Browsing the archives for the yosemite half dome california category.


Half Dome Hike Risk vs Driving to Yosemite Risks

National Parks, yosemite, yosemite half dome california

I have just  survived a top ten dangerous hike in the most dangerous National Park so naturally I’ve been wondering just how dangerous that hike was.  Typically we overestimate “dramatic” dangers like lightning strikes and hikes and underestimate the mundane, greater dangers of driving cars and riding our bikes around.

However in the case of Half Dome it appears there is a bit of death risk, albeit still pretty small in the scheme of things.

http://www.backpacker.com/october_08_americas_10_most_dangerous_hikes/destinations/12631

Our odds of survival were always good, but Yosemite has been a dangerous park, especially last year 2011 when  18 people (!)   died there :  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/us/06yosemite.html?pagewanted=all
Spooky description of a 2007 fall off the cables:
Book about Yosemite deaths.
Base jump off the place where we took pix:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdxU2tDbL54
Of course you have to compare the small number of deaths on that hike over many, many years (20 on dome, 60 on trail) with the huge number of people who *survived* their hikes, as I think we did (assuming no parallel universes where we didn’t survive), to get a reasonable risk calculation.   You also need to compare that risk to other risky things we do, such as *drive to Yosemite*.
I wanted to know which was more dangerous – the drive or the hike.   Obviously there are many confounding variables  (nobody was drunk driving, our hiking experience is higher than average, decisions vary with people, etc, etc, but here’s a shot at the answer  …..
Let’s assume that the  20 dome deaths are since cables were installed by The Sierra Club in 1919  (hey, THANKS Sierra Club!):
Now we need to estimate the number of people who have made it up there as we did.   Ranger guy below the dome and internet tells us it is now about “350-400 per day”.   That would be current high season with permit restrictions so hard to know the past until I can find more records.  But we know that the low season (winter) is about 0 per day.   Probably far fewer people in 1919 than now, so let’s *wildly guestimate* that on average, since 1919,  100 people per day go up, and that almost all that traffic is during the high season of June, July, August, September when cables are elevated with the metal rods  (in the past and in winter they lay flat on the surface).  100×120 days = 12,000 people up per year.  90 years of cables x 12,000 =  1.08 million ascents of half dome over 90 years.    ROUND THIS WILD GUESTIMATE to one million people up  half dome over all of human history.
We now have 1,000,000 people who went up and 999,980 people who come safely back down.  20 of the million, sadly, died on half dome.   Thankfully, every single one of us remains in the 999,980 group of happy Half Dome hikers.
Your chance of dying on the final half dome portion of the hike is, very very approximately, if our assumptions are reasonably accurate, about 20 / 1,000,000 or one in  50,000.    We could also state this in this fashion if our assumptions are correct:
“For every 50,000 people who go up the final portion of the half dome hike … one will probably die”.
For extra drama we might note that we had 6 people on the hike so the (pre-hike) odds that one of us would die were 6/50,000 or 1 / 8333.
 
Now we need to compare this to our 900 mile car trip home.   Car travel is one of the more dangerous things we do on a regular basis.   VERY ROUGHLY in California there are 1.21 deaths per 100 million miles travelled
We did not travel 100 million miles so we need this calculation to figure out deaths per Yosemite trip:
The chances of dying during 900 miles of car travel in California:  900 x  [1.21 / 100,000,000] =   .00001 deaths per Yosemite trip.
So, on average of all drivers and cars and circumstances, the chances that somebody will die on a trip of 900 miles in California are about one in 100,000.      Put another way this means that, very approximately:
” For every 100,000 people who take a 900 mile trip to Yosemite by car, one will die ”  
 
So if all these assumptions are pretty reasonable, than we can state that the half dome portion of the hike with its one in 50,000 chance of death, is about twice as dangerous as the car ride with its 1 in 100,000 chance of death.  

Yosemite National Park, California USA

american history, National Park, National Parks, yosemite, yosemite half dome california

Yosemite National Park in California, USA was one of the USA’s first protected natural areas and an early US National Park.

The area of over 1000 square miles, mostly wilderness, is recognized around the globe as one of the world’s most beautiful and sublime mountain landscapes.

Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls tumble thousands of feet over sheer granite cliffs into the valley below, joining the quiet Merced River as it winds through forest and meadow.

El Capitan’s 3000 foot sheer cliff and Half Dome are two of the most striking granite features in the world.

Yosemite is the most famous of California’s five National Parks and stands with Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming as one of the USA’s most famous national parks, known worldwide for both its natural beauty and for the role it played in fostering the works of John Muir and the parks and environmental protection movements.

Yosemite was home to Scottish born naturalist John Muir and was the source of much of Muir’s inspiration as his writings led to profound changes in the way Americans viewed the wilderness. Yosemite park is a critical key to an understanding of the Sierra Club, one of America’s most influential voices for the preservation of wilderness. Today, Yosemite remains one of America’s finest unspoiled natural landscapes and will always rank as one of the greatest of all the world’s natural treasures.

Hike to Half Dome
Hike to Clouds Rest
More Yosemite Pictures: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=yosemite&w=all&s=int
National Park Service Website: http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

UNESCO World Heritage Program – USA World Heritage Sites

National Parks, UNESCO, World Heritage, yosemite, yosemite half dome california

Just back from Yosemite National Park in California I’m even more convinced that the UNESCO World Heritage Site list is a great way to guarantee you find fantastic places as you visit countries around the world.      Obviously no small list can be completely fair or inclusive, especially for the huge territory of the USA, but this is a GREAT group of extraordinary natural and cultural places:

Clearly this approach to travel in the USA would probably be supplemented by at least a few days of big city sightseeing.     Many coming to America may want to see places like Las Vegas and  Hollywood which are unlikely to ever have “UNESCO World Heritage” status.    But the UNESCO list is a  superb starting points for your travel, especially to unfamiliar areas.     For the trip to Vietnam I was happy that the list seems to match up well with the “word of mouth” information I’ve been collecting from my Vietnamese pals and others.    There I’ll be able to take in most of the UNESCO sites such as historic Hoi An, Saigon, Hanoi, and Ha Long Bay near Hanoi.      In Italy in June my favorite place was the Cinque Terre – a UNESCO site.      Interestingly, the Cinque Terre and some places really seem to play up this status where I didn’t even know Yosemite was on the list until I checked this morning.

Half Dome top overhang, Yosemite NP

yosemite half dome california

Half Dome top overhang, Yosemite NP

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

I couldn’t resist blogging another picture of Yosemite.

This shot was taken at the top of Half Dome, which is not a technical climb if you go around the back. Still, it’s a long day of about 16 miles round trip with a pretty intense final push up the rounded granite of Half Dome’s eastern flank.

Cables allow this final climb of about 1/4 mile to be safe, but it’s so steep that you feel at times like you are dangling off the edge.

The tip shown here is visible in most views of Half Dome.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

yosemite half dome california

Half Dome, Yosemite
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Yosemite National Park in California offers some of the most sublime and spectacular mountain scenery on earth. Yosemite was popularized by naturalist John Muir and later by photographer Ansel Adams, but the park needed no special advocates for its awesome splendor.

The hike up half dome (on the opposite side of the dome not seen in this picture) is one of the best in all the National Parks but is not for the faint of heart. The end of that hike is so steep you must pull yourself up the side of half dome via cables that are secured into the rock, though the hike does not require any technical climbing ability thanks to the cables.



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