Every year, as the light starts to turn from green to golden, a seasonal migration of itinerant climbers make their way to Yosemite Valley. They share campsites and meals, trick-or-treat with their kids in Ranger Village, put up new routes, and repeat favorites. Arriving as the crowds of summer start to thin, they are a community that will be here together until the snow starts to fall and the migration moves onward. These are glimpses of what it looked like in the autumn of last year.
These images were taken during the 2019 fall climbing season in the Valley. It’s been only a year, and yet they feel a world away already. For one thing, COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of life in the United States, and access to Yosemite is no exception. More disruptive still, as of this post’s publication, the National Park Service website has an alert that reads: “Yosemite is closed to all visitors due to significant smoke impacts and hazardous air quality throughout the park. Through traffic is allowed; visitors must remain with their vehicle. The park is closed to recreation.” The air is unsafe to breath. And it’s frightening to consider that this summer, not the 2019 summer captured in these photographs, will become typical as warming temperatures and extended periods of drought brought on by climate change conspire to create the right conditions for big fires. As elections loom, so much we cherish is on the ballot in one way or another. As you look through these photos, please remember the importance of your vote and your voice in shaping the future you want for our public lands and our human experience, in Yosemite and beyond.