A woman who fell to her death while climbing Yosemite National Park's legendary Half Dome this past Sunday became the park's 14th death for the year. Haley LaFlamme, a 26-year-old climber from San Ramon, California, fell 600 feet when a rain storm hit while she used a cable to descend the rock face. The accident brings the park up about even with its usual yearly total of visitor deaths, the Los Angeles Times pointed out on Tuesday. "Yosemite typically sees five or six deaths by the end of July and 12 to 15 by the year’s end, said Kari Cobb, a spokeswoman for the park." So why has this year turned out to be so much deadlier?
Big snow means big rivers: As an exceptionally heavy snowpack that accumulated during the winter of 2010 to 2011 continues to melt off, rivers and waterfalls in the park have swollen far past their usual levels for the time of year. After three hikers fell in a rushing river and were swept over the park's Vernal Falls last month, the Associated Press reported rivers were swollen statewide. "In California, the Sierra Nevada mountain range saw twice its normal snowfall. With high temperatures creating a fast melt, some rivers are flowing with twice the force as usual for a time of year when many might have slowed to a lazy run." On June 29, two other hikers were swept off a bridge at Wapama Falls and drowned.