Designated Wilderness comes with the expectation of a pristine environment untrammeled by man.
Jesse McGahey - Yosemite Big Walls
Exit Strategies for Yosemite Big Walls
Yosemite Wilderness Use Nights:
•1975: ~ 219,000 use nights
•2005 ~ 85,000 (approx)
•2009: ~144,000 (11% increase from 2008)
•2010: On track for another (10% increase)
Wilderness Climbing Use Nights?
•No scientific data—interested?
•El Capitan: ~2000 use nights
•All other walls: ~1000
Yosemite National Park: Climbing
All of Yosemite Big Walls became Designated
Wilderness after CA Wilderness Act of 1984.
Yosemite Climbing Management started in the late
‘80s under the Wilderness Branch of Protection
The goal was simple: reduce resource impacts from
climbing. Human waste on big walls is, unfortunately,
an impact hard to ignore.
When climbing a Yosemite Big Wall was still
relatively rare, human waste on the wall (or more
frequently thrown off the wall) was not a huge
Yosemite National Park: Climbing
Yosemite Big Wall Brown Bag Tossing
The accepted practice was to relieve
oneself in a brown paper bag, then
toss it off the wall.
After they finished their climb (or
bailed) responsible climbers would
return to the base and pick up crap-
bags, and other garbage.
The “Classic” Tube
•Starting in the ‘80s climbers
started using PVC pipe and
webbing to make these
improvised poop transport
•Crucial NOTE!! These
should not be confused with
•Happened in the 90s after
Oklahoma City bombing.
Different pipe bombs appearances, from a
bomb awareness report issued by the US
Department of State.
Pipe bomb or poop tube?
Suspicious PVC piping. Found
at El Capitan picnic area in the
The prepackaged human
waste disposal kits make
All kinds of improvised containers
and on the market varieties.
The Nose of El Capitan
•Arguably The World’s greatest
rock climb. The first route up the
great face of El Cap.
•First Climbed in 1958 by Warren
Harding et al. over 47 days using
•What did they do with their solid
•Looked good in 1961 when this
photo was taken. Photo by Glen Denny
Gotta love job security!
Yosemite Climbing Rangers
have attempted to clean
Camp 6 and other parts of the
Nose in 2006, 2007, and
August 30-September 1st
2010 we will do a combined
YOSAR technical rope rescue
training and Camp 6 and
Camp 5 clean up.
Hoping to use all human
power (no mules or
helicopters) to carry
equipment and pack out
b!!2007 Nose Wipe
Half Dome: A Whole Other Beast
2010-11 Environmental Assessment of
Cables Route. Day use permits required at
least temporarily. Loads of poo and toilet
paper. Another composter, pack it out?
•Half Dome in a day
but why not clean up
•Fatigue, not caring
Climbing Rangers to
clean it up?
Final issues: waste removal conundrums.
• Could we institute a Whitney or Denali style system for Yosemite Big Walls?
• Cost Benefit? Numbers of climbers vs. Whitney hikers.
• YNP policy solid waste removal does not remove human waste, maybe that can
• Officially, climbers are told to put all human waste packed off walls in pit toilets…
but only paper and poo.
• If we hand out Wagbag/Restop/Biffy Bag etc…where can climbers put them?
• Environmentally OK in dumpsters (heading to landfills), but against park policy.
• Why noncompliance? Cultural divide? European, Asian, South American, climbers
sometimes do not have the same LNT norms that we do. This is excusable, we just
need to be more proactive. N. American climbers…hmmm…morally derelict.
• Desperate Climbs call for desperate measures.
•The self policing system is mostly successful, based on how many shit bags we pick up
from the base of climbs and see on walls our rough estimate is 3% noncompliance.
•This is still about 100 individual shit bags or wall smears/year=room for improvement.
•Limited facilities means we will continue to rely on Education, Education, Education
Partnerships, Volunteers, and lastly (and least) enforcement.