Impressions on Yosemite

After reading and re-reading Lynn Hill’s Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World. and of her ascents in the Yosemite valley, I was definitely looking forward my visit there… While not planning to do any climbing there, I was expecting some out-worldy quality from the place. The first vision of the valley when getting out of the Route 41 tunnel is indeed stunning with the perfect face of El Capitan blocking most of the view. The thousand vertical meters of the face are both daunting and oppressive!

Nonetheless, my overall impression of Yosemite is more one of a gigantic parking lot with nice walls than of a Mecca of big wall climbing… The place is simply bursting at the seams due to the inappropriate number of visitors there and to the complete lack of size control. Cars are parked everywhere, traffic jams block the approaching roads for miles and there are people everywhere one goes… If there is a place where limiting the number of visitors & cars per day would make sense, it is Yosemite. (There are only two access roads and both only lead to the Yosemite valley, so having the Park counting the ins and outs is feasible.) A numerus clausus on the visitors would recover the majesty of the place which has clearly vanished under the cars, garbage bins and flows of shoppers. (By comparison, Banff is also highly popular but the crowd concentrates inside the village, which can be avoided rather easily.) Both hikes I did in the valley were classified as strenuous and very strenuous, respectively, but there were still crowds on both paths, with equipments ranging from the backcountry heavy bagpacks to the flip-flops plus bathing suits. The paths themselves were paved or even tarred, most likely because of the intense traffic they were submitted to. (Even the fairly steep path to the Upper Yosemite Falls that I rounded in a bit more than two hours has its share of unconscious tourists with improper shoes and no water and its paved sections…)

Even the upper range of Glacier Point was victim of the same plague, despite its distance from the centre. Rows of cars, jams at the parking lot at sunset and sunrise, ill-equipped hikers climbing to the top of Sentinel Dome. Except for a deer foraging for food in the valley main parking lot and rodents begging for scraps from hikers, I did not see any sign of wildlife during my week there. Nor did I come across any climber. My most enjoyable moment of the trip was one hour of bouldering in the forest near Yosemite West, where we stayed. By myself.) Terrible impressions, thus, of a Disney-esque caricature of a national park…

4 Responses to “Impressions on Yosemite”

  1. Interesting perspective…if you are not going to climb I recommend visiting the Valley in the winter where with the lack of crowds you still find some of the magic of the place. Otherwise, as been said, go to the high country and get away from people.

    On the other hand, if you are visiting the Valley as a climber rather than a tourist I think the experience is a bit different.

  2. […] rental place, presumably making those last hours the most memorable ones of their vacations, while Yosemite was undoubtedly the lowest time!). Here are a few pictures they took during the whole occurence. […]

  3. Thanks, David, for the comments. We would have loved to go further away from the mall atmosphere but did not want to leave our kids for 10 hours every day, they were surly enough with our morning strolls!!!

  4. That’s a shame that you didn’t enjoy Yosemite but I can only agree with your impressions of the valley — the development there is grim and depressing. I spent a couple of weeks in the park last year and really loved it. The difference was that I walked up out of the valley immediately. We followed the John Muir trail up to Little Yosemite Valley, past Half Dome then on to Tuolumne meadows and around the Ten lakes track. From the valley up to Half Dome, there were literally hundreds of people but as soon as we passed the Half Dome turn-off, we saw maybe 10 people a day. It really was one of the most beautiful places I have been, with it’s huge dramatic landscapes and constant variation in habitat. There are plenty of animals out there too. So I’d encourage you to visit there again but get a wilderness pass and go where the tourists aren’t, it is definitely worth it!

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