


    • mrhalfdome Says:


      I gotta disagree with you on this one. If you read the Half Dome study report, the purpose of permits was to provide a safe flow of hikers of the cables in case of a problem. It suggested that if a flow of 24 minutes up/down was maintained this would prevent a bottleneck. Their model suggested 400 people a day would do it. It only tangentially mentioned going outside the cables. It was not to alleviate “risky” behavior. It is in the “wilderness” where a person is to assess the risks and then decide if he/she can deal with them.
      The only rules are that you cannot camp on top and you need a permit. It is “recommended” that you do not go outside the cables but not a rule. Before I wrote the book I asked the rangers about going outside. They agreed that it is fine and that they do it to get on better granite. I do it and feel way safer. I DO NOT suggest anyone do it until they have gone up about 8 times and feel comfortable with the risk.

      See my ACCIDENTS page on the website to learn the reasons for the deaths off the cables….All but one were weather related – wet rock – and the other one was dehydration and fatigue related. NOTE – No deaths in 2010.

      I have suggested to the park that anyone who gets an HD permit be required to be educated similar to those who pick up Wilderness permits but the push back is the sheer numbers and lack of resources. But I contend that a 30 minute film /talk in the Auditorium 4 times a day with a trained volunteer would do it. Once you attend you get a card that certifies you are “hike-worthy.” But as of today there is no such plan in effect. We finally go them to use Webinars – maybe this too will happen.

      To get a PhD in Cableology, you can read all the studies <HERE>. Pop some popcorn and have fun.

      Your pal,
      Mr Half Dome

  2. Norman S Says:


    I agree that flow times up the cable were a prime consideration. I don’t agree that going outside the cables was a tangential issue. They went hand in hand.

    Chapter 1, Page 1, Line 5, the 4th sentence of the report lays out the dual concerns:

    Most visitors ascend, and subsequently descend, the Half Dome summit between its two parallel cables. However, some visitors travel outside of the cables, incurring increased exposure to unarrested falls from the granite dome. The occurrence of this behavior, coupled with recent accidents involving falls from the cables, has made risk management on Half Dome a priority at the park. Much of the safety concern is related to the amount of time spent on the cables during periods of high use…visitor numbers affect the length of time hikers are forced to stay on the cables for the ascent and descent, and to what extent length of time spent on the cables contributes to the prevalence of visitors traveling outside the cables

    Maybe it’s because HD is so close to the Valley and so iconic, it draws people who would not normally go into the wilderness and who do not necessarily have a demonstrated ability to assess risks and decide if they can deal with them.

    That lack of conditioning and going up in bad weather played a role in the ‘recent’ fatalities underline that education might’ve saved a life. And if not that, at least improved the chances of getting to the summit.

    Last but not least, you and I, have no disagreement.


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