AAC, Sierra Nevada Section
AAC, Sierra Nevada Section. Over the past two years, the Sierra Nevada Section has worked diligently to engage the National Park Service in meaningful dialogues regarding the use of resources within Yosemite National Park. In 1999, we began to reap some benefits from these efforts. Many of our activities were centered around continued work and education on Yosemite planning issues as well as celebrations of milestones from this work. We also took time to simply get together and climb or share our experiences.
In February, we gathered in Reno for a Section dinner at the Patagonia outlet. The program included Kath Pyke of the Central Rockies Section, Joe Kelsey, Tommy Herbert and T.M. Herbert. T.M. shared with us some classic photos and stories from the first ascent of El Capitan’s Muir Wall, which he and Yvon Chouinard completed in 1965.
True classics themselves, Allen Steck and Steve Roper teamed up as editors of the long-awaited 14th issue of that premier collection of mountaineering writing and photography, Ascent. (For a review of the book, see page 399.)
Throughout 1999, planning issues in Yosemite continued on the forefront of member activities. Early in the year, it became evident that the El Portal road project undertaken by the Yosemite Park Service was going to have long-reaching, adverse effects on the seven-mile stretch it would follow along the wild and scenic Merced River. Thanks to Greg Adair’s organization, The Friends of Yosemite Valley, and coordinated efforts with the Sierra Club and local citizen groups, the project was halted. The YPS then wrote the Merced River Management Plan to provide protection for this precious resource. Dozens of our members attended public hearings and wrote comments to the Park Service regarding this plan.
Some truly remarkable events also occurred this year in Yosemite. First, Camp 4 became officially eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places. This in large part was due to the enormous efforts of Dick Duane, who wrote the “Supplementary Application for Placement of Camp 4 on the National Historical Register” in 1998, and the negotiating efforts led by Tom Frost. In September, a Camp 4 celebration, hosted by Tom and Joyce Frost and the AAC, was held in the Valley to thank all who worked to make this possible and to celebrate this outstanding recognition of mountaineering history. Attended by 650 climbers from around the world and by park personnel, this was an grand testament to the new relationship the climbing community has forged with the NPS, as well as to how enduring the values and benefits of climbing remain over time. (For a full account of the celebration, see the note on pages 169-172 earlier in this journal.) It was a great honor for members of the Sierra Nevada Section to participate by donating hundreds of volunteer hours to the planning and execution of the event.
In May, in order to heighten community awareness of Yosemite planning issues, we hosted a climber’s forum in the Bay Area. Mark Fincher, Gary Colliver and Amy Schneckenberger of the National Park Service provided presentations to help communicate ideas and plans for changes in Yosemite Valley. Similar events are planned so that climbers can remain engaged in the challenging planning process that Yosemite Park officials struggle with daily.
In its third year of operation, the Volunteer in Parks (VIP) program continues under George Gluck’s direction to help build a cooperative relationship with the NPS in Yosemite. One of its many accomplishments in 1999 was the contribution of hundreds of hours to the construction of a new Tuolumne Backcountry Permit Office. With the old permit office, restrooms were half a mile away, bear canisters were picked up at a concession stand approximately a mile away, and permits were issued at the backcountry parking lot. The new office, constructed in an already developed area, eliminates much inconvenience to backpackers and reduces parking problems and the excessive use of cars. Other milestones included some 800 volunteer hours contributed by more than 80 of our members and their guests, who came from Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, France, England and China.
Many Section members made the trek to Washington, D.C., for the Club’s Annual Meeting in November. Dick Duane and Tom Frost were awarded the Gold Medal for their dedication in representing the Club with great integrity, humor, and compassion in negotiations and meetings with the National Park Service. This is not an annual award, but is reserved for occasions when individuals make a significant contribution to the AAC and the climbing community as a whole. While in Washington, Linda McMillan, newly elected AAC vice president, represented the Club’s interests in visits to government officials in the departments of Interior and Agriculture as well as to officials in the National Parks and Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Wilderness Society and the Keeper of the Historic Registry.
Lynn Bamford, Chair