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Dispatches : Adventure

Yosemite's Half Dome Has Cables. Deal With It.

HalfDomeTraffic_wikiRush hour on Half Dome. Photo: DirectCutter

I'll never forget the moment I first glimpsed the iconic Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. It was 2001 and I had recently moved to San Francisco for a job editing an outdoor sports website. Then the Internet bubble popped and I found myself trying to scrape together a living as a freelancer. I was on a solo roadtrip in early June, headed to Mammoth Mountain to test some snowboard boots. I rounded a corner on Big Oak Flat Road and the dome came into view. I literally, audibly, gasped. Then I started to cry. I had to pull off the road. I remember thinking two things: that is shockingly beautiful, and driving this road while gazing at this monolith is quite dangerous.

Also dangerous is scaling to the top of Half Dome, despite the fact that a cable banister extends up the final, steep 400-foot stretch to the summit. At least five people have died along the cables since 2006, according to the Associated Press. Most have slipped on the wet or icy rock during storms. To alleviate the crowding along the cables, the park announced its decision to roll out a system of day-use permits, which will limit the number of hikers accessing the two-mile section from the John Muir Trail to the Half Dome summit to 300 per day. The park expects this will reduce crowding on the cables, thereby making them safer as well as accommodating a faster descent to avoid an approaching storm.

The decision comes at the end of a multi-year Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan that included five management options, ranging from no change, to limiting permits to 400, 300, or 140 hikers per day, to actually removing the cables. Other options that were earlier considered but dismissed included adding another cable to give more aid to descending hikers, and actually removing Half Dome from Yosemite's wilderness boundaries. If it were not designated wilderness, park officials would not have needed to factor in the need for solitude, as required by the Wilderness Act.

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Skiing Competitively a Year After Paralysis

On December 22, 2011, 16-year-old Jake Hickman crashed while participating at a United States freestyle ski team selection competition in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The reigning J2 junior national champion caught the edge of his ski in the snow before a jump and the accident resulted in a spiral compression fracture of his T8 vertebrae with an incomplete paralysis of his spinal cord. Doctors were unsure whether he would ever walk again.

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Diving Underwater in a Wheelchair

In 2010, visual artist Sue Austin received a grant from Arts Council England’s Impact Fund that allowed her to transform her wheelchair into a propelled, finned, scuba-tank-outfitted craft suited for underwater exploration. She designed it so that she could move the foot pedals to control the fins and change directions. She unveiled a series of photos and videos showing off the creation leading up to the 2012 Paralympics. Though Austin's original motivation was artistic, outfitters have expressed interest in using the device for adventure-seeking clients. "We've had PADI [Professional Association of Diving Instructors] course directors and very experienced divers saying they would pay to hire it," she told Digital Spy.

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Skier Andreas Fransson in 'Tempting Fear'

In September 2012, we posted the trailer for Tempting Fear, filmmaker Mike Douglas' surprise documentary on 29-year-old extreme ski-mountaineer Andreas Fransson. Douglas originally planned to make a short about Fransson, but after discovering how articulate the athlete was he set off to tell a much longer story. Douglas followed Fransson for 17 months—from January 2011 to May 2012—as the skier returned to the slopes after a 2010 neck injury that almost killed him. In October, the resulting 25-minute movie won the Best Action Film award at the Adventure Film Festival in Boulder. You can now watch the entire flick above.

For more from Fransson, check out this Outside interview by Kelley McMillan.

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Searching for the Perfect Waterfall in Mexico

Whitewater kayakers Erik Boomer, Tyler Bradt, and Galen Volckhausen joined adventure filmmakers Tim Kemple, Anson Fogel, Blake Hendrix, and Skip Armstrong on a trip to a remote jungle in Mexico to find the ultimate waterfall. The resulting adventure short about their quest, Cascada, drops on January 14. Here's a taste of what's to come.

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