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Yosemite's Half Dome: Everything You Need to Successfully Hike Yosemite's Most Famous Landmark

Author : Rick Deutsch
Published : 2007-05-07

Climbing to the precipice of Half Dome is not a task easily done, nor one that should be lightly considered. That much I think is a given to anyone who has accomplished the day-long hike, or anyone who has read or heard of the tragedies that have taken place on this famous outcrop of granite.

Since November alone there have been three fatal falls involving day hikers going up to the top of Half Dome or coming back down. And there was a fourth fatality involving a climber scaling the face. Against this backdrop comes a new book from Wilderness Press titled Yosemite's Half Dome, Everything you need to know to successfully hike Yosemite's most famous landmark.

Just 106 pages long, this book (MSRP $12.95) by Rick Deutsch is part travel guide, part history book, and part training guide. While there are some interesting tidbits -- did you know that in October 1875 a Scottish blacksmith drilled holes in the backside of Half Dome to string a rope so folks could pull themselves to the top, or that John Muir was the eighth person to reach the summit pulling himself up George Anderson's rope? -- I'm not sure this book is needed.

Word of mouth about scaling Half Dome is rampant, so much so that folks probably figure they can do it without the need for a book telling them how to do it.

If there's to be a quibble with the author, it's with his belief that "(T)his is basically a very safe hike..."

While Half Dome does not carry a reputation as a killer -- park rangers say that since 1971 there have been only nine falls from Half Dome, and only the most recent three resulted in fatalities -- scaling it is a very serious proposition due to the distance involved in a roundtrip assault, the exposure on the climb to the top, and the fact that Half Dome can be an incredible lightning rod.

I don't think it's much of a stretch to assume that the families of Emily Sandall, who slipped and fell to her death last November while trying to negotiate Half Dome in wet weather, or Jennie Bettles, who died in April while on Half Dome, or Hirofumi Nohara, who died this past June, would agree it was a very safe hike.



Thanks for the review of my book. We need to get education out so more can enjoy this hike - safely. Just a couple points of clarification. The book title is actually: "One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome".

The women who fell in Nov '06 and Apr '07 went up when the cables are in the down position for the winter. The support poles and boards are removed. They were both athletes, but both were on a wet rock and lost their grip and slid down. Nohara-san was reportedly wearing tennis shoes and an oversized pack, throwing his balance off. One report had him reaching for a dropped water bottle. He was the first and only fatality off the cables when they were up for summer hiking since they were erected in 1919. 50,000 did it last year without incident. So I do feel the hike is safe - if one is prepared, in shape, has good-soled shoes, water and gloves for the cable ascent.

Having done the hike 20 times, I see many people unprepared and hurting. My book hopes to educate them how to do this hike safely and with minimal risk. And have fun.

I have a website dedicated to the Half Dome hike and related topics. See I also do a daily blog spinoff from it.

Keep up the good work!

Rick Deutsch
San Jose, CA

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