Yosemite plan means fewer hikers on Half Dome

  • FILE - In this June 30, 2007 file photo, climbers on the cable section of Half Dome negotiate the steep granite pitch in Yosemite National Park, Calif. A climb up Half Dome was once only for the most seasoned outdoors people, but in recent years tourists and weekend warriors have been scaling it with the aid of steel cables. When daily traffic on the route reached 1,200 in 2009 and hikers routinely backed up like cars at rush hour, park officials realized something had to be done. (AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, Michael Maloney, File) NORTHERN CALIFORNIA MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTOG & CHRONICLE; MAGS OUT; NO SALES

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — There was a time not long ago when a climb to the top of Yosemite National Park's Half Dome was a solitary trek attempted by only the most daring adventurers.

Over the past decade, however, the route has been inundated with up to 1,200 nature lovers a day seeking to experience the iconic mountain that is stamped on the California quarter, stitched on a line of outdoor clothing and painted on the side of the park's vehicles.

Now officials want to permanently limit access to the granite monolith, frustrating both hikers who journey there for a transcendent experience and advocates who say the plan doesn't go far enough to protect a place in a federally designated wilderness area.

"At the end of the day, if the visitors and users of wilderness aren't willing to make sacrifices to preserve the wilderness character of these areas, then we just won't have wilderness. We'll have some Disney-fied version of it," said George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch.

"If people want solitude in Yosemite, there's another 12,000 square miles to do that," counters hiker Pat Townsley, a Bay Area resident who has been to the top nine times.

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