San Ramon woman dies in fall from Half Dome

Wet weather may be to blame

A 26-year-old San Ramon woman died Sunday after she fell from the Half Dome cables at Yosemite National Park, according to park officials.

The park's emergency communications center received a 911 call at about noon reporting that a hiker had fallen from the cables, which allow

hikers to reach the nearly 5,000-foot summit without the use of rock-climbing equipment.

National Park Rangers responded and found Hayley LaFlamme dead from the fall.

It appears that she had climbed to the top of Half Dome and was on her way down when she fell from the 400-foot cable section and then down a cliff, landing about 600 feet below, Yosemite Park Ranger Kari Cobb said.

Park rangers are still investigating what caused her to fall but noted that there had been a severe thunderstorm for several hours that morning.

Wet weather can make for hazardous trail conditions, and the granite slopes along the cable route can become slick, Cobb said.

She said warnings are posted on the park's website; on the permit, which is now required for hikers to access Half Dome; at the base of the trail; and at the summit advising hikers not to attempt the climb if it is wet.

Trails at Yosemite, however, are not heavily regulated.

"Ultimately, it's up to the visitor, whatever trail they're on, to assess the safety of the situation," Cobb said.

She said LaFlamme had a permit to climb Half Dome and was with three other people when she fell.

The last hiker to die on Half Dome was 40-year-old Manoj Kumar, also a San Ramon resident, who slipped and fell on June 13, 2009, during a rain and hail storm.


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Posted by BasicSafety
a resident of Del Prado
on Aug 1, 2011 at 9:15 pm

How many people need to perish before the cables at Half Dome are either removed or redesigned? How about requiring each hiker to rent a safety harness along with that permit that can be attched to the cables during the climb? This is simpy negligence at this point. My condolences to the family of this young lady and I hope they find a good lawyer to force the parks folks to truly consider the safety of their guests.

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Posted by Pat
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I agree with the idea of removing the cables. Their time has passed, and we don't need them to attract more people to the park. We should get rid of them like we got rid of the fire-falls.

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Posted by you are the problem
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Aug 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

For BasicSafety ("BS", how appropriate),
People like you who always jump to the "hire an attorney" crap are the problem. The woman was there on her own, or did a park official hold a gun to her head and force her to climb?
People need to take responsibility for their actions. Should the families of the idiots who were swept over the falls, after climbing the fence and ignoring the warnings, also sue the park? For what? Being dangerous when someone is stupid?

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Posted by Julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Julie is a registered user.

My condolences to the family.

Hiking Half Dome was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I'm sorry it had to end in tragedy for someone else.

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Posted by CoincidencePerhaps
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:04 am

Let's see. A death in 2011, a second in 2009, and a third in 2007. "you are the problem" I guess all of these people are clueless and should simply take responsibility for their actions. When a pattern starts emerging most businesses don't wait for a lawsuit before changing their practices. The stubborn ones only change when forced to. At this point I would agree it's becoming more like negligence or plain stupidity by the park service to allow people on those cables.

Web Link

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Posted by hummm
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:15 am

First, let me start by saying that it must have been a harrowing experience for the young girl.

But @CoincidencePerhaps: "Let's see. A death in 2011, a second in 2009, and a third in 2007...I guess all of these people are clueless and should simply take responsibility for their actions ..."

Every day people go out on the highway and drive drunk, speed, disobey the safety rules of driving and become involved in needless accidents and many times death. This does not make it a CHP problem. It's not always the "government's fault" when people disregard safety concerns. OR: when people jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.

The deaths in Yosemite have not been purely "... plain stupidity by the park service to allow people on those cables."

I'm not trying to trivialize a young woman's death, or the death of others at Yosemite, the highway, or the GGB. But, I am saying our first reaction should not always be "It's the government's fault for not taking care of us right".

Again, my condolences to the family. It is a always sad when young are taken from us. Please believe me when I say that.

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Posted by Fiscal Conservative
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:27 am

Let's just shut down all the national and state parks. That would defend against the litigous few who misuse the parks, get hurt, and then expect us to pick up the tab. I personally don't use the parks and only see them from the perspective of money made or money lost. Our park system clearly is not value-additive. They cost me huge amounts on my paycheck. Ergo: close them all down. Who needs them except an irresponsible few? They don't produce anything we can sell on the free market.

