The park's emergency communication center received a report at 6:30 p.m. Monday that the man, Ryan Leeder, 23, had fallen off the rock face. Climbers who were at the base of Half Dome and were preparing to do a climb the following morning saw Leeder fall, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.
By that time the sun had begun to set, and darkness prevented park rangers from initiating the search Monday night, Gediman said. Rangers extricated Leeder's body from Half Dome's base Tuesday after it was spotted by helicopter.
Several hikers have fallen to their death from Half Dome's final ascent, which is traversed using cables bolted into the rock. Hikers are required to obtain a daily permit to access the Half Dome trail, one that can see hundreds of people a day.
Before the permit system was implementing in 2010, up to 800 people used the trail on weekends and holidays, according to the park service. Now, a maximum of 400 permits are issued daily.
Weather conditions at the time Leeder fell were clear, with temperatures in the mid 70s and there was no precipitation. "Weather was not a mitigating factor," Gediman said.
Leeder had been hiking alone and apparently fell from the rock itself, not from the cables, according to Gediman. He was the 17th person to die in 2011 at the park, and Gediman said that tally includes natural and accidental deaths and represents one of the deadliest years on record.
The park service has been developing a long-term plan to manage the number of hikers using the Half Dome trail. An environmental assessment is expected next month.