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Aug 22 / Dave Schumaker

Climbing in Yosemite

In 1996, a rockfall in Yosemite National Park killed a 21 year old rock climber. Based on a study by Skip Watts, a geology professor from Radford University, the climber’s parents have filed a $10 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit against the National Park Service. The lawsuit has the potential to permanetly ban climbing in Yosemite. Preparing to rappel off the cliff face, Watts was surprised by the smell of sewage wafting from leaking pipes at the old bathrooms atop Glacier Point. He theorized that the errant effluent helped trigger the 1996 rock fall. His curiosity grew as rock falls occurred in November 1998 and May 1999. Then on June 13, 1999, the slide that killed Terbush let loose in the same area. Studying a photograph, Watts traced the fractures on Glacier Point’s rock face. Arching upward, the cracks continued to the bluff top, where Watts discovered what he considers the culprit: Water overflowing from a 300,000-gallon storage tank.

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