Vernal Fall deaths – final word

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

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     Despite onlookers yelling at them to get out, the 3 victims of the July 19 accident remained near the fast flowing water behind the protective railing. The stone is smooth from 10,000 years of polishing – add a little water and it’s like a slip-and-slide. They were members of the St. George Assyrian Christian Church in Ceres, CA a Central Valley farm town. With 10 over the rail there could have been more. I cannot believe they were actually standing on a “rock” island out there. I sure saw none 3 days earlier. There could have easily been even more slip in. 

     The park does NOT plan to add more warning signs. The 3-foot high pipe railings are adequate for an adult to understand not to go over into Class V rapids 25 feet from a 317 foot drop. There is even chicken wire down low to keep small folk safe. Here’s some shots I took on the 4th and 16th. I blew up the WARNING sign to show you that it is HUGE and hard to miss – as if you need one.

All Vernal photos (c) Carpe Diem Experience, LLC




 We all feel sorry for the family and offer condolences. Lessons to be learned here. Enjoy nature, but don’t put your hand into the lion cage. 

     If you live the in the SF Bay area, come on over to the Town Center Book Store in Pleasanton (“P-Town”) this Saturday at 11. I’ll be giving a Half Dome hiking talk and casual Q & A session. We can rap about Yosemite, Half Dome and other great hikes. Be there or be rectangular.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: In the jungle, the quiet jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. Near the village, the peaceful village, the lion sleeps tonight.” – The Tokens 

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch –


15 Responses to “Vernal Fall deaths – final word”

  1. Joyce Says:

    Your photos clearly show how dangerous the water/rocks are.

    We’ve always respected the rails and the strength of the water. Even down at the river rafting, I refused to allow the children to do it when they were smaller and the water high and more rough.

    My sympathies to the families but please teach your children to obey posted signs, especially if they are for their safety.

    Thank you for all of your posts about this, Mr. Half Dome.

  2. Mr. Diving Board Says:

    12,000 square miles of YNP and they picked the only 200 feet of fencing that says “Stay Back.” The Park isn’t done claiming lives this year; not by a long-shot. The river is HEAVY. Rafts and swimming allowed from Stoneman Bridge to Sentinel Beach…it looks calm, but it’s got an undertow and flow to knock down an adult and that will be that. In perspective, look at Yosemite Falls…impressive amount of water for this time of year. Now take that and multiply the flow by at least 4x for the Merced off of Nevada and Vernal; Wicked

  3. Pamela Heard Says:

    What a beautiful hike, the Vernal and Nevada Falls Mist Trail! I have done this many times and have taken my son with me, even when he was young. I never felt threatened, simply because I have a great respect for the power of nature. I also believe that the signs are there for good reason; they are for my safety. Thank you, mr. halfdome, for words of wisdom. It would be very sad if we lost the freedom of this hike and had to apply for permits! We should learn from these three unfortunates, and we should grieve for their families.

  4. Maureen L Says:

    unlike the top of Yosemite Falls, it’s relatively easy to get to the top of Vernal Fall.

    • Judith Adkins Says:

      Relatively easy. Maybe.

      Quite a few have died on this “easy” part of the trail.

      • mrhalfdome Says:

        I agree that “easy” is a relative term. 700 steps is hard. But I disagree that “quite a few” have died here. Actually the last person over the water fall was in 2005 – again he stepped over the rail…3 of the last 4 years saw someone slip in near the foot bridge by getting close to the water. But an estimated 1500 do this mist trail every day – so that’s a pretty good record.

        The fact that these three were 20, 21 and 27 yrs old seems to get lost. They were not children.

      • Judith Adkins Says:

        Nonetheless I learned and understand why you shouldn’t take out-of-shape people with you on uphill hikes. My brother nearly had a heart attack when we went up there this last June – it took him nearly ten minutes to bring his heart rate back to normal! He described that he was feeling very dizzy and so forth.

        No, I still would say it is not easy and it is not for everyone.

      • mrhalfdome Says:

        Good points.

        Most readers of this blog are generally in decent shape. It’s easy for us to forget the “layman.” The 700 Mist trail steps is like giant stairmaster on 11. Gets me sweating too! I took my older sister up years ago and the goal was to get to the JMT/Nevada Fall split, and back down JMT by noon. Then continue thru the valley to Mirror Lake. I lent her hiking poles….she is a novice ….it turned out to be a all day affair just to get to Nevada…….but she made it up to Nevada and was dead tired..but ecstatic!! She loved every grueling step and felt a real sense of accomplishment.

  5. Jeff Blair Says:

    I was up there the day before the incident on Monday 7/18 and was very impressed by the water flow. Everyone there was being respectful and safe, but the NPS simply cannot supervise everyone. Now there is buzz about the National Parks being ‘unsafe.’ If you want thrills with virtually guaranteed safety, go to an amusement park! If you want to see some of nature up close, go out into it but follow the rules and heed the advice of those who have gone before. That way, if an accident occurs, it is because of the uncertainty of nature, not denial, carelessness and/or stupidity.

  6. Scott Holmes Says:

    There exists a disconnect between many people and the natural world. This can cause a problem when the disconnected choose to venture into the natural world. I very much doubt it even occurred to this group of day hikers that they were acting irresponsibly, only ignoring rules obviously meant for others, not them. I too, have been on that trail and the others running from Tuolumne to the Valley many times but never fell in the Merced.

  7. Patti Says:

    Closing the Mist Trail is a moot point considering people can still go up the JMT and then down the trail from Clark Point to Silver Apron. What would they do, close both trails? That would be absurd!!

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      50,000 a year die on Freeways….we don’t close them. That route has been there since the late 1800’s – and the railings are a relatively recent addition!! A century of normal people enjoyed it without issue.

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