Woman falls 500 feet to death while hiking Half Dome at Yosemite National Park

The Half Dome cables allow hikers to climb the hundreds of feet to the summit without having to use rock climbing equipment, according to the park.
Hikers gather in the foreground as climbers use the assistance of cables to scale Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in California's Sierra Nevada on July 15, 2014.
Hikers gather in the foreground as climbers use the assistance of cables to scale Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in California's Sierra Nevada on July 15, 2014.Brian Melley / AP file

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By Andrew Blankstein and Elisha Fieldstadt

A 29-year-old woman died Thursday after a 500-foot fall from a treacherous summit hiking path in California's Yosemite National Park, according to a park official.

Danielle Burnett, from Arizona, plummeted from Yosemite's Half Dome cables before noon Thursday, falling 500 feet down steep, rocky terrain, said park spokesman Scott Gediman. She was dead when park rangers arrived on the scene.

Officials are investigating the death.

Yosemite's Half Dome hike is a "great challenge," according to the park's website. "For most, it is an exciting, arduous hike; for a few, it becomes more of an adventure than they wanted," the site says.

The dome is 8,800 feet above sea level and the hike to the top and back is more than 14 miles round-trip and takes 10 to 12 hours, sometimes longer.

The last portion of the hike features two metal cables, the Half Dome cables, which allow hikers to climb the remaining 400 feet to the summit without having to use rock climbing equipment, according to the park.

Permits are required for hikers who want to climb the cables, and "there is nothing you can do to guarantee your safety," Yosemite's website says.