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How Did Nobody Notice Five Million Pounds of Rock Fall Off Half Dome?

The park is always changing, but this time nobody realized it

(tiffanynguyen/RooM the Agency/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

If a rock falls from the face of an iconic landmark and there’s nobody there to see it, did it still really fall? Apparently so — Wired’s Nick Stockton reports that nobody seemed to notice when a five million pound slab of rock fell off the face of Yosemite’s Half Dome.

The occurrence is actually quite usual for the park, reports Stockton. He writes that up to 60 rock falls occur each year in Yosemite Valley. This particular tumble was eventually noticed by some climbers who were confused to find an outline instead of an anchor, Stockton reports. But it seems almost unbelievable that nobody noticed what must have been a huge moment of “exfoliation” on such a famous landmark during one of the park’s busiest times of the year.

In 2014, Yosemite National Park played host to over four million visitors, so you might think that just one of this year’s tourists would have captured a video of what was undoubtedly a spectacular rock fall. But even though nobody realized it while it was happening, climbers on Half Dome will be affected by the slide.

In fact, writes The Guardian’s Caty Enders, the new topography of Half Dome is now so different that “the race is on to be the first to remap some of the most spectacular and influential routes across the new rock face in Yosemite.” Hopefully whoever maps the park’s new look will be paying attention if other rocks fall (and stay out of harm’s way if they do).

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