Safety Tip #2 from the Trails of Yosemite

Hikers on The Half Dome Cables in Yosemite by John P. DeGrazio

Stow Your Hiking Poles Below the Half Dome Cables

By John P. DeGrazio

Yesterday I was stabbed on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Seriously, I was stabbed by another hiker while ascending the Half Dome cables. Do you know what it feels like to be stabbed? My whole life flashed before my eyes, then everything went black. I was walking through a tunnel and then…

Stabbed on Half Dome

Kidding aside, the wound was not serious enough to require medical attention, but it did cause a sharp pain and left a mark. The weapon was a hiking pole, one of the most dangerous items a hiker can bring on the cables of Half Dome. Although the hiker did not intentionally assault me, his disorientation from being on a narrow passageway on slick granite nearly 9000 feet above sea level was understandable; however, his belief that he needed to carry his hiking poles with him to the top of Half Dome was not. There is obviously no utility for hiking poles on the cables, the final section of the hike. Many hikers dangerously dangle these poles from their undersized backpack. the poles constantly swing around recklessly behind hikers who have no idea of the potential damage they may cause. When sharing such a narrow path, the backpack bump has become a common hazard of the trail. There is an added risk of impalement from these sharp objects awkwardly attached to one’s back as they twist and turn their way through this section of trail that can be difficult to navigate. Further, some poles are in such a position that they can easily cause damage to another hiker’s face and eyes. I have been the victim of some minor assaults, but yesterday’s was the most significant and caused me to write this call to action. If you bring your hiking poles to the Half Dome hike, please leave them under a rock somewhere on Sub Dome or right before the cables begin. All hikers’ safety depends on it. There is a good ethos out there so you should feel confident that they will be there when you return. By completing this simple task, you will lighten your load and prevent future assaults. Remember these words the next time you have to make this decision, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” -Unnamed Author

Other things to consider while completing the final portion of the hike: Keep water bottles and other items safely stored inside your backpack. I have seen countless items including water bottles, phones, GPS devices, and cameras fall several hundred feet from careless hikers who did not stow them properly. Please also remember managing the cables requires your complete focus, and it is not a good idea to take or pose for photos or videos until you have made it to a safe location above or below them.

John P. DeGrazio is the owner of YExplore and lead adventure guide for many¬†guided hikes in Yosemite National Park. He has hiked thousands of miles in the Sierra Nevada and shares hiking and mountaineering techniques with outdoor enthusiasts on his tours as well as those he encounters on the trails. It’s his goal to minimize risk on his trips and will share safety tips with all listeners.

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