Tempting fate, two skiers were able to snake down a particularly dangerous — and incredibly variable — part of Yosemite's Half Dome by alternating between skiing and rappelling down to the valley floor. They're still somehow alive (with footage, in tow).
Humans are incredibly resilient and ambitious. (They're also undoubtedly stubborn and, more often than not, not all too intelligent, despite being the dominant species on this planet.) Exemplifying those two former qualities, 45-year-old Jason Toralon and 40-year-old Zach Milliang completed a descent down the entire 4,800-foot descent at Half Dome in just five hours Sunday, using ropes, skies, and quick thinking to maneuver around several sections of bare rock, known as the "death slabs," lying below the famous rock formation.
"If you fall to your left or right, you're definitely dead," said JT Holmes, a professional freeskier who's also a friend of Torlano, to the Associated Press. "If you fall down the middle, you have a small chance of not falling to your death — but it's a maybe."
Jim Zellers, a "big mountain" pioneering snowboarder, is thought to be the first to descend the 800-foot upper section on the shoulder of the dome in 2000. However, aside from Milliang and Toralon, no one is known to have even attempted the entire 4,800-foot descent from peak to valley — let alone finish it, alive.
"I was just trying to stay in control and stay alive," Milligan said about the descent, especially as he and Toralon — who was once a ranger in the park — skied down the icy "spine" of Half Dome. "You're on that spine and you don't have a lot of room for error."
To ensure the conditions were at least maybe survivable, Toralon rented a friend's small plane on February 19 to study the snow conditions and chart a route before calling Milligan to join him, returning to a place that's always had an inescapable appeal for the forty-something.
"It's just always been there," Toralon told the Chronicle. "I've been attracted to Half Dome for as long as I can remember."
Well, they'll both for sure remember this jaw-dropping, adrenaline-pumping descent for many years to come.
If you want to see a leg of the journey, watch the footage below of the duos death-defying descent, courtesy of KPIX.
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Image: Dusk falls over Yosemite Valley including Half Dome (CENTER L) and Nevada Fall (LOWER R) as stars begin to appear on June 18, 2020 in Yosemite National Park, California. Yosemite National Park reopened June 11 with many restrictions after shutting down in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only about half of the average June visitors are allowed in, and they must make an online reservation for each car. The park will issue 1,700 day passes each day and an additional 1,900 passes for reservations at campsites or hotels in the park. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)