Several significant climbing management plans on the horizon for Yosemite

Date: 6/15/2011

In May, Access Fund policy director Jason Keith met in San Francisco and Yosemite Valley with new Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher and stakeholders interested in Yosemite National Park matters. Up for discussion were three upcoming management plans that could impact climbing access and camping (including the iconic Camp 4) in Yosemite Valley, the lower Merced River Gorge, and Tuolumne Meadows. Half Dome permits, various conservation projects park wide, transportation planning, and many other issues were also on the table. Of primary concern to climbers is the Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan (MRP), with preliminary plan alternatives slated for release this summer. This plan will design and implement carrying capacity policies for the Valley that protect the Merced river.

In addition, Yosemite National Park will soon ask for public comments to a wilderness stewardship plan. This plan is significant for climbers because everything above 4000 feet is federally-protected wilderness. Currently climbing in the park is mostly governed by Yosemite’s specific regulations which currently outline climber-friendly policies for fixed ropes, human waste, and bivouacs. This new Yosemite-wide wilderness plan would likely implement the National Park Service’s new policy on wilderness fixed anchors (Director’s Order #41) and may also provide direction related to climbing access trails, staging areas, parking, and camping. See the access Fund’s position statement here. We’ll be asking for your comments soon!

The Access Fund also met with Yosemite National Park biologist Sarah Stock, who oversees the park’s progressive wildlife management program, in consultation with climbing rangers, to limit the scope of climbing closures. Look for a story in an upcoming Vertical Times illustrating Sarah’s successful work in Yosemite that has resulted in successful nesting and climbing access.

The Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Plan (TRP) will also develop a user capacity program to protect river values within ½ mile of the Tuolumne River. The TRP will also consider commercial use and the High Sierra Camp. Look for a draft plan this July and final plan by next summer. While not much climbing access will be affected in the TRP—most Tuolumne climbing is outside ½-mile management corridor—and much of the roadside parking for approach trails between the Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake will be addressed in the upcoming wilderness plan, this TRP will likely make changes to camping, Tuolumne Meadows facilities, parking, and transportation options. Yosemite planners are keeping the needs of climbers in mind as they plan to address parking locations along the road that climbers use to access many of Tuolumne’s classic multi-pitch granite domes.

Yosemite’s park staff has done an excellent job presenting the public with the many complicated issues and implications in these plans on their website. The Access Fund continues our multi-year partnership with Yosemite National Park and others stakeholders to craft appropriate policies for climbing access, approach and descent trails, conservation projects, camping, parking, and transportation options.