Yosemite Overnight Big Wall Climbing Wilderness Stewardship

View of El Capitan from the Valley floor
El Capitan

Big wall climbing is a valued opportunity to experience Yosemite's wilderness. "Big wall climbing" includes climbs of length and technical complexity that require typical parties to take more than one day to complete. It was developed in Yosemite beginning in the 1950s and has risen in popularity since, expanding across areas within Yosemite and beyond. The 1984 California Wilderness Act designated Yosemite's big walls as wilderness, requiring protection and enhancement of the physical and experiential values inherent in wilderness stewardship.

Project Overview

In 2023, Yosemite National Park will transition from the Wilderness Climbing Permit Pilot Program (in place in 2021 and 2022) to a long-term solution to address wilderness stewardship through management of overnight climbing on Yosemite’s big walls and other rock formations.  


Project Goals

The overarching goal of this project is to protect the wilderness character and natural conditions of Yosemite’s big walls and other climbing areas while providing the public with continued opportunity and access to overnight climbs.

Cumulative effects of big wall climbing have led to degradation of wilderness values. Issues include: proliferation of litter, human waste, abandoned property, improperly stored food, illegal fire rings and wind breaks, and preventable accidents. Despite extensive efforts by Yosemite climbing rangers and climbing stewards to improve education and outreach to climbers, increase patrols, and coordinate targeted clean-ups, there are still unacceptable impacts to the wilderness character of Yosemite climbing areas.

The purpose of this project is to accomplish the following:

  • Preserve the natural conditions for wildlife, vegetation, and water quality at the base of walls, on the walls, and on their summits. This requires reducing the amount of litter, abandoned property, fixed ropes, fire rings and other structures, and improperly disposed human waste.

  • Improve opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation by educating climbers on best practices for Leave No Trace (LNT) principles and preventative search and rescue.

  • Provide climbers with information to enhance opportunities for solitude in wilderness areas.

  • Further develop a collaborative relationship between the National Park Service (NPS) and climbing community to promote shared objectives of stewardship and safety.

Public Outreach Events

Engaging with the public was an important part of this project and is essential when exploring management alternatives. Park managers accepted and integrated feedback received from the public during the open comment period in fall 2022 as rangers worked to adapt the pilot overnight climbing permitting system into a long-term program for the stewardship of overnight climbs in vertical wilderness. The following options were available for the public to share their thoughts.




Virtual Town Hall (recording of live event)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

5:30 to 7:30 pm PDT

Live Event at Yosemite Facelift in the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center Auditorium

Thursday, September 22, 2022

3:00 to 5:00 pm

Virtual Town Hall (live event)

Sunday, October 16, 2022

3:00 to 5:00 pm PDT

Informal outreach at the “Bishop High Ball-Cragging Classic” Climbing Festival

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Planning Timeline

The following is the park's tentative schedule for planning and implementation:

  • April 2022: Stakeholder Meeting and Scoping

  • July 2022: Management review of Permit Pilot Program

  • August 23 through November 13, 2022: Public Engagement

  • November 2022: Analyze Public Comments

  • Winter 2022: Management Decision

  • January 2023: Public Rollout of Decision and Implementation Strategy


There are currently no documents available for review.

Last updated: January 26, 2023

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