Half Dome on Mist Trail: One of the Most Dangerous Trails in America

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Yosemite's Half Dome trail is iconic—and it’s also incredibly dangerous to climb. Well-known for its recreational difficulty, the Half Dome certainly lives up to its name. It’s one of the most dangerous trails in America, and climbers still struggle to overcome its many obstacles.

The Steep Approach

The Half Dome isn’t easy to approach. It’s steep, and it’s difficult. In fact, its last 400 vertical feet or so across the Half Dome’s eastern slope are so sheer that cables have been installed by the Yosemite staff. The Half Dome’s approach is nearly impossible to climb without serious mountaineering gear.

How Slick is Too Slick?

The seven-mile route on the way to the Half Dome landmark spans across the Mist Trail. Every weekend, the trail sees about 3,000 visitors. It’s an incredibly heavily trafficked corridor. Trail-goers endure sickness, fatigue and dehydration to get to the top of the Half Dome’s 8,836-foot-high crown. The trail is, however, incredibly slick.

Park rangers have installed steel cables which are bolted into the granite—assisting climbers up the climb’s 400 vertical feet. The Half Dome’s high, open rock, however, becomes treacherously slick if it rains. Yosemite’s search and rescue teams, in fact, respond to about 300 incidents, more than any other national park per year. Since 1995, the Half Dome has claimed six lives.

A Faceless Wall

Climbing routes can be like vertical highways, and the Half Dome offers several problematic scenarios for most hikers. Some climbers spend the entirety of July searching for a viable path. Others, meanwhile, stay clear of the Half Dome completely. Because the Half Dome’s Northwest Face—which is a sprawling 2,200-foot climb—climbers have quite a bit of difficulty completing the trail. The long, taxing climb is just one of the many factors that make this trail so difficult.

So far, the Regular Northwest Face hasn’t seen a complete ascent. A lot of climbers, in fact, steer clear of the Half Dome due to persistent rockfall activity. It isn’t uncommon to hear that the Half Dome’s northern face is simply too risky to climb.

Taking on the Mist Trail Hike

If you’re planning on traveling the Mist Trail, be well-prepared. Load up, and make sure you have laser lights to assist your journey. Because it’s the park’s most heavily trafficked corridor, the Mist Trail experiences quite a lot of visitors. The climb is, however, completely worth it. Despite the Half Dome’s yearly accidents, those managing to conquer the path experience much-deserved elation. If you’re heading to the Half Dome, you’re in for a fun climb. You should, however, make sure you’re ready for a tough trip.

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