Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

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     Just when I thought we had moved on from the tragic death of 3 people off Vernal Fall, the ABC radio affiliate in San Francisco had it as their newstalk topic today on the Gil Gross show. KGO am 810 is one of the highest rated stations in the US of A. The theme of today’s discussion was an impression that many people are voicing  unsympathetic comments out in public – on blogs. You know – calling them “idiots, Darwin award candidates, morons,” etc without being sensitive to the families. OK, I know the site – SFGate.com. Take a look. People can comment on it anonymously and thus are free to hurl profanities and act like a 5th grade bully under the curtain of anonymity. But on this MrHalfDomeblog, we had close to 1800 visitors that day and I moderate them all. I did not have to censor anyone. Why? Well, you must be a better breed of person, plus I know who you are – at least your email address. I spend the time to read them before posting.

   I did get on the radio show after waiting almost an hour. My point was, yes, we need to be kind to the families and not get crude. But when 10 adults climg over a – foot high over a rail that has up to 6 horizontal bars and chicken wire to keep people out of Class V rapids just yards from a 300 foot waterfall – well, somebody is not thinking.

     And what about the Rescue teams? Over 20 people put their fannies at risk to poke around the base of the fall and downstream. It is still all white water.  If these people are adults – and I define that as old enough to be trusted to given given a rifle and sent to the Middle East, then they are old enough to know not to climb into harm’s way. Assess the risk then deal with it….but we we
can’t legislate stupidity.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: I love the colorful clothes she wears and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair. I hear the sound of a gentle word on the wind that lifts her perfume through the air. I’m pickin’ up good vibrations.” – The Beach Boys 

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com


8 Responses to “”

  1. Maureen L Says:

    Rick, did you mean to say we can’t legislate visitor education and common sense? (Our Congress does act like they’re trying to legislate stupidity…)

    Looking at photos like those you put up here makes it seem like a no-brainer to stay out of the water above Vernal Fall.

    But “Friends said the victims likely did not understand that the swift-moving Merced River could be so treacherous.” says the SF Chron in an article on July 21.


    The deaths of these three young adults is a signal that there’s a need for more effective visitor education. Many of us are working to broaden the range of people who have opportunities to enjoy our national and state parks — people exactly like Ramina Badel, Ninos Yacoub, and Hormiz David and their church community. I’ll bet that none of them had the advantages I had to get outdoors and learn about outdoor safety as a young person.

    I’m not saying that it’s all the park service’s responsibility. The organizers of the trip, from their church group, should have gotten the resources to provide adequate preparation and safety info. It’s always good to get this info before the hike from people you know and trust, with whom you have a relationship. And perhaps in a language other than English. I know enough about California and the Central Valley and the Assyrian Church to be more than guessing here.

    Dear friends, and NPS and Yosemite Conservancy, what can we do, since it clearly seems we need to do more?

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      I have to differ with you on this one. I said “we can’t legislate stupidity.” It is stupid to climb over a protective railing in front of a warning sign onto a Class V rapid 25 feet before a 300 foot drop. To walk out to the treacherous swift-moving Merced River s stupid. To put scissors up your nose is stupid; to put 110 degree coffee on your lap is stupid; to put a toaster into your bath is stupid; grabbing a vat of boiling fluid is stupid. We need warnings for all this?

      If you are an adult, you have certain responsibilities – for YOURSELF. How many more signs do we need? Do we put a life guard at every water hole? Do we have taped recording in 24 languages at every cliff? Unless these three were mentally impaired, we don’t need to go beyond reasonable alerts. Mentally impaired people are welcome at the park and are escorted by care givers.

      Should the Park, the Conservancy, the Rangers or Church leaders have told them that hiking up 700 steps may be hard, that sliding down the railing at the top is not a good idea or that wading into the river at the footbridge is unwise? If so, let’s shut the park down and everyone stay at home and watch videos of life. We should never risk going outside of our bubble. That’s pretty safe.

      Other readers – your 2 cents?????

      • Roberto Hernandez Says:

        I agree with all your points! Even if hikers had to read certain information, listen to an informational talk, or pass a class, it does not mean they would behave differently. Importantly, intelligent people on the right side of the railing were yelling warnings to be careful and get back from the river, yet caution was still thrown to the wind. Now, when it comes to people carrying young children into the river, or to scream and panic on the edge of a cliff, that you can take action upon. Good thing none of tje children were in the water. An additional reason the granite can be so slippery is that often a thin film of algae grows along the shallow edge of the water. STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES – FORREST GUMP

    • Sönke Says:

      I have to agree with Rick. I don’t understand how someone could even consider crossing the protective railing??

      More fences, signs, education etc.? Absolutely not. Enough is enough. Otherwise we’ll end up with a theme park and I think this is the last thing we would like to see.

      As tragic as their deaths are: it is their responsibility and their responsibility only.

  2. Brayton Says:

    I just got back from my second HD trip! Decided to come down the mist trail. Once I began coming down to the top of vernal I noticed a group(looked like a couple families probably about 10-15 some where risking more than others) of people wading in the water. REALLY!!!! I thought to myself! They wernt right behind the railing but just up from it about 30′ to 40′. Some were even knee deep (only takes 6″ of moving water to sweep you away) one wrong move and BOOM another name to the missing person lists!!! My phonewas dead so I didn’t get pictures… But I wanted too!!!! I think that it is very clear of the danger that is present! Signs help!!! But it shouldn’t take a sign or a ranger to tell you how dangerous a situation could get. People are utimintly responsible for thier own safety… You comprise that…. you could endanger others or the people you are with! Coming down the trail I noticed a bunch of “hikers” that prolly shouldn’t be hiking this trail! Growing up in the country and being a hunter I have a great respect for mother nature and the wilderness. It think the danger is very clear visually just hiking up those 700 steps and seeing the power of the water!! But that’s just what I perceive. I mean if it takes a sign to tell you that getting in the water is a bad idea then maybe you should take the hiking vernal falls 101 test! Heck I don’t know!!

    • mrhalfdome Says:


    • AL Says:

      It’s easy to call the 3 hikers as stupid because, well, what they did was actually stupid. However, after 18 visits to YNP since 2005, there is this unexplained energy that drives a person to go near a roaring river or the curiosity of peaking at the edge of Half Dome, Yosemite Point, Chilnualna Falls, Clouds Rest, or Eagle Peak. It’s that adrenalin rush that brings us joy and accomplishment even though it’s dangerous. How often have we done things without thinking of the consequences because we are so emotionally overjoyed? By next year, you can expect hikers dying in Yosemite’s waterfalls doing the same stunt all over again. Putting more warning signs or fences are not the solution but education.

      • mrhalfdome Says:

        Being an adult means being able to control your emotions when the consequences are unhealthy for plants and other living things. . I would love to stand atathe finish line of the Indy 500, or lay on a runway as a 747 lands above me or get the rush of riding my bike down Pikes Peak without touching the brakes…but I don’t…I assess the risk and deal with it…. I control the situation. 10 Adults standing in the white water of the Merced is not an adult thing to do. And no, I have not ever been so “drunk” with adreneline that I endanged my life.

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