Climbing Yosemite’s Half Dome requires strength, stamina and a whole lot of bravery.
Come May, it will require a day-use permit.
With growing concerns about over-crowding and safety on one of the park’s most famous slabs of granite, park officials announced this morning an “interim” two-year plan that will place a cap on the number of climbers on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
Park officials estimated 84,000 people made the trek to the top of Half Dome, most using the cables necessary to negotiate the final, harrowing stages of the climb to the peak, which stands majestically at 8,842 feet above sea level.
Last summer, an average of about 850 made that climb on Saturdays and holidays, some having to wait an hour to use the cables, which are in place from May to October. On some peak days, more than 1,100 made the hike.
“This increase in use has also impacted the resources and has negatively affected the visitor experience,” the park service said in a statement.
Park officials also noted obvious safety concerns. On consecutive crowded weekends last summer, one person died and another suffered serious injuries.
Beginning in May, 400 permits will be issued per day, 300 of these will be day-use permits and 100 will be included in wilderness permits.
The permits are free, although there will be a $1.50 service charge per permit. Up to four permits may be obtained under one reservation.
The permits will be available starting March 1 through www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Each person climbing the Half Dome cables will be required to have their own permit.
Over the next two years, park officials will assess visitor use, safety and experience, and analyze the data. An environmental assessment process for a long-term plan for the cables will begin public scoping in spring 2010, the release stated.