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Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Aug 2, 2011 at 8:09 am

SteveP is a registered user.

When common sense fails, you unfortunately sometimes encounter disasterous results. Thousands climb Half Dome every summer without incident, but most, using their common sense, would not dare climb while the granite was wet. Nor would they stand on a high point with lighting strikes in the vicinty. This could have been prevented, but no by park workersor lawyers, just those with common sense.

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Posted by Another Steve
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 8:28 am

So, SteveP from Parkside, you're saying that it WASN'T the fault of park public service workers? Let's try not to give up our leverage here, okay? Sheeesh, your given away the farm!!!

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Posted by avid hiker
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 2, 2011 at 9:51 am

i'm so sorry about the young lady. I've summited half dome twice,and it's really scary and challenging every single time. I've encountered many people from around the world there. We vacation there every year. There were a couple of years when we hiked up to the cables and the conditions were'nt perfect, and to our disappointment we did not go up. It really hits home when stuff like this happens. Yosemite and halfdome is still a very magical place. My condolences to the family of Hayley. She will always have a special place in our hearts, and Yosemite

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 2, 2011 at 10:10 am

Birdland "Fiscal Conservative" = Troll :(

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Posted by Pat
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 10:13 am

avid hiker, and others,

My point is that if you want to summit Half Dome then you should learn rock climbing and get a permit. We don't need the cables on Half Dome any more than we need a ladder or elevator on El Capitan.

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Posted by reasonable
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Every venture into the wilderness carries some risk -- falls, lightning, temperature extremes, creeks and rivers, encounters with wildlife etc. Those of us who challenge ourselves in the outdoors do it with the expectation that the risk is outweighed by experiencing the majesty of our wild places in first person -- these experiences, especially for young people, are often life-changing in a very positive way.

Unfortunately the risks are real, as this incident reminds us. There are many judgment calls; those with more experience or more caution might have judged this situation differently; and some accidents are unavoidable except for just staying home.

My sincere condolences go out to this young woman's family, but I hope this doesn't curtail the outdoor opportunities afforded to all of those who treasure them. Our litigious society has already cost our children the use of school playgrounds on the weekends, gymnastics in the schools, swings, and on and on. Let's not add to the list.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pat
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:46 pm

"Let's not add to the list. "

No, let's do add this to the list, but not because someone might sue. Add it to the list because people who need to use those cables shouldn't be using them. They were installed in the park at a time when Yosemite was having trouble attracting visitors. Those days have passed. The cables are unsightly and out of date.

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Posted by Julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Julie is a registered user.

Reasonable, I LOVE your post...well said!

My hike up Half Dome was indeed life-changing. I was 25 and am so glad I did it once.

Pat, you don't need rock climbing classes to climb the ropes at Half Dome. Have you ever been? You do need to be in *good* shape and should definitely not have a fear of heights. Otherwise, it's simply walking up a very steep hill, steep enough at certain parts that you need something to hang on to. I advise doing it in dry, clear weather only as adding the component of "slippery" to the steepness would seem dangerous to me. I think water skiing/other boating sports are potentially dangerous, but I don't think any require "permits".

I'd also like to add that, compared to the amount of people who hike up Half Dome, three deaths between 2007 and 2011, does not indicate "negligence" on anyone's part. I don't mean to trivialize anyone's death - even a single one is tragic, I just want to put those stats in perspective.

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Posted by Pat
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

"Have you ever been?"

Yes, I have been. My point is that without the cables, you would need to know what you are doing to climb it (or walk up it), or you would be taking a foolish risk.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Aug 2, 2011 at 4:02 pm

God: Bless this poor child's soul and sit with her parents through this pain.

Yosemite: How about placing safety breaks along the route to catch people who slip?

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Posted by Jordan
a resident of Castlewood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

@"How about placing safety breaks along the route to catch people who slip?"

Another nanny state supporter who wants govt to treat us like babies. Shut the parks down. Save some money for the exhausted taxpayer. People can always go to the gym.

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Posted by Jay Walker
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 8:13 pm

This is slightly off-point, but it speaks to the inherent dangers of nature.

