09/14/2022

Yosemite Announces Permanent Wilderness Climbing Permit System

In 2021, Yosemite National Park (YNP) announced a two-year pilot program requiring Wilderness climbing permits for overnight big wall climbs. This summer, based on results of the program over the last two big wall seasons, park officials announced that the permit system was here to stay.

Climbing in Yosemite Valley. Ancestral lands of Southern Sierra Miwok, Northern Paiute, and Miwok. © Francois Lebeau.

On September 7, park officials hosted the first in a series of virtual town hall-style meetings to kick off a series of meetings and presentations to engage with climbers about the permit system. They reported some of the results of the big wall permit program, gathered climber feedback, and took questions from attendees about the future of the program.

Public Input Timeline

  • September 22nd , 2022: 3-5 pm Live Event at Yosemite Facelift.
  • October 16th, 2022: 3-5 pm Virtual Town Hall.
  • November 12th, 2022: Informal table at the "Bishop High Ball- Cragging Classic" Climbing Festival.
  • November 2022: Analyze Public Comment.
  • Winter 2022: Management Decision.
  • January 2023: Public Rollout.
  • More details here.

The program has seen some success in reducing climber impact through education and accountability. The pilot program gives climbing rangers a chance to connect with and educate big wall teams on climber impacts by requiring climbers to pick up their permits in person during peak big wall season. Despite facing heavy impacts on Yosemite’s big walls—abandoned gear, neglected food caches, improper human waste disposal, trash found stuffed in cracks from the base to the summit—climbing rangers have seen a marked improvement over the last year and a half without having to resort to heavily restricted access.

All of Yosemite’s big walls are within designated Wilderness areas that have the highest levels of preservation. The proposed permit system increases YNP’s capacity to protect these wild landscapes without heavily restricting climber access. But that doesn’t mean climbers shouldn’t be concerned. The permit system opens the door to a number of ways for park officials to restrict access—in particular, quotas for big wall routes and adding a fee to the permits. Climbers will need to speak up to let the park system know that the climbing community supports efforts to preserve the Wilderness character of Yosemite’s big walls, that we want to remain engaged throughout the process, and that we will hold them accountable to their word with climbers.

Access Fund is closely engaged with the process. We will keep climbers up-to-date as the public engagement portion of the process progresses. Make sure you're signed up for our Action Alert list using the form below to be the first to know when you can take action to protect climbing access.

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