Nature: Yosemite’s “firefall”

Nature: Yosemite’s “firefall”


Yosemite National Park, Calif. — A popular rock climbing area in Yosemite National Park has been closed because of a crack that’s developed in a massive granite cliff.

Climbers recently reported the new crack on the western side of the Royal Arches formation near a climbing route called Super Slide, according to the park’s website.

Yosemite Cracking Cliff
This photo provided by the National Park Service shows a new crack on the western side of the Royal Arches formation in Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Sept. 6, 2023.

National Park Service via AP

“Subsequent investigation revealed that this crack has partially detached a large pillar of rock, and that cracking was actively occurring,” the website said.

An area including several climbing routes was closed Aug. 30 “as a precautionary effort to reduce risk from rockfall,” the website says. A short section of the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail was also closed, with a detour established. 

“The popular routes Serenity Crack/Sons of Yesterday, and Super Slide are included in the closure,” the park’s website adds.

Yosemite experiences many rockfalls caused by natural processes every year, according to the National Park Service.

Arcs across the cliff face that gave Royal Arches its name are caused by a type of weathering called exfoliation that causes slabs of granite to fall away. Other famous Yosemite landforms such as Half Dome were also created by the process. 

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