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Half Dome Rockfall Scars Classic Route

Less than a few months after a large rockfall event on The Chief in Squamish, a Yosemite route suffers from massive geologic event. Yosemite has had its fair share of rockfall events over the past century, but the most recent occurred on one of the valley’s most popular routes, the Northwest Face of Half Dome 5.12 or 5.9 C1, that was first climbed in 1957 by Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick and Jerry Gallwas.

Before and after photos. If you look down and right of the letter A, you can see the large flake and ledge that is missing in the second photo. Photo JSB on Supertopo
Before and after photos. Photo JSB on Supertopo

Reports suggest that rock between pitches 11 and 12 of the 24-pitch route fell off the wall sometime during recent weeks, perhaps during a recent storm. Visit Supertopo for first-hand accounts of what the route is like now. There were no reports of injury and no witnesses.

In June, a large rockfall event occurred in Tenaya Canyon on Clouds Rest. Watch a video here. Here is a short video of rockfall on Half Dome in 2011, which would have been deadly if anyone was around:

Since the glaciers retreated around 15,000 years ago, rockfall has been a force of change in Yosemite Valley. Watch this short video about rockfall in Yosemite:

Here is a topo of the Northwest Face route on Half Dome from Mountain Project. The 5.9 traverse and the chimney that follows is missing.

The Northwest Face of Half Dome. Photo Mountain Project
The Northwest Face of Half Dome. Photo Mountain Project

In 2014, there were 77 documented rockfall events in Yosemite, which was up from the previous years. According to the National Park Service, “The largest rockfall of 2014 occurred at 1:30 p.m. on March 31 from the north wall of Hetch Hetchy valley near Wapama Falls.

“This rockfall had a volume of roughly 5,000 cubic metres (about 14,880 tons). Rock debris buried a 120-metre-long section of the Rancheria Trail along the north shore of the reservoir, necessitating a multi-week closure while the trail was rebuilt.” For more on Yosemite rockfalls, visit here.