Bulletin – Lightning kills woman at Yosemite’s Half Dome

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Bulletin Bulletin Bulletin Bulletin 

     Preliminary word out of the park is that a woman hiker was killed yesterday when she was struck by lightning during a hike to the summit of 8,842 foot Half Dome. At this point no other details are available. As information becomes out I will relay it to you. Subscribers will get it into their email in basket. I am in Anaheim now and it rained here. A rain cell was traveling north into the Sierra from the southland and into Yosemite. Monday is calling for a 20% chance of thunderstorms. In June of 2009 it wa also a 20% chance when hail hit the top and one man slipped off the cables. Hike safely.


     We are entering the time of the year when you need to be prepared for the summer thunderstorms that appear in the High Sierra. When the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley is baking in 100+ degree temperatures and the cooler Pacific air mixes, beautiful cumulonimbus clouds form. Your August hike will start out pretty clear with just a few puffy clouds in the otherwise blue sky. By 10 am you will see more clouds beginning to congeal into a low overcast. You complete your hike to the summit but notice the dark gray cover. Upon coming back down the cables, you descend sub dome and enter the forest.  Soon you may you may be aware of low rumblings in the distance. In about an hour you may hear thunderclaps in the distance. Then the skies open up. Fortunately, you have your hiking poles to keep your balance on the slick trail and your poncho to keep you dry.

     Do not take chances. In 1985 2 young men on top died from a lightning strike. Read Shattered Air. The cables are steel and conduct electricity. If you have any hint of lightning or damp conditions, keep off sub dome and Half Dome. Just because you have a non-refundable permit, it’s not worth trying to get to the edge of the safety envelop. Lightning can travel 7-10 miles from the cloud that generates it. The rock will be there for your next trip.

   So what do you do if you are caught in a lightning storm? Do not be near a single tall object – like a boulder or tree or Half Dome. You are safer in a dense forest. Get rid of your aluminum hiking poles. Put your pack on the ground and stand on it then squat down as low as you can get. If you are in an open area, try to find a gully and lay in it. I’ve done the hike in August and had a great time. Be safe, use your head and have fun. 


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “The substance of the winds is too thin for human eyes, their written language is too difficult for human minds, and their spoken language mostly too faint for the ears.” – John Muir 

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com


10 Responses to “Bulletin – Lightning kills woman at Yosemite’s Half Dome”

  1. Justin L. Says:

    looks like a slip

    (08-01) 11:26 PDT Yosemite National Park, Calif. (AP) —

    Officials at Yosemite National Park say a 26-year-old woman fell 600 feet to her death while climbing Half Dome over the weekend.

    The woman was identified Monday as Hayley LaFlamme of San Ramon.

    Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb says LaFlamme was hiking with three friends Sunday when she slipped in the rain while descending the enormous granite dome. She fell on the shoulder of the dome where the cables end that help hikers navigate the final ascent.

    An investigation is underway, but Cobb says rain likely played a factor by making the granite slippery.

    It’s the 14th fatality this year in the park, which averages between five and six by August.

    Last month, three people were swept to their deaths when they entered the Merced River above the 317-foot Vernal Fall.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/08/01/state/n112610D63.DTL#ixzz1To6cgjhi

    • Sönke Says:

      Hmm, interesting. It’s an AP report and more newspapers are printing it right now:


      Surprisingly it wasn’t mentioned today on YNP’s daily report. However this has been posted on the web and it looks like an upcoming (official park) news report:

      “Hiker Fatality on Half Dome Cables in Yosemite National Park
      Date: August 1, 2011

      At approximately 12:00 p.m. Sunday, July 31, 2011, Yosemite National Park’s Emergency Communication Center received a 911 phone call reporting a fall of a hiker on the Half Dome cables. Hayley LaFlamme, a 26 year old female from San Ramon, California, had gone to the top of Half Dome and was descending when she fell 600 feet off the cables. National Park Rangers pronounced her deceased upon arrival on scene.

      A severe lightning, thunder, and rainstorm was present in the area of Half Dome for several hours in the morning and early afternoon yesterday. This type of weather can make for hazardous trail conditions and the granite slopes become very slick. Half Dome trip planning and safety information is available through the Yosemite National Park webpage at http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm

      The cause of the fall is currently under investigation.

      The last hiker who died on Half Dome was Majoj Kumar, from San Ramon, California, on June 13, 2009.

      Additionally, on June 16, 2007, Hirofumi Nohara, slipped to his death on the cables. Two other Half Dome fatalities involved women who were hiking on Half Dome when the cables were down. These were Jennifer Bettles, who died on April 21, 2007 and Emily Sandal, who died on November 8, 2006.”

      Take a look at the weather conditions at that time yourself:


      It look really, really bad way before 12pm.

  2. AL Says:

    What’s the likelihood of this not happening if we didn’t have the permit system? This was her only chance, so she took the gamble on a good weather forecast. But still why is I ask myself. She only live 3 hours away from the valley.

  3. Maureen L Says:

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to blame this on the permit system.

    People who’ve made it to subdome have invested a lot in their hike, and it takes wisdom to turn back if there are thunderclouds or recent rain.

  4. Seraphina Agosto Says:

    We were going up Friday and got half-way up sub-dome when storm clouds appeared. We decided to turn around. We figured Half Dome would be there another day. We’re glad we did! It gives us an excuse to go back next year! The fact that permits are hard to get did not play a factor in our decision; you have a another chance to get a permit, you don’t get a second chance at life.

  5. Norman S Says:

    Going up the cables may be more difficult because of the exertion required, but going down the cables may be more dangerous. People train and prepare to go up. Going down is almost an afterthought. Most people use the same set of gloves going down as going up. The idea is to get the best grip. Gripping makes sense on the way up and seems to make sense on the way down because your body is pitching forward and its difficult gaining traction. But a controlled free fall, rappelling, is better than fighting your body’s center of gravity. I also think that the granite below the downhill cable may be smoother than on the uphill side. My theory is that climbers ascending take discrete steps, picking up their feet. Going down, the loss of balance creates more sliding and rubbing against the granite. After decades, the different ways in which up from down has been negotiated on the mountain has created slicker conditions on mountain below the downhill cable.

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      Use whatever method you are comfortable with – that’s what Royal Robbins said in his interview on my free app. He’s the first one to have climbed up HD and is the only one we know of that has gone DOWN without touching the cables.

      If you have to go down on your butt – go for it.

  6. tonyfricch Says:

    I will be on half dome Sep. 13th. Is a harness really needed or is it overkill. Thanks Tony

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      Overkill…..Do what you feel safe doing. Use a real haness NOT a homemade one. thigh/waist support with a via ferrata and 2 clips…and training how to use it.


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