Half Dome/Death slabs rock fall, 5/27/11 (video)


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Oakland, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 1, 2011 - 02:15pm PT

Pete and I were on top of Washington Column when the blocks cut loose, and I managed to record some of the aftermath.

There are still blocks free falling in this video, but they're much smaller than the first bunch that came down. The sound was BIG.

If the resolution were higher, you'd be able to see lots of material blasting down the slabs approach.

This was an eye-opening 30 seconds for me - enough so that I won't do those slabs again.


Trad climber
East Coast US
Jun 1, 2011 - 02:30pm PT
Flat out terrifying.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Jun 1, 2011 - 02:31pm PT
amazing footage!!!!!!

hanging from an ice pick and missing my mama.
Jun 1, 2011 - 02:34pm PT

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jun 1, 2011 - 03:29pm PT
Bump for exceptional shots.

Excellent work there!


Santa Cruz
Jun 1, 2011 - 03:36pm PT
It seems like everytime I am on the column something is falling off over there. I saw the chopper fly by El Cap that day and just figured it was another mist trail accident/airlift.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
Jun 1, 2011 - 04:06pm PT
Nice work catching the action on photos and video. A big help to the rockfall researchers I hope.

You can hear something really big rolling down the slabs: kow-kow-kow-kow.

It surely would be a scary sight close up.

Trad climber
Jun 1, 2011 - 08:27pm PT
TFPU. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Or should it be knott being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
Jun 1, 2011 - 10:23pm PT

Thanks for sharing, le bruce--amazing!!

Mountain climber
Lower Merced Pass Lake
Jun 2, 2011 - 01:26am PT
Why do you think they call them the Death Slabs?

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Jun 2, 2011 - 02:35am PT
Awesome Video, LeBruce!!!!!!
Sioux Juan

Big Wall climber
Costa mesa
Jun 2, 2011 - 06:44am PT
I was on north dome in 2002 and saw the same type of rock fall, in the same place. It was just getting dark and you could see head lamps of climbers near the base and climbimg the slab
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
Jun 2, 2011 - 10:26am PT
le_bruce you kick ass. High quality content, always gettin after it. Carry on!


Gym climber
left sac
Jun 2, 2011 - 11:16am PT
What a choss pile!

Big Wall climber
Jun 2, 2011 - 12:10pm PT
she is breaking down!

i've always considered the slabs approach a rating in itself!

Mountain climber
PortaLedga OnzaKaleefa
Jun 2, 2011 - 12:24pm PT
Dang scary sounding for sure. I think the death slabs would be something to avoid in the near future.

Thanks for posting this amazing video and pics.

edit: Looks like it was just to the right of the Zebra.

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Jun 2, 2011 - 04:49pm PT
After talking with le_bruce about this experience, it was the tipping point for me.

In July 2005, I was on a bivouac east of washington column (failure to find north dome gully), and 5:30am woke up thinking that fighter jets were below the rim of the valley. Looked over and saw cataclysmic shearing, huge stuff falling a LONG ways and obliterating the HD slabs approach (anyone there would be 100% dead), and dust cloud filled valley over to Glacier Apron. I expected it to be serious news, didn't hear anything else about it, no helicopters, no crowds or news buzz about it.

If my only time on CJ I saw this, and my partner's only time up CJ saw this... and others have seen stuff like this... just too often an occurrence to feel comfortable. It's so massive that hiding behind a boulder or obstruction to "ride it out" is a real long-shot.

I have no issues with Glacier Apron climbing (other than my general inability to dominate it), but the slabs approach to HD just seems unreasonable for people with things to live for.

Yosemite Valley
Jun 2, 2011 - 05:11pm PT
One way of evaluating the risk posed by a climb or approach is to consider the following:

(1) How tall is the cliff above you? In other words, how much potential surface area is there to produce rockfalls?

(2) How prone is that cliff to rockfalls? How often do rockfalls occur at that location? What is the density of fractures such as exfoliation joints?

(3) How exposed are you to the hazard? Are there possibilities for sheltering behind large trees or boulders, or moving quickly away from rockfall runout areas?

Taking these into consideration, a crag like Swan Slab would rank relatively low, being a short cliff with few rock falls and a quick escape away from the cliff (when belaying at the base at least). In contrast, climbs at the base of El Capitan or the Half Dome slabs approach would rank relatively high.

Greg Stock
Park Geologist
Yosemite National Park
(209) 379-1420

Edit: Great photos and video!

Trad climber
Joshua Tree
Jun 8, 2011 - 03:38pm PT

Nothin' like a bit o' rockfall to keep the fluff away!

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Jun 8, 2011 - 03:42pm PT
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