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

How your support helps: 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 rock walls and boulders, adding to overall impacts.

Thankfully, 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 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 2023, 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. They will support the park’s Search and Rescue efforts by sharing safety guidance, training peers on big-wall rescue techniques, and reaching out to the climbing community, both online and, when safe, in person. They’ll manage overnight climbing and crowding on popular routes, and partner with Yosemite Conservancy volunteer groups on trail maintenance.

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, American Alpine Club, 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.”