What’s a Yosemite Climber Steward? (And How You Can Become One)

Kaya Lindsay manning the Yosemite Climber Stewards’ booth at the 2018 Yosemite Facelift. Photo: Courtesy of Kaya Lindsay

Yosemite National Park is the world’s climbing mecca and draws visitors from around the globe. It also draws hikers, campers, and slackliners to the land of towering granite walls and enormous waterfalls.

Tyler Poston was drawn to climbing El Cap and other big walls in the park, driving to Yosemite several times a month from her home in Oakland, California. Eventually, she tired of the “commute” and explored ways to live in Yosemite through autumn. A friend directed her to the Stewardship Program’s website, where she applied for a position and was hired on last September after the Ferguson Fire.

Lindsay, manning the telescope used for the stewards’ “Ask a Climber” program. Photo: Courtesy of Kaya Lindsay

Yosemite hires a handful of (usually around four) seasonal stewards who are there help with park projects and assist the rangers. Some days stewards perform trail work with volunteers from other groups such as The North Face, do climbing patrols, monitor Peregrine falcons on the cliffs, and interact with visiting climbers. Stewards are required to work 32-40 hours a week, with half that time dedicated to working the telescope at the bridge below El Capitan. In exchange for their time, volunteers are provided with basic rescue training (with ropes), free camping, and a small per diem for meals and propane.

Poston’s favorite work is to run the El Cap bridge and do climbing patrols. On the patrols, she talks with other climbers about the area and making recommendations for other areas in the park if certain areas are too busy. She answers questions and helps bridge the gap between visitors and the park service – everyone there loves Yosemite and she knows most people aim to treat the area with respect.

“[While working the bridge] You get a lot of younger kids come by who ask how the climbers get up there,” Poston tells AS. “They ask all sorts of questions, like how people go to the bathroom up there and sleep up there.

“It worked well because we could lower the spotting scope for them to look through without their parents holding them up and show a variety of climbers making it up the big stone, from female teams to adaptive climbers to older pairs climbing the hard stuff to teenagers up there for their first time.”

Tyler Poston taking advantage of cool autumn climbing temps in Yosemite while at work. Photo: Courtesy of Kaya Lindsay

Last year the Climber Stewards worked alongside members of the park service and hauled 300 pounds of steel cable off Half Dome. They also hauled hundreds of pounds of trash off the park’s most famous big wall climb, the 3,000-foot “Nose” route on El Capitan.

Stewards also help support Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) – depending on their skills – that includes carryouts and high-angle rescues.

They also help with nonprofits that visit the park, one of which is Paradox Sports out of Colorado that brings rock climbing to adaptive athletes.

“We got to show them climbs in the park, which was really cool,” Poston says of the visit by Paradox. “We climbed together at a crag near El Cap and later spent a day together at the roped climbs near historic Camp 4. It didn’t feel like work. After climbing we sat around the campfire and shared stories.”

In California, Climber Stewards are present in both Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Parks. Both areas offer a service called Climber Coffee, free events that take place Sunday mornings during peak season (Yosemite’s is May 15 through Oct. 15; Joshua Tree’s is Nov. 1 through April 1). There, stewards and other park staff greet and meet with visitors to discuss current climbing happenings in the park, including routes that may be experiencing rockfall, and cliff closures due to Peregrine nesting. (Peregrines seasonally nest in Yosemite and if climbers get too close them the birds can be spooked, causing them to abandon their nests.)

During peak season in Yosemite, stewards man a telescope and encourage passersby to look through the lens and spot various teams on the face.

“You get a lot of little girls coming by,” Poston tells ASN. “We can lower the spotting scopes so they can look through without their parents holding them up. It’s all about accessibly.”

What’s not to love about living and working in Yosemite? Photo: Courtesy of Kaya Lindsay

And, since slacklining and highlining are growing in popularity, these parks hire not only climbers but also members of the slacklining community. Duties include:

– Provide information about rock climbing, bouldering, slacklining and park regulations to visitors in a courteous manner.
– Assist with Climber Coffee.
– Conduct patrols on both technical and non-technical terrain.
– Report graffiti and other anomalies.
– Teach others about “Leave No Trace” and good climbing practices.
– Monitor climbing closures.
– Assist wildlife, restoration and other park staff with various projects.
– Opportunities to participate in search and rescue based on qualifications and experience.

Yosemite is currently accepting applications for the upcoming season, starting summer 2019. Applicants need to be familiar with Yosemite climbing, can lead 5.10 trad, and must have climbed at least two big walls (such as El Cap). Volunteers also need to commit to working the entire season.

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