Massive rockfall pounding Half Dome slabs approach


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Ice climber
finally, west of the Mississippi
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 31, 2006 - 02:09pm PT
This is a copy of an email I just sent

Just got off Tis-Sa-Ack with Erik and Mike. Three major rockfalls from the wall left of Bushido Gully scoured the slabs approach in one week, during our approach and climb. Second rockfall in this series was one of the most catastrophic falls in Yosie near history, with an area several hundred feet wide pouring out gigantic boulders for over half a minute. As the wall caved in over the broken sections we wondered if the collapse could work itself up to our position, and our anchor fall off the wall. We watched in horror from the middle pitches of the route as a shocking number of large boulders plunged intact all the way to the thick woods above Mirror Lake. Much of the crashing rock, however, pulverized near the base, looking exactly like roiling lava, then rapidly like a major snow avalcnche. Rock dust billowed up fiercely like Hell reaching for us, filling the entire bowl and rising above the summit, stranding us for about 5 minutes in a sunless whitout of rock grit. When it cleared, we saw what looked like snow covering much of the trees in the bowl, a vast area. The slabs were broken and new rock strewn everywhere, with many boulders still toppling as they sought balanced resting spots. We were spitting out rock and brushing fine white grit off our gear and out of the inside of bags hours later.

Anyone on slabs approach would have surely been killed or desperately injured.
Helicopter was on scene within half an hour, responding to the great dust cloud visible anywhere in the Valley. It seems nobody was in the path of this catastrophe. Fixed ropes must have gotten mangled. Approach unstable. Small rockfall the next day confirmed my feeling that the cliff has been massively destabilized. Advise Mist Trail or Muir Trail approaches for Half Dome.
Tahoe climber

Texas to Tahoe
Jul 31, 2006 - 02:20pm PT
Wow - that sounds insane!
Thanks for the report.
Glad it didn't reach you guys and put you in danger!
Lucky to get out with just grit in your teeth and bags.

Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
Jul 31, 2006 - 02:21pm PT
Sounds like a hell of a thing to witness! Must have been scary as hell! Hopefully no one was hurt, and lots of people got photos and video...

Truckee, CA
Jul 31, 2006 - 02:22pm PT
Wow! Thanks for the report. I wonder which of many of our favorite aid pitches fell off. I hope you did not breathe in too much of that fine dust, can be bad for the lungs. All of Half Domes' face is a cataclysm waiting to happen. You never find a straight in crack up there unless the large scale teetering flake you are on the outside of, has split!

Tahoe climber

Texas to Tahoe
Jul 31, 2006 - 02:28pm PT
Hate to on that thing when it went...
Bruce Morris

Social climber
Belmont, California
Jul 31, 2006 - 02:29pm PT
Half Dome = "1/2 Rubble"

Trad climber
places you shouldn't talk about in polite company
Jul 31, 2006 - 02:29pm PT
"We watched in horror from the middle pitches of the route as a shocking number of large boulders plunged intact all the way to the thick woods above Mirror Lake"

sweet- some new bouldering in the valley

Social climber
Jul 31, 2006 - 03:00pm PT
Any photos?

Santa Monica, CA
Jul 31, 2006 - 03:29pm PT

Glad you posted and that you guys are ok - we weren't sure when you guys were finishing the route and heard about the rockfall this am.


Jul 31, 2006 - 06:06pm PT
was this a continuation of the rockfall from 5 years ago where that massive rock scare formed directally above the death slabs approach. just wondering. i look forward to seeing the new rock scare in the fall. im sure you guys had to hear it creeking and moaning before it cut loose. ben vandercluster and mika dash were at the base when the last big rock fall from the face of half dome cut loose and they could hear it creeking and moaning for days before the massive flakes cut loose. glad to hear that no one got hurt... thank god it was the middle of the summer, or im sure several climbers would have been taken out.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jul 31, 2006 - 06:18pm PT
Holy frig! Whatever were you doing on your portaledge to set off such a rockfall?!

Glad to hear you've cheated death again. How is it you and I have these mellow Holiday Wall climbing experiences, and as soon as you climb with someone else, it's always a near-epic??

Desolation Basin, Calif.
Jul 31, 2006 - 06:21pm PT
Holy frig! Whatever were you doing on your portaledge to set off such a rockfall?!

It must've involved that gal in the yellow top to the left.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Jul 31, 2006 - 06:31pm PT
You might be interested in checking out this thread
Tahoe climber

Texas to Tahoe
Jul 31, 2006 - 09:53pm PT
I've been thinking of this all day and shuddering...
What a crazy situation!

Big Wall climber
Fresno, CA
Jul 31, 2006 - 09:58pm PT
Why, Karl, this one is much more informative, even if it is a tad late, in comparison.
David Nelson

San Francisco
Jul 31, 2006 - 10:16pm PT
I just went to the Yosemite webcam and compared the current face to one from about a year ago. I can't see where it came off. Can anyone identify it?

Trad climber
Gunks end of country
Jul 31, 2006 - 10:34pm PT
So what routes are no more?

Sounds like there maybe some new FA potential.

Seriously great report. Glad your party was safe. Yikes!

Trad climber
San Francisco, Ca
Jul 31, 2006 - 10:39pm PT
any effect on the RNWF?

Santa Barbara, CA
Jul 31, 2006 - 10:48pm PT
Winessed a similar massive rockfall off the Porcelain Wall (Harding/Basque/Lomba route) in 1988. We were directly opposite the Valley relaxing above the Harding Slot on Astroman and got some nice shots of the billowing dust enveloping Mirror lake. (See Rock & Ice #28 for photo in the News section).

Entropy in action. Glad no one was under it.

Video of a recent (July 13) BIG rockfall from the Eiger's East face here:


Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Aug 1, 2006 - 11:35pm PT
FWIW- I re-posted this orginal post in the Tis-Si-Ac beta page. I figured it might be good info for the next folks scoping this and other HD routes.


Social climber
Aug 4, 2006 - 03:08pm PT
I just talked to Greg Stock, the Park Geologist, about the recent rock fall. He wants to warn climbers that the Slabs Approach should be avoided, and at all costs avoid Bushido Gully. The slabs and the base of the right side of the wall are covered with fine pulverized granite dust, and there are also dislodged boulders precariously perched throughout the area. There has not been any rain to clear anything out and we probably won't have a sizeable amount for a while. There is also still a high possibility that more rock fall will occur in the same area. It probably is not connected with the recent active zone further to the East (the fish-shaped chunk), but there is no way to totally rule that out.

The RNWF of HD was not immediately affected and climbers can approach it via the shoulder of HD below the cables by going on the hikers trail past Nevada and Vernal falls.



Climbing Ranger
(209) 372-0354

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Aug 12, 2006 - 11:24pm PT
Hey, let's see some pictures.

From way far away.

Gym climber
Aug 13, 2006 - 04:39pm PT
That's some rad footage of the Eiger's East face.
Matt Greenwood

Portland, OR
Aug 21, 2006 - 06:19pm PT
Could someone please post a picture for me?

Trad climber
Aug 22, 2006 - 03:47pm PT
anything new on this?
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