Starting this summer season, hiking on Half Dome will feel like visiting Merritt Bakery: take a number. Crowd control is an real issue on the upper cables, so Yosemite brass will now offer permits on a first-come, first-served basis.
What’s different? You’ll need to plan in advance for ascents on busy Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting May 21st. You’ll also need to shell out $1.50 for each ticket to the top – and that’s a small price to pay for improved safety.
It’s about time! Half Dome is an iconic symbol of Yosemite, and everyone’s welcome to hike around it. However far too many people attempt to reach the summit, topping out at 1,200 per day last season. The U.S. Park Service will sell 400 permits per day, a volume that still seems rather high but makes good sense.
During my last Dome hike, hundreds of people waited, waited and waited some more to use the cables. While on the sub-dome, I moved like molasses. To my eyes, at least half the visitors appeared scared, weak or generally ill-prepared – and it was plainly risky under these conditions.
I have been fortunate to climb the Dome off season, when the approach hike was snowy and the cables were down. This meant the stanchions were removed, and the cables hung right on the rock face. It felt like a serious alpine ascent to me, even using the cables as a secured back-up. On that early May day, there were few people in sight and the whole ascent seemed safer.
If you have been around Half Dome during the ‘aughts, then you know that something needed to be done. Your National Park Service, acting in loco parentis, decided to give permitting a try the next two years – and we should all support ’em.