Woman Dies in Fall from Half Dome
Five months ago a young New Mexico woman died in a fall from Half Dome in Yosemite. Just the other day another woman, 43-year-old Jennie Bettles, died in a very similar fall.
When Emily Sandall died last November, she fell after apparently slipping on wet rock and losing grip of cables that are installed to help hikers reach the top of the dome.
Ms. Bettles, a marketing executive from Oakland, California, died on April 19th when she also slipped from the cables. At the time of both accidents the cables had not yet been supported by stanchions but rather were laid down on the rock face. Rangers remove the stanchions in early fall so avalanches during the winter don't damage the cables.
In the latest incident, poor weather hampered recovery efforts.
"Rescue personnel began hiking up the nine trail miles toward Half Dome because weather made flying impossible," according to Valley District Ranger Leslie Reynolds. "The team was turned around above the shoulder of the dome several hours later by heavy snow, wind, and icy conditions that made travel on the exposed ridge too dangerous even before they reached the bottom of the cables.
"The bad weather continued throughout the following day and the dome was never out of the clouds," she added. "The weather broke the following morning and a spotter posted across Tenaya Canyon from Half Dome picked out what he believed was a body in the gully to the north of and below the cables. The location of the body, about 1,000 feet below the base of the cables, was confirmed from a helicopter."
A rescue team outfitted with crampons, ice axes and ropes finally was able to reach Ms. Bettles' body, which was then airlifted out by a helicopter.