“Bears are excellent climbers” – tenacious black bear scales Yosemite’s Half Dome

Half Dome in Yosemite
Rangers remind Yosemite visitors that they need to practice bear safety everywhere in the park (Image credit: Getty Images)

Most hikers hoping to reach the summit of Half Dome require hiking boots and a permit, but one climber recently did it barefoot and without a pass – a black bear. Yosemite National Park is home to between 300 to 500 black bears. Catching sight of one there isn’t unusual, but finding one at the summit of Half Dome – which stands at a whopping 8,842ft above sea level, even higher than its neighbor El Capitan – is very surprising indeed. 

“Rangers recently discovered evidence of a black bear's presence on the summit of Half Dome,” announced park rangers in a recent Facebook post. “Yosemite bears are excellent climbers and can easily tackle the 46-degree angle – no cables needed!”

The cables they’re referring to are bolted into the final pitch of the seven-mile ascent to the summit, helping two-legged hikers to climb a steep, smooth slope where they must hike in single file.

Half Dome, which was the inspiration for The North Face’s iconic logo, is a distinctive granite rock formation that is one of the park’s landmark spectacles. The bear joins some 45,000 keen hikers who attempt to climb Half Dome every summer, attracted by its unusually sheer, smooth pitches. 

The start of the cables leading up to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, California

The cables are bolted into the final pitch of the seven-mile ascent to the summit, helping two-legged hikers to climb a steep, smooth slope (Image credit: Keri Oberly)

Rangers went on to warn park visitors about the importance of securing food and observing bear safety everywhere in the park.

“Keep all smelly objects, from food to sunscreen, locked in a bear locker or bear canister.”

On July 1, park officials announced that bear incidents were up in the park by 83 percent over 2022, though they are down 98 percent compared to the year with the most incidents, 1998.

“While nobody drives up Half Dome, Yosemite bears are great at opening car doors in the Valley if they smell something tasty. Whether at camp or on the trail, always keep backpacks and scented items within arm's reach- bears and other animals (like the Half Dome ground squirrels) will approach unattended bags quickly.”

If you are planning a visit to Yosemite National Park this year, make sure you know what to do if you meet a bear. Though most bears will give you a wide berth, it’s important not to run away. Instead, make noise, avoid eye contact and back away slowly.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.