Hiker’s planning on making the trek to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park this summer will have to add a permit to their list of required gear. Earlier this week, the National Park Service announced that permits will now be required on all Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays for all hikers climbing above the subdome. The new guidelines further stipulate that a maximum of 400 permits will be issued on those days, which are when the summit cables are in place.
Hikers can obtain their permits as little as one week in advance of their climb or as far out as four months, but they are not available at the park itself. Instead, they will need to be obtained from the National Recreation Reservation Service for the price of $1.50 which covers the nebulous “processing fee”. Demand is expected to be very high, so those interested in making the hike to the top of the iconic granite dome are encouraged to nab them early.
Backpackers who have already obtained the necessary wilderness permits for Yosemite can add the option to go to the top of Half Dome at the time they pick up their paperwork with out the need to go through the normal reservation process. Rock climbers taking the hard way to the summit are allowed to descend the trail without the need for a permit either. I guess they figure you’ve earned it at that point.
The move to the permitting system came about following four deaths in four years on the trail. It is an attempt to make conditions on the route safer by limiting the amount of traffic. Traditionally, during the busy summer months, as many as 400 people will crowd onto the trail on weekdays alone, and those numbers swell to 800 on a typical weekend, and as high as 1200 on holidays. By limiting the numbers to just 400 a day, not only does the trail become safer, the impact on the environment is reduced as well.