North America, United States, California, Yosemite Range, Cleaning Half Dome—Twenty-Two Years After

Publication Year: 1980.

Cleaning Half Dome—Twenty-Two Years After. Bart O’Brien told it as it was (“Climbing Half Dome—Twenty Years After,” A.A.J., 1978, pp. 466-470). The bivy site and the foot of the northwest face of Half Dome were deep in the litter of hundreds of climbing parties. Certainly one of the most spectacular climbs in the world should not wallow in filth. Reacting to years of accumulation of garbage, the Sierra Nevada Section of the American Alpine Club arranged with the National Park Service to remove the trash in October. We would scour the area; they would fly it out by helicopter. We cleaned the wall from the base of Tis-sa-ack to the start of the standard route, and ten days later the 17 burlap bags were sling-loaded into a helicopter and removed. Thanks go to John Dill and Hal Grover of the Search and Rescue Group of the National Park Service, who helped us organize the project. The problem at Half Dome is chronic: A typical party packs in a big dinner anticipating short rations. Somehow, the tin cans and wrappers never get into a haul bag. The party never intends to return to the start of the route. A portion of the problem seems attributable to foreign climbers. Several foreign parties have been reported generating a barrage of falling litter. But the question is how to show them we don’t treat mountains that way here, unless we clean up our own act? The rate of accumulation is staggering. Another cleanup had been done in 1973 and several times since the trash has been burned. We had hoped that a freshly-cleaned area would inspire the next climbers to take extra care, but not so! The National Park Service crew that removed the bags reported fresh litter from just the few intervening days.

Greg Donaldson