It’s 100 years since the Half Dome cables were first installed, and people who want to try to walk and pull themselves up the granite icon in Yosemite National Park can now circle a time and date on their calendars for when the annual preseason lottery for permits begins.
This year’s preseason lottery for Half Dome hiking permits begins at 7 a.m. March 13 and ends at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on March 31. Rangers are expected to install the cables this spring and have them open from May 24 to Oct. 15, according to the vendor selling permits.
People who rock climb to ascend Half Dome with ropes and gear, and people who climb it without ropes and gear, do not need permits.
The cables are supported by metal posts, which are removed each fall and winter. At least eight people have died on or near the Half Dome cables route, including a 29-year-old man named Asish Penugonda who fell from the cables last year during a thunderstorm on May 21.
Costs for permits have risen more than 500 percent since the National Park Service began trying to limit Half Dome hikers in 2010. Permits cost $1.50 each in 2010, and they will cost $10 per permit this year. There is also a non-refundable application fee of $6 to $10. The vendor Recreation.gov says the non-refundable application fee is $6. The National Park Service says the non-refundable application fee is $10. Phone calls to Recreation.gov and the National Park Service on Wednesday did not clarify the non-refundable application fee cost.
In 2008, as many as 1,200 people a day tried to walk and pull themselves up the metal cables to the summit of Half Dome. Nowadays, 225 permits are available via the preseason lottery. An additional 50 permits are available for each daily lottery.
An 1865 report by Josiah Whitney with the California Geological Survey declared the 8,859-foot summit of Half Dome was “perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of the prominent points about the Yosemite which never has been, and never will be, trodden by human foot.”
Ten years later, a man named George Anderson reached the summit in 1875 by climbing barefoot, drilling holes in the granite, and placing iron spikes in the rock for protection. Forty-five years later these holes became the cable route, first installed in the summer of 1919 by members of the Sierra Club for visitors without technical rock climbing ability.
According to authors of the 2007 book “Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite,” deaths involving Half Dome cables route hikers include people going up and coming down.
• Paul Garinger, 41, of Burlingame, was descending the cables in July 1948 and fell 1,000 feet.
• Michael Gerde, 57, of Huntington Beach, was ascending the cables in August 1995, collapsed of acute heart failure, lost his grip and fell.
• Emily Sandall, 25, of New Mexico, was descending the cable route in November 2006, when the cables were down, she slipped on wet granite, lost her grip and slid and fell 300 feet.
Others who died on the cable route include Jennifer Bettles, 43, of Oakland, who fell 600 feet while descending the route in April 2007, before rangers installed the posts that support the cables; Hirofumi Nohara, 37, of Japan, who slipped and fell 1,200 feet while ascending the cables in June 2007; Manoj Kumar, 40, of San Ramon, fell 100 feet while descending the cables in June 2009; and Haley LaFlamme, 26, of San Ramon, fell 600 feet while descending the cables in July 2011.
Three other people who used the cables to get to Half Dome’s summit were killed by lightning strikes: Edward Willems, 19, of Greenbrae, passed warning signs and was struck by lightning in July 1972; Brian Jordan, 16, of Hayward, and Robert W. Frith, 25, of Mountain View, also passed warning signs when a thunderstorm rolled in with lightning that struck and killed both in July 1985.
When cable supports are installed each spring, the cables are on raised posts and ascend the final 400 feet up Half Dome’s steep east face.
The cable route up Half Dome is never permanently closed, but the National Park Service does not encourage people to try the ascent when the cables are down. Permits are required when the cables are up. Permits are not required when the cables are down.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.