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Monday, June 3, 2013

Nevada Falls Accident in Yosemite


This is Nevada Falls - in October, when the
snowmelt has long passed.
Youthful enthusiasm has claimed yet another victim at the waterfalls of Yosemite.  There’s news over the weekend that a 19-year old man, touring with a church group, was swimming in the pool at the top of 600-feet tall Nevada Falls, the waterfall in the first picture here.

I find myself increasingly annoyed and angry that these things happen, because they simply defy common sense.  I know that the NPS has plenty of warnings up throughout the part about how slick the rocks are, how fast the current flows, etc., and there are even barriers in some places at the tops of these locations to keep people out, and still you get news of an accident like this several times a year.
Nevada Falls is part of the Mist Trail, which
features the "Giant Staircase" en route to
the Half Dome.  Nevada Falls is the upper
waterfall, Vernal Falls is below.

I wrote about three people dying in 2011 in the blog post below:

As with this one, it was a church group outing.  I can only imagine how horrified all the others in that group were at the accident, and what a god-awful bus trip home they must have had at the loss of a friend. 

As of this evening, it appears that they have called off the recovery operation because the snow melt has increased.  Here’s a YouTube video that includes Vernal (the site of the 2011 accident) and Nevada (this incident).  It was taken in April 2013 and you can see the power of these waterfalls in the spring.  There’s nothing to be underestimated here.

This tranquil pond is at the top of Nevada Falls - again, this
photo was in October.  During the spring melting season it
would be a caldron of white water, pulling everything in the
current towards the 600-foot drop.
I have some experience with these accidents.  As I wrote in the 2011 post, that story and this one “reminded me of the time I was at the top of the falls, in September 2005, when Chris and I climbed the Half Dome - the Mist Trail and the falls is on the route.  As we climbed the granite stairs on the Mist Trail, and then at the top of the falls, there were a number of emergency workers around, and several areas were marked off with police tape.  Apparently, there had been another case of someone being swept away in July 2005, and the water levels had finally receded enough that the body could be removed from the pool at the base of the falls.

It has to fall to tour organizers and group leaders to provide a safety briefing about this before they get their group off of their bus.  There’s no statistic that tells us the share of accidents coming from groups like this one and the 2011 – but that is something they have in common.  

Maybe this kind of responsibility from the organizers could reduce the accidents by half.
If it doesn’t stop, we’ll have to get permits to just set foot on the Mist Trail in Yosemite. 


Common sense, people!

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