Yosemite’s Largest Glacier Has Stopped Advancing

Yosemite's Lyell GlacierFor years we’ve heard environmental scientists and researchers tell us how climate change is having a profound effect on glaciers across the globe. In many parts of the planet, increased temperatures have caused the giant sheets of ice to dramatically recede or disappear altogether. That process has now begun to take place in one of America’s most iconic landscapes – Yosemite National Park.

Last week, the National Park Service announced that Lyell Glacier, the largest inside the park, has stopped advancing and is losing substantial mass. The NPS, working in conjunction with the University of Colorado, conducted a four-year study of the glacier, measuring its movement by placing stakes along the ice and recording their positions. Over that four-year period, those stakes didn’t move at all. The study also conducted research on the nearby Maclure Glacier, which runs adjacent to Lyell. The findings indicate that it is still advancing at a rate of about one inch per day, despite the fact that it has lost nearly 60% of its mass as well.

Glaciers build up over thousands of years due to the accumulation of ice and snow in mountainous areas. When they grow large enough their mass, combined with melt water, causes them to slide down hill at a generally very slow, but powerful, pace. When they stop moving altogether or start to retreat, it is because they no longer have the mass or moisture to push them downhill. This has increasingly been the case with some of the largest glaciers across the planet.

Research will continue over the next few years as scientists will record a host of climate data in and around both the Lyell and Maclure Glaciers. They’ll monitor the thickness of the snowpack, range in temperatures and rate of ice melt in an effort to further understand the effects of climate change on the two bodies of ice. It seems clear, however, that warming temperatures have already begun to have an effect.

[Photo Credit: Greg Stock]

Video: One Day In Yosemite National Park

On June 26 of last year, 30 filmmakers descended on Yosemite National Park to take part in a very interesting project. They spread out across the park’s 761,000 acres in an effort to capture the essence of a single day in that iconic place. They shot footage of the landscapes, wildlife, visitors and staff. They managed to record images from that day that were both sprawling in scope as well as intimate and personal. And at the end of the day, everything they captured on film was turned over to Steven Bumgardner, the park’s official videographer, who compiled everything into the stunning short film that you’ll find below.

Ever wondered what a day in Yosemite is like? Watch the video and find out. Enjoy!

National Park Service Puts Permanent Caps On Half Dome Hikers

Half Dome Hikers will now require a permit Yosemite’s Half Dome is one of the most popular and iconic sites in the entire U.S. National Park system. It is so popular in fact that in 2010 the Park Service was forced to institute a provisional set of guidelines that required hikers to have a permit before attempting to make the long trek to the top. Last week the NPS announced that the temporary system would now become permanent, limiting the number of hikers to just 300 per day.

Prior to the permit system being instituted in 2010, the number of hikers on the Half Dome trail were often excessive. During the peak season the 14-mile route would often average more than 400 hikers on weekdays and as many as 1200 on holidays and weekends. This caused overcrowding, particularly on the 400-foot ascent to the summit, which employs a series of cables to help hikers safely climb to the top. Traffic jams were not uncommon on that stretch of the hike due to the steep and physically demanding nature of the trail. Those delays could often prove dangerous as long lines of people waited for hours for their chance to climb the granite dome.

In an effort to improve safety on the trail and preserve the natural environment around Half Dome, the NPS decided that a permit system would be a wise choice. When they launched the system nearly three years ago the daily limit was set to 450 hikers, but in their announcement last week, the Park Service has reduced that number to 300. About 225 of those would be day hikers while the remaining 75 would be allotted to backpackers.In addition to limiting the number of daily hikers, the Park Service is also using a lottery system to award most of the permits. The preseason application for the permits will open March 1 and run through March 31 and will be available at Recreation.gov. The winners of those permits will be alerted by email on April 15, so if you’re planning on hiking Half Dome this year, it may be wise to select your dates ahead of time and apply for your permits early. The cost of the permit is $4.50 for the application and an additional $8 per person if the permit is actually awarded. An additional 50 permits will be available in a daily lottery up to two days ahead of time throughout the rest of the year.

While this permanent permit system puts serious limitations on the number of people who get to enjoy Half Dome on any given day, I think it’s safe to say those limitations are for the best. Not only do they make the trail safer, they also provide a lot more solitude for those who get to walk it. That makes for a better experience in Yosemite, which is something I think we can all appreciate.

[Photo Credit: Av9 via WikiMedia]

Climber Falls And Swings From El Capitan

The last time you probably heard about El Capitan was when you read about Alex Honnold, the crazy free climber who summited the wall in Yosemite Valley without a rope. There’s also a rope missing in the above video, but for a different reason. Anchored on two ropes, LiveLeak user tomservo set up a massive swing on the face of the wall by dropping to the end of one rope and then swinging across the expanse. There’s a huge drop before the second line goes taut (you may notice it when your stomach tries to climb out of your throat) and the swing is definitely risky – but it makes for a great video.

Yosemite Hantavirus Threat Continues To Spread, 230000 Visitors Possibly Exposed

The Yosemite Hantavirus has potentially spread to 230,000 peopleIt continues to be bad news for the National Park Service as it struggles to deal with an outbreak of the hantavirus that was traced back to Yosemite National Park. The number of visitors who may have been exposed to the potentially deadly virus continues to rise dramatically and the NPS now says that it has alerted more than 230,000 people to the threat. That is significantly more than was originally suspected when this story first broke in late August.

When news of the outbreak was first revealed there were four confirmed cases that resulted in two fatalities. After an initial investigation, it was discovered that each of those patients had one thing in common: they had all spent time in the “signature” tent cabins at Yosemite’s Curry Village. Since that initial outbreak, the number of confirmed cases has doubled to eight with the virus claiming a third life as well.

Last week the Park Service announced that was expanding its warning message to more than 10,000 visitors from as many as 39 countries. Those travelers who were potentially exposed were sent letters and emails urging them to seek immediate medical assistance if they started to experience flu-like symptoms. It can take anywhere from one to six weeks for the virus to show those early warning signs and if caught early the victim can usually be saved.

In addition to the visitors who may have stayed at Curry Village, the Park Service is now sending additional warnings to others who may have spent the night at the High Sierra Loop campsite as well. The warnings extend to anyone who may have visited either location between June 10 and August 24 of this year.

The hantavirus is carried by rodents such as squirrels and mice. It spreads to humans when we breathe in contaminated dust particles left behind by the animals’ saliva, urine or fecal matter. It is believed that mice had crawled inside the walls of the tents in the Yosemite campsites and left such waste behind. When travelers stayed in those tents they were inadvertently exposed to the disease.

The National Park Service continues to maintain a help line for anyone who has concerns regarding the Hantavirus. They can be reached at 209-372-0822 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. You can also find out more information on the Hantavirus in Yosemite webpage and in the Hantavirus FAQ.

[Photo Credit: Ben Margot/Associated Press]