Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan Summit, a hot spot for tourists, is going to be a vacant and ghostly sight for a while after a dangerous scare.
On Wednesday, Sept. 27, El Capitan endured a deathly rock slide. A sheet about the size of a 13-story building measuring 65 feet wide, 10 feet thick, and 1,800 feet high slid down the face of El Capitan, ending at the base of the colossal sight.
This was one of seven rockfalls that occurred on Wednesday, all on El Capitan. A suspected total of 1,300 tons of rock fell in the span of four hours.
The slide took place on the waterfall route where climbers around the world climb to its peak that towers 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley. Tourists were asked by park rangers to use the Southside Drive because Northside Drive was blocked off due to the incident.
Yosemite has experienced a handful of rock falls since the park opened to the public and fatalities are rare. On Wednesday, an English tourist, Andrew Foster, was killed trying to save his wife, Lucy Foster from the rockfall. She was later airlifted to a nearby hospital. They were both climbing the rock when the event took place. The couple ran a blog about their love for the outdoors called Cam and Bear, supported by their local climbing shop.
Disaster struck again the next day, Thursday Sept. 28, when rockfalls continued to cascade down the face of El Capitan. The rock slide was predicted to be ten times bigger than a golf ball.
As a group of tourists were driving away from the scene, something, possibly a small rock, fell through the sunroof. It hit the driver, Jim Evans, who now suffers from a minor cut.
Events like the rockfalls most commonly occur because of water that repeatedly freezes and melts in the cracks. On sunny days, heat can also cause rockfalls as sheets of granite will pull away from the structure of the cliffside before returning as the temperature lowers. This repetitive motion weakens the structure that holds sheets to El Capitan, prompting the rocks to fall.
Rock falls like those of Wednesday and Thursday don’t increase the dangers of hiking at the site, however, the site will be vacant of climbers for a few days.