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Pass required for half dome cables

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 2:00 pm
by bairn7
Hi guys

I've just found out that you now need a pass to hike up the half dome cables at weekends. I'm just curious as to how this system is working in practice? How is this being enforced? Presumably you can still hike up to the cables without a pass.

I'm climbing half dome on a thursday in June, all being well. If my flight to the states is delayed at all, I would have to do it on a friday. Now normally when I hike half dome (I've done it for the past 3 years which visiting the states) I'm at the cables just before sunrise when there are no lines. I'd hate to think I'd get up to the cables early in the morning with no queuing and still not be able to climb because I don't have a pass (the permits are sold out for the friday I may be there).

Is the pass system only enforced between certain hours or when its busy? Or would I actually have to turn around at the cables even if it isn't busy?

I'm also just curious as to what people's experience of the pass system is so far?

Thanks :)

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 2:37 pm
by AlmostThere
I'm never going to do half dome again, as it's overrated and I hate waiting in lines for it.

But you get the permit online at and it's for Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus any holiday that you go - you can only get them in advance online and I've heard it's already booked through August.

You can also have them add a permit to your wilderness permit if you are backpacking in the area, and this is done regardless of quota - you just let the ranger know when you pick up the wilderness permit to add it on.

I've read that a ranger will be posted on the subdome to check permits, and the fine can be steep - $5000 or six months in jail. I'm guessing they will not always be monitoring, just as they don't always wake up people at midnight in Little Yosemite Valley to check wilderness permits, so if you are a gambler you may or may not find that it paid off.

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 10:35 pm
by orion
reserve america? gotta love the private company reservation systems for our state and national parks. half the domes who reserve probably don't show up - reserved just in case - seen that phenom elsewhere. the interwebs is an onerous controller of the wilderness interface. folks planning for the life they won't lead, ahead of time, meanwhile still in a seat.

a-course, a good rule of thumb is: you're not in wilderness if you are cued up.

somehow i doubt that $5000 fine and six months pokey. would that be in a federal prison? base jump deterrent?

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 10:38 pm
by AlmostThere
I dunno, I read it in an article about the permits. Found it in a Mariposa newspaper.

They do escort people out of the park, however. If you're found out without a wilderness permit. And the fines get steep for letting bears get your food.

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 11:34 pm
by bairn7
From LA Times:

(sorry, not allowed to post the link)

'Here are a few of the frequently asked questions, and answers, on the Yosemite National Park Web site regarding the interim system:

Q: What is the penalty for not having a permit?

A: If you attempt to hike beyond the subdome or up the cables without a valid permit, a ranger will turn you away at or near the subdome. Additionally, you could face misdemeanor charges -- up to a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

Q: How long will this interim program continue?

A: This program is being implemented as an emergency safety measure for 2010. If significant crowding or other major issues are observed, modifications to the program will be effected during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Q: Why is the quota 400 people per day?

A: Free-flowing conditions prevent additional fatigue to hikers waiting on the cables and allow an orderly evacuation down the cables if a fast-moving storm approaches. Free-flowing conditions generally occur on weekdays, during which time, an average of 390 people per day use the cables. The quota includes 300 day hikers and 100 backpackers.

Q: Why aren't permits available in Yosemite on a first-come, first-served basis?

A: The very high demand we would expect for the relatively few first-come, first-served permits available would lead to a frustrating experience for visitors and would be difficult to manage. However, we may consider offering some permits on a first-come, first-served basis (one day in advance) in the future, as well as other changes to the permit system, based on our experiences this year.

Q: Can I stay at the base of the cables and wait for other members of my group to hike to the top of the cables and back?

A: No -- hikers without a permit cannot go beyond the base of the subdome.

Q: Why not redesign the cables to accommodate more people?

A: Any long-term solutions or permanent changes will be addressed in the planning process that will be initiated in spring 2010 and all reasonable and feasible options will be evaluated in the environmental assessment.'

The park are cutting weekend numbers climbing the cables by around two thirds. I've seen the cables when they are busy and there are long queues and it does look pretty dangerous, but that's the nature of the cables, its not meant to be an easy hike!

