Yosemite’s second fatal accident in two weeks took the life of a 26-year-old San Ramon woman who slipped and fell from the Half Dome cables at the national park on Sunday.
• A hiker and three friends who had a permit to climb Half Dome were among about 20 hikers who made the ascent Sunday morning.
• At 11 a.m., park officials started sending Twitter messages warning of a thunderstorm. The rains made the granite peak especially slippery.
• The San Ramon woman successfully climbed Half Dome but slipped and fell 600 feet down from the park-installed cables on her way down. She died at the scene.
The accident occurred shortly before noon, according to a report in the San Ramon Express.
Yosemite Park Ranger Kari Cobb said Hayley LaFlamme had had a permit to climb Half Dome. She made the ascent with three friends. They were among a group of about 20 hikers who climbed the mountain that morning despite the possibility of rain, which can make the granite peak extremely slippery.
At about 11 a.m., park officials started sending messages on Twitter about a thunder storm, according to an Associated Press report. But LaFlamme and her friends were already on the mountain.
The San Ramon hiker successfully made the 8.5-mile climb to the top of Half Dome. She was on her way back down, using cables installed by park officials, when she somehow slipped and fell 600 feet down from the shoulder of the dome where the cables end, Cobb said.
The park’s emergency communications center received a 911 call reporting that a hiker had fallen from the cables. Park rangers responded to the scene but LaFlamme already had died.
The fatal accident was the second in two weeks. On July 19, three hikers were swept over the rushing Vernal Fall after they climbed over a metal railing and entered the Merced River. (Read more: Presumed Dead: Three Hikers Swept Over Raging Yosemite Waterfall)
“A lot of people who visit Yosemite aren’t necessarily familiar with nature,” Cobb said. “They are really out of their element and may not understand the force of nature and what they may encounter in nature.”
But Fresno State psychology professor Paul Price doesn’t blame the park visitors, especially when trails are kept open under dangerous conditions.
“If the trail isn’t closed, people tend to take that as a source of information: Wouldn’t they tell us not to do it if it were dangerous?” Price said.
The last person to fall and die on Half Dome was Majoj Kumar, also of San Ramon. He died in June 2009. The hikers who witnessed the fall were so frightened that 40 of them refused to move and had to be rescued, Cobb said.
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