My wife and I decided to "rough it" and spent a couple of nights camping at Del Valle, you know the camping grounds near the lake, near where the guys fly planes off the side of the hill. Okay, we're at our campsite and low and behold a bunch of huge ants come out of the ground, form a mound and prance their merry way right through our camp. I walked, no ran, to the nearest park ranger and pleaded with him to eradicate the ants. Get some toxic spray in here immediately.

He stops, looks at me with the most pathetic look in his eyes and said, "Sir, you're camping in the wild." He left with his head swinging from side to side and shoulders humped over in disgust.

The ants were gone when I got back to camp. Lesson learned.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by John P.
a resident of Charter Oaks
on Aug 3, 2011 at 12:32 am

My wife and I camped at Del Valle. It was there we came upon some several dinosaur bones.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jill
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm

My family and I just got back from Yosemite. This is the first year that Yosemite/National Parks have required permits to hike up Half Dome. They issue the permits telephonically in May and they sell out of the $5 permits for the whole month of August in 10 minutes flat. When you get your permit, you take whatever day that you can get. The permits that are issued on the phone does not account into peoples abilities or skills. The problem with the permits for designated days is that you are now committed to that day whether it is raining or not. If you have trained for a 17 mile strenous hike and are not allowed to go on another day, I can see why the group decided to climb the cables. The permits are now very difficult to get and they would not be allowed to use them on a different day of the week. Last year they only had the permits on Fri-Sunday when there was high traffic. This allowed you to climb M-Th if the weather was bad on your designated day if you had the time to do so. I really think Park Services needs to reconsider their practice of permits. I personally think there are going to be more accidents if they don't offer flexiblity to use the permits on other days when the weather conditions are bad.

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Posted by Jordan
a resident of Castlewood
on Aug 3, 2011 at 6:31 pm

You are aware of the great cost involved in running our park system and that we get very little back. Parks don't produce anything. They are not value-additive govt investments. Add to this the level of gross incompetence you are describing, and the enormous tsunami of tax increases that is about to crest over all of us. Surely you must recognize that the best option is to shut down our state and nat'l parks, or allow them to be run by private companies, like the timber industry. Public parks are unfunded liabilities during a time that calls for fiscal responsibility and accountability. A perfect example of an unsustainable practice which good hard working tax payers should not be coerced into supporting. We face tyranny on a grand scale in this country, and we must be vigilant in our efforts to hold our politicians responsible.

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Posted by Julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Julie is a registered user.

Jill, I had thought about that very situation. I have family going soon and I was wondering, in light of the recent accident, what will happen if they can't go up on their designated day due to weather. I know they will be safe and not go up in poor weather, but it would indeed be a huge disappointment after a year of anticipation!

I heard that they offer a "last minute" permit option too since not everyone shows up on their designated day. I'm not sure how it works, but I think you have to sign up the day before. That might be an option for when the weather is bad on your day.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:01 am


They do have 15-20 permits given out each day right near the visitor center at 11:00 a.m. It is first come, first serve and there are no guarantees. All party members need to be present so if you have 10 in your party and all 10 of you are first in line you have a good chance of getting permits for the next day if needed. My hope is that if the weather is bad that in the future that they will implement a plan that you can go get a stamp on your permit to use on a subsequent day within the week.

Have a great hike! It is one of my favorite hikes to do!!!

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Posted by Julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Julie is a registered user.

Thanks for the info & well wishes, Julie. Oh gosh, I'm not doing it...I was in shape to do it at 25, but not now :(

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Valerie
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:36 pm

I have climbed the cables three times over the past 20 years. It was very exciting and fun. You have got to be in shape for it. It is easier to ascend and scary to descend especially if people around you don't keep moving. In at least three different places all along the trail leading to the cables are signs that say "Caution - turn around if there are dark clouds or thunder on the horizon." The very morning of the storm, I was hiking out of Ostrander Lake with three children and another adult. We were hiking down the trail and were worried about the lightning. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to climb Half Dome in those conditions. We were scared just being on flat ground! We just got back to the parking lot at noon as it began pouring rain. The lightning was near us too. I told the kids to crawl into the SUV to avoid the potential lightning strikes. For the people on the cables to keep going in those conditions was not wise. I'm sure it meant a lot to Hayley and her group to keep going. God bless her. Unfortunately it was a tragic choice. It is the responsibility of the people using the park to follow the rules, use common sense and stay safe. When you don't, you can get hurt, or die, and you endanger others possibly trying to rescue you as well.

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