The National Park Service will now limit the number of hikers on Yosemite's Half Dome and will keep the mountain's controversial metal cables in place, officials announced Friday.
The new rules will allow only 300 park visitors to take the trek each day—a major reduction from previous years, when up to 1,200 hikers took the iconic route daily. The new number was based on the NPS's interim plan approved in 2010. Hikers will be chosen by a lottery system and issued a permit.
The hike up Half Dome is an eight-mile round-trip trek to the 5,000-foot summit called called “perfectly inaccessible” in the California Geological Survey of 1865. The summit became accesible in 1919 thanks to a series of heavy metal cables installed by the Sierra Club. Hikers grasp the cables on the final, 45-degree-angle climb to the top of the slick granite peak.
National Park Service authorities hope the shift will help make the hike safer and reduce congestion on the route.
Previously, crowding on Half Dome made it difficult to descend in bad weather. Weather in the Sierra Nevada range can change quickly, and fast-moving storms are not uncommon in the summer. When rain falls on the granite, the rock becomes very slippery. At least five people have died in the cabled area since 2006. In most cases, rain was a factor.
The new limit should help ensure that everyone on the mountain can descend safely within 45 minutes.