EthicsTrip Journal

Yosemite’s Newest Climbing Stewards

By July 19, 2017 No Comments

Greetings from the village formerly known as Curry in the majestic Yosemite Valley (not to be confused with the Majestic Yosemite Hotel©, which in turn is often confused with the Yosemite Valley Lodge©). The signs now say Half Dome Village, though I’ve yet to meet a park resident who calls it anything but Curry.

Why am I here? I’m tempted to answer in glib, flippant, twisted Cartesian logic–because I think I’m here–but the informative answer is that we are Yosemite’s newest Climbing Stewards, volunteers working as para-rangers under the tutelage and supervision of the unsung granite ninja, Eric Bissell. We’re 3 weeks into a 15-week stint in the Park.

On some quartzite in New Mexico: Eric B repeats his problem “The Wind Rises”

Bridge shifts are our main responsibility. Every day from 12:30-4:30pm, we set up telescopes and informational boards at the El Capitan Bridge, and invite tourists to “Ask a Climber.” Truth is, I enjoy these shifts. We stand in the shade and talk about our favorite activity, punctuated by dips in the Merced river. Sometimes, climbing celebrities show up, or climbers who’ve just returned from a big wall. The other day I watched someone lead the Great Roof through a telescope.

“How long does it take?” “Well, if you’re that blond guy in skivvies, about 2 hours 23 minutes…”

We naturally get the same several questions several times a day – How long does it take? Do you need a permit? Is this the one that free climber did in 4 hours? How do I get back to my car? – and trying to describe where on the wall the telescope is actually pointed can get tiresome, but these are the only downsides. And on the up side, we get to correct hundreds of people’s misconceptions about climbing every day, not to mention watch their minds get blown when they look through the eyepiece and see actual human beings living in the vertical. It’s a tiny thing, but if a few people get inspired to try something they would’ve otherwise thought impossible, then we’ve done our jobs. 

And, if nothing else, we’re learning more and more about how to communicate climbing to non-climbers.

Our other duties involve Climbing Patrols, which means going climbing on popular, moderate routes and boulder problems, talking to other climbers, and picking up bits of trash. For this and the bridge shifts, our rewards include a small food stipend, a wee bit of climbing gear, and a free, uninterrupted stay in this paradise.

Mimi and Phunuru Sherpa obviously had no fun at all patrolling the classic Sunnyside Bench

The other stewards are as awesome as we are (well, nearly, anyway). You can meet them by clicking on this paragraph, and while you’re at it, learn more about the program we’re working with…maybe even apply for next year.

So that’s the way it is for us this summer. The Steve Edwards Project is still coming along slowly, but our schedule affords us lots of time to work on it. Our site, in North Pines, has ample space for visitors, so reach out, touch faith, and let’s go scramble some granite, or just come find us at the El Cap bridge, where we spend our weekend afternoons.

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