How Many Climbers Have Died in Yosemite?

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A man hiking in Yosemite National Park

If you’ve been to Yosemite National Park, you know the majesty and grandeur of the valleys, rock formations, waterfalls, sequoia groves, and meadows. They take your breath away.

But some people don’t just go to Yosemite for the sights. They go for the thrills. It’s one of the most popular rock-climbing destinations in the world.

But is it safe to climb in Yosemite? Today, we’ll look at how many climbers have died here and what you can expect if you plan a road trip to climb the rock faces of Yosemite National Park. Let’s dive in!

Where Is Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park is located in central-eastern California. It lies between the Stanislaus National Forest and the Sierra National Forest. The Nevada border is approximately 70 miles from the Tioga Entrance on the east side of the park.

The park is directly east of San Francisco, about 165 miles. The Big Oak Flat Entrance lies less than two hours east of Modesto, less than three hours southeast of Sacramento, and less than three hours north of Fresno. 

View of Yosemite National Park

What Is Yosemite National Park Known For?

John Muir once said this about Yosemite National Park: “But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its wall seems to glow with life.” 

He fought hard to get this land in California protected from construction and destruction. Finally, in 1890, Muir’s dream came true, and this stunning landscape became America’s third national park.

Several attractions draw visitors to Yosemite National Park year after year. First, it has countless waterfalls. During the spring, when the snowmelt occurs, these waterfalls turn into gushing displays of nature’s power. Yosemite Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls. It drops 2,425 feet and comprises three separate falls.

The giant rock formations tower above Yosemite Valley and the beautiful sequoias also beckon hikers and climbers.

El Capitan reaches 3,000 feet above the valley floor opposite Bridalveil Falls. Half Dome is almost 5,000 feet tall. A 2-mile round-trip walk to Mirror Lake offers stunning views of this massive rock formation.

Other popular locations within Yosemite National Park include the Mariposa Grove, the largest grove in the park with over 500 giant sequoias. The Glacier Point overlook offers breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. 

In the northwest corner of the park you’ll find Hetch Hetchy, a more quiet location than Yosemite Valley. It boasts two of the tallest waterfalls in North America.

Keep in Mind: Plan an unforgettable RV Trip to Yosemite with these tips!

How Many People Visit Yosemite Each Year?

In 2022, over 3.6 million people visited Yosemite National Park. In 1996, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019, the visitation number reached over 4 million. 

Yosemite is the 6th most-visited national park in the country behind Acadia at No. 5, which saw over 3.9 million visitors in 2022. 

Zion, Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain all welcomed over 4 million guests, while Great Smoky Mountain National Park had almost 13 million people drive through its entrances.

A man standing on a cliff in Yosemite National Park

Is Climbing Allowed in Yosemite National Park?

You can go climbing in Yosemite National Park. It’s one of the best parks in the country for this popular activity, and you’ll see people from all over the world come here just for rock climbing. The challenging domes and steep rock walls offer the perfect playground for adventurers.

Over the last several years, the climbing activity at Yosemite has increased. Thus, measures have been put in place to protect the fragile ecosystem and wilderness. 

Climbers must follow the guidelines and regulations of the park to minimize their impact and stay safe. You can read more about these rules on the Yosemite National Park website.

How Many Climbers Have Died in Yosemite?

According to the National Park Service, over 100 climbers are involved in accidents every year. Sadly, from 1970 to 1990, 51 of these accidents resulted in fatalities. About half of the injuries sustained each year are fractures.

While you might think many of these injuries and deaths are results of falls, that’s actually not what the NPS reports. 

“Leader falls accounted for only 25% of the fatal and near-fatal traumatic injuries; roughly 10% were from rockfall, 25% from being deliberately unroped, and 40% from simple mistakes with gear.”

Is Climbing Dangerous in Yosemite?

No matter where you climb, you face risks. Climbing is a dangerous sport. But most climbers understand the risks and take precautions to ensure their safety. 

For example, the report by the National Park Service stated that four climbers died of hypothermia because they were unprepared for the weather. Dozens of others were rescued due to cold or heat. This is a danger that one can eliminate with preparedness.

But even experienced climbers suffer from falls and injuries from misteps or rockfalls they can’t avoid or predict. That same report explained that 60% of victims have been climbing for three years or more, are in good condition, and climb frequently. 

However, many of the accidents — at least 80% — are preventable. Distractions, ignorance, and unpreparedness cause many mistakes. And when you’re climbing 1,000 feet in the air along a rock face, those mistakes can prove deadly. 

Keep in Mind: Have you heard? A Little Girl recently became the youngest to climb Devils Tower!

A couple hiking in Yosemite National Park

Do I Need a Permit to Climb in Yosemite National Park?

Permits in Yosemite National Park are free. Day climbers don’t need a permit. Only climbers staying overnight on big wall climbs must have a wilderness climbing permit. 

Up to eight people can be on a wilderness climbing permit. However, the climbing rangers ask that groups larger than four stop by the office to discuss logistics.

Climbers need to visit the Climbing Management Office located just west of the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and fill out the paperwork. The self-registration desk is open 24/7. But it’s best to stop by during office hours to get the latest information about climbing regulations, weather, and conditions.

Stay Safe When Climbing One of America’s National Treasures

Yosemite National Park is one of the most-visited parks in the country for a reason. It’s magnificent! For climbers, it’s a bucket list destination. 

But if you’re road-tripping to California to take on the rock formations of El Capitan, Half Dome, or Hetch Hetchy, please do so responsibly. Even the most experienced climbers make mistakes. 

Go prepared and stay focused so that you don’t end up as a statistic in the National Park Service database.

If you haven’t read our article about the dangers of climbing in North Cascades, check it out!

Are you planning to climb in Yosemite this year?

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