If summiting Half Dome is on your adventure travel bucket list, but you’ve been thwarted by the permit system enacted in 2010 – and, more specifically, the legions of scalpers that hijacked the works last season – there’s hope for the year ahead.
A new lottery system was recently announced to obtain permits for hiking the iconic granite formation in Yosemite National Park. Park officials hope the lottery system will curb the frustrating problem of people grabbing large numbers of Half Dome permits and then jacking up the minimal price by fourfold or more.
Hopeful hikers should mark their calendars for March, when applications for a single online lottery in early April will be accepted. Applications are available at www.recreation.gov for the 2012 season, which is scheduled for May 25 to October 8. (Dates subject to change, depending on conditions.)
As it has been since the permits were enacted, 300 day-hikers and another 100 backpackers will be issued permits. This year, however, only one application per person will be accepted for the lottery.
However, applicants are allowed to request up to six permits and up to seven dates, requested by priority. Each application must specify a trip leader, and that name cannot be changed once the application is submitted. (An alternate trip leader may be specified, though that person or the trip leader must be part of the group that uses the permits; otherwise, they’re not valid.)
Permits are nontransferable, which park officials hope will make the system more equitable than in past years. In addition, more than one application made with the same name will void all other applications in the system.
If this new system sounds too confusing, consider the alternates: Would you prefer to be among crowds of 800-plus people per day jamming their way up the cables, as was the case before the permit system was put into place, or pay exorbitant money to buy a scalped permit from some huckster off Craigslist?
Plus, the new system should make it easier to obtain a permit from one of the approximately 50 cancellations expected each day. The application period for that lottery will take place two days prior to the hiking date, also on www.recreation.gov. For example, if you want to hike Friday, you should apply Wednesday from midnight to 1pm; an e-mail notification of the results should be on its way to you late Wednesday night.
And if you'd rather not deal with any sort of permit system – or snow chains on your vehicle, for that matter – consider heading to Yosemite now. Like the rest of California, the park has experienced its driest, warmest winter in recent history. Tioga Road, the main access road into the eastern regions of the park, was only recently closed, and several hikes in Yosemite Valley that are normally dicey or too dangerous to attempt in winter, including the popular Upper Yosemite Falls, are still attracting hikers.