Hikers can still clamber up Half Dome by the popular cables route, but Yosemite National Park officials on Friday announced permanent limits on how many can do it.
Four hundred hikers per day will be allowed to ascend the popular granite monolith, the same number that has been used since 2010 when park officials began a temporary plan designed to alleviate congestion on the trail and improve visitor safety.
Of the 400 permits, 300 will be issued to day hikers and 100 to backpackers.
Day-hiking permits will be available through an April preseason lottery on recreation.gov. To account for no-shows and cancellations, a secondary lottery was introduced last year that made extra permits available two days in advance.
Park spokesperson Kari Cobb said this system will allow park officials more leeway in making sure all permits are being used.
"If we notice, for example, that every Tuesday only 200 people show up, we can release more permits to account for that," Cobb said. "It provides more flexibility for more people to climb the cables."
Park officials began studying hiker safety on the Half Dome cables in 2008, when up to 1,200 people attempted the 16-mile round-trip hike from Yosemite Valley on busy weekends. That led to severe overcrowding on the final 45-degree section, where hikers use cable handrails to hoist themselves up the slick granite.
Inclement weather is believed to be the biggest factor in nearly all five of the deaths on the cables since 2006, but congestion makes it difficult for hikers to avoid fast-moving storms common during summer afternoons.
Friday's announcement can be considered a victory for hikers and blow to environmental groups that wanted the cables removed.
"With a place like Yosemite that is so dear and important to millions of people, everyone has ideas about what wilderness protection is," Cobb said. "We tried to find a balance that allows people to still experience Yosemite while protecting Yosemite."
The park received 1,649 letters during a 52-day public comment period in 2011, some of which advocated adding a third cable. That option was not considered.
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