Project overview: Promote stewardship and safety on and around Yosemite’s big walls and boulders through restoration, education and outreach activities led by rangers and volunteers.

The backstory: Climbing offers a way to experience the park’s remarkable landscape up close — and, like hiking, backpacking and other popular Yosemite activities, it can potentially affect natural resources. Informal “social” trails form near the walls, as people hike to and from climbing routes. Dropped gear and accidental litter linger on and around cliffs. As climbing grows ever more popular, more people, including many inexperienced climbers, are flocking to Yosemite’s walls and boulders, adding to overall impacts.

Good news: Those impacts are preventable! Through Yosemite’s Climbing Stewardship program, the park works to protect climbing areas and climbers, alike, by using education, restoration and research to promote environmental stewardship, safety and strong relationships with the climbing community.

The Climbing Stewardship program started as a grassroots volunteer effort in 2012. Since then, with support from our donors, it has evolved into a formalized, highly effective operation that has inspired similar programs at other national parks and monuments.

To facilitate the multifaceted program, Yosemite climbing rangers and volunteer Climber Stewards work together to:

  • Improve access trails for climbing and bouldering spots, often with help from corporate and Conservancy volunteer groups, to reduce erosion, prevent vegetation loss, and ensure people can get to and from routes safely.
  • Educate people about climbing-related topics, including Leave No Trace principles for the vertical environment, through climbing patrols, “Climber Coffee” gatherings, events at climbing gyms and online media.
  • Share safety messages related to climbing conditions, route closures and accident prevention, and teach rope-rescue skills to park staff and volunteers.
  • Collect data on how many people climb popular routes in the park, to inform management decisions that help ensure safety and prevent overcrowding.

They also host workshops and events; work with climbing-focused groups such as the Access Fund, the American Alpine Club and climbing gyms to coordinate stewardship projects; and play a key role in Yosemite Facelift, an annual volunteer-driven cleanup event.

This year: In 2021, your gifts will ensure this vital work can continue to engage Yosemite climbers in active stewardship and serve as a model program for encouraging climbing-related safety and conservation. With your support, climbing rangers and volunteers will map, maintain, and where needed, restore or remove approach and descent trails; support the park’s Search and Rescue efforts, by sharing safety guidance and training peers on big-wall rescue techniques; and reaching out to the climbing community, both online and, when safe, in person.

Learn more about climbing stewardship in Yosemite National Park’s “Behind the Scenes: Climbing Rangers” video from 2020.

Project partners: Yosemite National Park, Access Fund, Sacred Rok and Yosemite Climbing Association.

Jesse McGahey

Climbing Program Manager, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

“Yosemite is the birthplace of big-wall and low-impact climbing techniques. The Climbing Stewardship program continues this tradition, restoring impacts while engaging climbers and visitors to become stewards themselves.”