Surely the problem is that everyone gets there around the same time of the day, and therefore limiting the numbers to 400 will not prevent the problem of crowding if all 400 are trying to climb at the same time.

Sorry, but if I get to the cables at 7 or 8am on a weekend and there are like 3 or 4 people climbing the cables (which there are at that time), I'm not turning round and not climbing the cables just because I don't have a permit. I'll be up and down before the crowds even get to Little Yosemite Campgound.

PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2010 7:10 am
by AlmostThere
We got there at sunrise. There was a line of lights going up the cables that we could see from further down, and there were people on the cables when we got there, and thirty people in sleeping bags were sitting around on top drinking beer.

Last time I'll ever go. There are better views and higher peaks without the people quacking on cell phones.

PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2010 8:03 am
by Pilgrim490
would you recommend Clouds Rest as a less populated yet equally rewarding view/summit?

PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2010 8:08 am
by AlmostThere
Yep! and if you start at Cathedral or Sunrise it's less strenuous. 14 miles round trip from sunrise, though you do lose and then gain some elevation. There will be people, but nothing like half dome, no waiting in line at cables.

North Dome is also a great view - you get to look at Half Dome directly across. And there's a side trip to the only natural arch in Yosemite.

PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2010 4:53 pm
by bill-e-g
I snagged some permits for HD this year on some Fridays.
Def. won't use them all. Wanna see what it's like and how they
check and whatnot.
It's a zoo and I never do this but figure what the heck.
Gotta get my butt up Liberty Cap so I'll do that along with HD.
Maybe even throw in Broderick.

PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2010 5:36 pm
by hotrod4x5
North Dome is a great hike, I agree.

PostPosted: Wed May 12, 2010 2:26 am
by baseline bum
Pilgrim490 wrote:would you recommend Clouds Rest as a less populated yet equally rewarding view/summit?

Clouds Rest is amazing once you get out of the tree line, and the only part of it that's all that hard (other than the distance) is the first set of switchbacks as you go up the first ridge (assuming you start from the Sunrise trailhead on Tioga Pass Road). Even that isn't at all bad. There's nothing approaching climbing unlike Half Dome; it's an amazingly rewarding summit for the view, but it's definitely not the challenge Half Dome is (which is fine by me :lol: ).

Starting from Sunrise, you have a pretty nice view of Mount Hoffman and Tuolumne Peak if you stop and look back for a second going up those initial switchbacks. You lose a bit of the altitude you gained by going down some switchbacks almost immediately after, but after that it's pretty much just a nice gently rising stroll through a wooded area for a few miles until you get out of the treeline. Once you start getting near the tree line and the view opens up, it's amazing. There's a spot just past the beginning of the foot trail up to the summit where you have a really spectacular view of Tenaya Lake, Tenaya Canyon, Tenaya Peak, and a couple of other prominent mountains whose names I can't think of off the top of my head.

The summit along the foot path is easy, and really cool when you're seeing Tenaya Canyon dropping off pretty sharply to your right and a sharp drop-off on the ridge to your left too. It's like walking along the edge of a knife. It's always a few feet wide though, so it's not dangerous if you're paying close attention.

At the summit you have a great side view of Half Dome 1000 feet below, as well as Tenaya Canyon (man, it's freaky looking down that thing from up there!). There's also another really cool canyon if you look southeast I believe; I think you're looking up to the headwaters of the Merced, if my memory serves correctly. You have a really prominent view of Mount Clark from there too.

Thank God Clouds Rest is separated by a hell of a drive from Yosemite Valley, so it doesn't get overcrowded with all the people who miss out on Half Dome. Even if you don't do Half Dome, doing the Mist Trail up to Nevada Falls is a lot of fun; especially early in the season when Nevada Falls is just roaring with water.

When I did Clouds last August there were 3 other groups of maybe 7 other people total, so you're not likely to find solitude up there in the busy season, but I wouldn't call it crowded by any stretch.