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Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite by Michael…

Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite

by Michael P. Ghiglieri

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Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite proves that some people are just too plain clueless (or perhaps unconsciously suicidal) to be allowed access to Yosemite. Over 900 people have died of unnatural causes in Yosemite National Park since the early twentieth century, the majority of which were completely preventable fatalities had the victims heeded the DANGER and WARNING signs, or even the shouts of incredulous bystanders, typically fellow hikers, who would soon serve as eyewitnesses to horrific yes (and yet spectacular) accidents.

These doomed individuals waded into creeks as little as ten yards upstream of a 500 foot-plus waterfall, past the aforementioned signs and railings designed to save their lives, in order to cool off after a sweaty hike, or to get a better vantage for that perfect photograph to last a lifetime. But then, in an instant, lost their step on slick rocks in the deceptively swift currents, and seconds later, plummeted into eternity, ejected over the lips of Upper Yosemite, Vernal, or Nevada Falls, while husbands or wives or sons and daughters watched helplessly. Is that the vacation in Yosemite they were dreaming of?

Then there's those who've been struck by lightning on the summit of Half Dome. Again, signs warn both to leave and not approach the summit plateau area (about 300 acres) should storm clouds appear as they so often do during summer afternoons during the peak of tourist season. But few years go by when somebody doesn't get struck by lightning and die. One unlucky victim, who survived a lightning strike and was being attended to by rescuers, went into such violent convulsions that he literally convulsed himself out of the rescuer's collective grasp and rolled right off the side of Half Dome to his death. Apparently, it was just his time to go.

Then there's the base jumpers. These are the airborne bozos who jump illegally off of El Capitan with a parachute, land in Yosemite Valley (when their parachutes actually open) and quickly grab up their expensive gear before it can be confiscated, and high tail it out of sight before park rangers can arrest them. One such base jumper evaded the rangers in the Valley during a chase, but unfortunately, wasn't able to evade the Reaper. During the chase, as he attempted escape, he jumped into the Merced River, a mostly tranquil water course that flows serenely through the heart of Yosemite Valley, and drowned. The base jumper knew how to fly, but not how to swim. What an idiot!

Some people, unlike the base jumpers, leap off of Glacier Point, Half Dome, or El Capitan, without parachutes. Because their bodies literally explode upon impact in extremely difficult to access areas, many of them are simply left where they lie to become part of the park eternal, immemorial, skeletons sometimes never identified. Sad.

Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite documents all of the more mundane, but just as tragic, demises as well. Such as death-by-snowplow-caused-avalanche on Tioga Pass Road; or the now ubiquitous death one can watch every month on the Discovery Channel in exciting documentaries about mountain climbers who miscalculated their reach or the strength of their gear, and fell.

I think the book should be required reading for every visitor who enters Yosemite National Park. Might enthrall the average tourist as it enthralled me, every unputdownable page of it, and more importantly (who knows?), might even save a life or two. ( )
15 vote EnriqueFreeque | Jul 15, 2011 |
This book recounts all known accounts of Death in Yosemite National Park in California. The author even mentions the native americans massacred by the army. The book is well divided by categories of death (rock climbing, falls, suicide, homicide, lost, basejumping etc.). Each chapter tells several stories related to the category, some in which the victim manages to survive their accident. This kept me interested as I never knew if it was a death story, or a story of the increadible work done by Yosemite rangers and YOSAR. The end of each chapter contains a complete list and short description of every death that has occured in that category.

I would recommend going to Yosemite at least once before reading this book. The sheer size of the cliffs and the wonder of Yosemite's wilderness will help understand why inexperienced (and even experienced) people get themselves into mortal danger in the park. I did like how the author performed less personal analysis in this book than he did in his book about death in the Grand Canyon. But there is still an attempt at correlating accidents to the follies of young men. ( )
1 vote hockeycrew | Jan 11, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0970097360, Paperback)

Gripping accounts of all known fatal mishaps in America's first protected land of scenic wonders.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:27 -0400)

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