Skiers Complete Death-Defying Descent of Yosemite’s Half Dome

Zach Milligan skiing down Half Dome. Photo by Jason Torlano.

Two brave skiers recently completed an extraordinarily dangerous feat – skiing down the snowy slopes of Yosemite’s Half Dome.

With a thin layer of snow and zero margin for error, Jason Torlano and Zach Milligan were able to descend the rocky face of Half Dome on their skis on February 21, 2021. When they approached bare rock, they were forced to rappel down several those sections known as the “death slabs.”

The descent is known to be nearly impossible for skiers, with deadly cliffs rolling over each edge of the rock face.

“If you fall to your left or right, you’re definitely dead,” said professional free skier JT Holmes 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.”

It’s believed to be the first descent of the upper section of Half Dome on skis. The route is so dangerous, that hikers use cables installed into the rock to hike it during the summer months. Multiple hikers have fallen to their death on the hike.

Photo by Jason Torlano.

Torlano has been attempting to ski down the famed rock face for the past three years, each time finding unsuitable snow for the mission. This year’s early-February storms brought the perfect conditions for the duo to complete the trek. Torano even performed a flyover in a friend’s small plane on February 19 to check the conditions.

Milligan had only planned to accompany Torano and film his descent. While sitting on top of the rock face, Milligan went for it, almost slipping out at a dangerous time. He used his ice axe to stop him from slipping off the cliff.

“I was just trying to stay in control and stay alive,” Milligan said. “You’re on that spine and you don’t have a lot of room for error.”

Congrats to Torano and Milligan for an unbelievable accomplishment!

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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