As almost all of the climbing community has heard by now, a massive chunk of the most popular route on Half Dome, the Regular Northwest Face, fell down. Nearly two pitches worth of rock cleaved off. Now here’s the sketchy part. I was there two weeks earlier. But here’s the real kicker, we got a “heads up” that it was going to happen. No, seriously, listen to this. At the base of the chimney that broke away was a huge chockstone – the size of a refrigerator. I flopped onto the thing, as did my partner, no problem. Dan actually sat on it to belay and get out of the way of a party we had just passed. I uneventfully led the next pitch and then started to pull Dan up. Only a few moments after Dan began chimneying above the colossal block, one of the guys from the party below us belly-flopped onto the block. As that guy stood up, the block dropped straight down, deeper into the chimney! He surfed the thing for about two feet before it re-wedged into the cavernous expanse. I heard the commotion but didn’t know what happened until Dan arrived at the belay. He told me the story and all I thought was “crazy” and then forgot about it.
The thing is – that chimney was so huge it truly was a chimney. What I mean is that you didn’t chimney behind a flake or something – it was huge! I now wonder if anyone else surfed that block deeper into the chimney before the whole feature finally cut loose. I’ll probably never know but fortunately no one was on the route when the rock fall occured. But scary still, there was more massive rock fall on Half Dome again today – over by the top out to Tis-sa-ack. Third big event out there this season. Words of advice? Hmm… Should I say what your mom would say, “be careful”? Nah, Layton Kor was more my style and I’m sure he would say “better climb it while you still can” 😉
Dan Hickstein and I atop Half Dome two weeks before the rock fall.
– Jason Haas