Project goal: Use education, outreach and restoration to promote stewardship and safety on and beyond Yosemite’s granite walls.

Why this work matters: Climbing offers people a way to experience the park’s remarkable landscape up close — and, like hiking, backpacking and other popular Yosemite activities, it can potentially impact 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.

Good news: Those impacts are preventable! Through the Yosemite 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.

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

  • Improve access trails for climbing and bouldering spots, 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 (adapted to adhere to current public health guidance), online media, and outreach to climbing gyms.
  • Share safety messages related to climbing conditions and accident prevention.
  • 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 conduct stewardship-focused outreach with national and international climbing organizations, and they play a key role in Yosemite Facelift, an annual parkwide clean-up event.

In recent years, with support from our donors, Yosemite’s Climbing Stewardship program has evolved from a grassroots effort into a respected, highly effective operation that has inspired similar programs at other parks. In 2020, your support helped climbing rangers modify the program to keep volunteers, staff and visitors safe during the pandemic, while also completing planned work.

With your help, climbing rangers and volunteer climber stewards cleaned up the summit of El Capitan, by clearing abandoned ropes, equipment, litter and fire rings; they also removed a large, loose rock from near the top of that iconic feature. The team completed dozens of climbing patrols and encouraged climbers to follow COVID-safe practices, made progress on restoring access trails in Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley, conducted online outreach, and continued surveying popular climbing routes.

Your gifts ensured this vital work continued to promote stewardship on and around Yosemite’s walls while serving as a model program for encouraging climbing-related safety and conservation.

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

Jesse McGahey

Lead Climbing Ranger, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

"This innovative program leverages the evolving relationship between climbers, visitors and rangers, creating a progressive and sustainable approach toward stewardship."