Half Dome fatality – Description of Weather

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

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First off, I want to ask if Hayley’s family or friends can contact me with any memorial service information, I would like to attend. We are a community here and I’d like to offer condolences.

Bad conditions

There has been a lot of speculation as to why a woman fell to her death on July 31. If you have been following the story, you know that weather was bad that day. Thanks to Blog reader, Shean H., we have a piece of information that is more than speculation. He posted this as a comment, but I wanted to give it better visibility. I cannot verify anything, but here you are. I edited it some for readability and grammar:

I was on the sub dome at around 11:30 am on Sunday and descended around 1145 am. When we reached the bottom near the ranger, there was an extremely close lightning strike near the top of Half Dome. I don’t know if it struck the cables or not, but my deepest condolences go out to the family.

Hiking up from the valley, the whole morning it was very good weather, with clouds in the horizon. Once we came out of the trees near the Dome at around 11 am, there was heavy cloud cover and it started sprinkling around 11:15. we decided to hike to at least the sub dome and see if the weather passed. At approx. 11:35 it started raining and 11:45 we left very quickly as there were several lightning strikes and one strike which hit a tree approx 2-3 miles away from the dome on the south side of the valley. Again, my thoughts go out to the young lady who lost her life and her family. She most likely started up around 1030am or so when the weather was still holding without rain or lightning.

The ranger (checking permits at Sub Dome) was DEFINITELY warning people not to go up at 11:15 am. He told my wife after I went up sub dome that he would not have gone up himself and that it would only get worse.

I have reposted the webcam photo that was taken about that time on July 31.

Lightning on Half Dome July 31, 2011

Our German IAG – (Image Analysis Group)  alerted me to it and I enhanced the colors via Photoshop for clarity of the bolt that appears to be touching the Visor.  I hope this information helps. Thanks again to Shean. If anyone else was there and contribute to our understanding, please send your facts to me.

Permit Quest

Many readers come to the blog seeking Half Dome permits. Many are succeeding. I highly suggest you don’t just put request on and hope someone contacts you. READ the blog everyday and keep alert for others who are giving permits away. It’s is appropriate for you to pay them their $1.50 service fee, but no more ala scalpers. For example, G.G. wrote: If you have any passes available for ANYTIME in AUGUST or SEPTEMBER, please let me know. The following was posted yesterday – I have no idea if the permits are still available. Good luck.

I have several September permits to give away. I got these to trade and now can give them away. 
Dates are as follows:
September 15th – 1 permit; September 20th – 2 permits; September 21st – 1 permit; September 22nd – 1 permit

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “A man in his books may be said to walk the world long after he is in his grave.” – John Muir 1873 

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com


5 Responses to “Half Dome fatality – Description of Weather”

  1. Julie Mann Says:

    Hi Rick,
    I feel compelled to write a comment about this sad occurrence – as our group was in Yosemite on Sunday and climbed Half Dome on Monday (Aug. 1). Although I cannot confirm any of this to be 100% factual, I did ask the permit taking ranger about the fatality once we descended from sub dome. What she told me was that the storm on Sunday did produce a lightning strike that hit the cables and caused electrical current to run through the metal that burned several peoples hands. Her understanding was that Hayley may have experienced that and let go – which caused her to fall. She said she fell approx. 600 or more feet and died immediately. A helicopter rescued her body, but did not take her hiking companions with them in the helicopter.

    Our group was in the Yosemite Valley the entire day on Sunday. There clearly was a storm (lots of rain, thunder and lightening experienced on the ground). There were rumors flying around all afternoon about someone being hit by lightening on the dome and dying, but each story I heard was a little different from the next – but all similar as well. Being the first time our group was ever on Half Dome, I wanted to learn as much about the accident as possible – because we were embarking on the same hike only a day later… As I was apprehensive. That is why I grilled the park ranger who was checking permits for as much information as I could get. The ranger also admitted that in addition to the fatality, that same day there was a person who had a seizure, another who broke a bodily limb, and a twisted knee or ankle. She said that all the people who summited the dome around 11am Sunday were advised not to go due to weather concerns.

    My heart goes out to Hayley’s family and friends. What a very sad day. Thank you, Rick, for your blog. It is an extremely helpful resource! Please keep us updated on anymore info you find out about Hayley and services for her.

    Best, Julie

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      Thank you Julie for your comments..

      I do not know if the family is reading this, but if there is a service and they want the public to attend they are free to let me know.

      People on this blog are close to Half Dome and all have been kind and not rushing to judgement. The park does not release a lot of info on these kind of things so all we have to go with are first person accounts. We try to learn how to be safe but sometimes nature humbles us and lets us know who is in charge. I’ve never said I conquer Half Dome – Tissiack lets us pass.


  2. AL Says:

    I’ve read there were 20 who were at the top or coming down with Hayley last Sunday. If so, they are probably still in shock from the experience. It would be one sensational documentary show on Dateline or perhaps a book. I’d rather see a book written about it with proceeds going to Hayley’s family. It would be more interesting to me than book, Shattered Air. I cannot relate to those irresponsible guys in 1985 but can relate more to any of the 20 last Sunday. R.I.P. Hayley.

  3. AL Says:

    A picture how ominous it looked like before t-storms rolled in last Sunday. Easy to say I’m not going up. But the difficulty of getting a permit and a person’s first time, emotions sometimes get in the way.

    Thunderclouds on Half Dome

  4. LD Says:

    That’s my picture of the storms. There were four of us – none had ever been to the top before and we had waited almost four months since getting the permits. When we asked the ranger about the situation at ~11:15, he emphatically said that he would not go up there by choice, and indeed that he hoped he wouldn’t have to go up that day to help anyone. So we sat up on the rocks for a few minutes, saw it was only getting worse, and came down.
    There is always a next year to come back in these situations. But I think that handing out rain-check permits for people who arrive in bad weather might help them make the right decision.

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