In 1874 the slick dome that rises 5,000 feet above the valley floor was described as "perfectly inaccessible." But in 1919 the Sierra Club installed the first cables along the 400-foot final ascent so that visitors without rock climbing experience could hoist themselves to the summit —the size of 17 football fields— to drink views of Little Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, endless Sierra and the Valley floor.
There is no doubt that if the decision were made today, there would be no braided steel cables and stanchions drilled into Half Dome. Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964, and 20 years later designated 95 percent of Yosemite, including Half Dome, as land that should not be altered by man.
The eight-mile round trip hike is the busiest by far of any in the National Park's designated wilderness areas. Over the decades the number of visitors to the park has steadily climbed, topping 4 million — in part because the park is an easy drive from Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
Now scaling Half Dome is a measure of personal fortitude for some who had worried that without cables access would be lost.
"At this point I'm happy that the plan was selected to keep the cables up," said Rick Deutsch, a Bay Area hiker who has written a book about the trek. "I'd say that based on the situation that exists with overcrowding, they have come up with a plan that looks like it should work."