Planet Granite

Sep 162014
A Crash Course in Crash Pads


Crash pads have a durable bottom shell and usually a less durable, more aesthetically pleasing top-shell. The innards of the pad are comprised of open and closed cell foam. The quality of a pad is dictated by a combination of the foam’s longevity to keep a falling climber from bottoming out, and the durability of the shell to not rip over rocks. After these two major components, there are more subtle attributes that one will find important– how it carries on a climber’s back, how it carries with other pads, and how it stores gear.

Ode to Organic - climbing

Photo by Sam Davis of Ana Burgos getting at it above a couple full pads in Hueco, TX.


First of all, for the environmentally conscious consumers, Organic is dedicated and I mean DEDICATED to sourcing everything (from the fabric, to the foam, to the American Apparel tanks n’ tees) they use in their products from the US with sustainability in mind. Other companies will flaunt “Made In America” on their product but source cheap shirts and other materials from abroad, not Organic.

The Quality

The bottom portion of Organic shells are made from 1050 denier (d), military ballistic grade Cordura nylon fabric and the top shell is made from 1000d (both US sourced). Ask any crash pad user how long one lasts and you will find them laughing, stating they still use the one they bought nearly a decade ago. The foam is a soy-based foam sourced out of the US (do I need to keep saying this?) is comprised of a 2-3″ bottom open cell foam layer, with a 1″ middle layer proprietary foam-rubber, then another inch of continuous open cell foam spread over the entire pad without a seam on the top of each pad. Think, squish, resist, squish. The top open cell allows for a cushy landing, while the middle closed cell foam allows the user’s impact to be transferred and absorbed into the bottom open cell foam effectively. The sandwiching combination allows for a climber to keep from bottoming out, something your unbruised ankles will thank you for later in life.

The Subtleties

Organic Pads carry exceptionally well. The shoulder straps are adjustable to accommodate climbers of varying heights. All of the belts are durable and have just the right amount of padding. The hipbelt is sufficiently padded so the weight of the pad and any gear you have packed into it doesn’t cut into your hips. The pads stack together so you can carry two, three, four or creatively five pads all at once with a Load Flap. (*Check out this video to see this in action.) 

Organic crash pads

The Art

Every pad and product coming from Organic is handmade. The artwork on the pads can be one simple color, a random mixing of geometric shapes, or custom tailored to suit any desire, no matter how geeky or abstract. I’ve seen some pretty amazing, inventive pads, and Josh is always psyched on new ideas. Did I mention you can carry your color theme and design over multiple types of pads and products?

Oganic 3

A coordinated color scheme between a Big Pad and Full Pad | Kati Peters coordinates a Big Pad and Chalk Bucket

Ode to Organic - adela2

The Infamous Adela modeling the Mini Crag Pack (look out for the child size Chalk Bag)

The Family

Organic has a cult following for a good reason. The small company allows you to be a part of the custom pad creation process. Josh, the owner and creator of Organic, takes every order himself and is in constant communication with customers. Despite having a new child unit (Adela) who you can watch grow up, quite literally, in Organic products, Josh remains completely enthralled in the quality and composition of all Organic products. He is constantly designing new swag, most recently the Roll Down Pack; inventing innovative gear like the Load Strap; putting out gear to supplement climbing like Enamalware metal camp mugs depicting Cake battling Pie; and supplying consumers with well thought out apparel.

His personal Facebook page is filled with equal parts custom pad photographs and baby shots, which both surpass the number of photos of Josh himself. This psyche carries over to how he treats all his employees and ambassadors. From the time I began buying pads from Organic Josh has treated me with nothing but respect, kindness and kick-ass products. My first custom Big Pad (that I still use) needed to be made on a time crunch to prepare for a trip to South Africa. I expressed my concern for timeliness and Josh delivered, with multiple days to spare. Easy as cake… or pie.

Organic 3

A morning at the crag’s best friend | The new Roll Down Pack for Fall 2014 | An example of a limited edition Wool Long Sleeve

The Secret

From the massive Blubber Pad to the tiny Briefcase pad, Organic foam comes in all shapes and sizes. If you go onto Organic’s website you’ll find about five items. However, Organic has many times that amount of products available to the public. You just have to know where to look. Ask any member of the Organic team, head over to their Facebook and peruse their photos. If something looks rad, email Josh and ask for it. He’ll reply back and you’ll see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Hopefully this article will suit you well if you are in the market for buying a crash pad. Think big, support small businessmen. And if you have any questions regarding pads, never hesitate to ask the littlest of the route setters, me.  :)


DISCLAIMER FROM SHANNON- Let me preface this entire article by saying that I am 100% an Organic Bouldering Mat’s sponsored athlete. Although I do not get paid to say what I am about to wave in your face, I do get gear, support and most importantly encouragement to better myself and those around me by the Organic family. I did not get persuaded into climbing for Organic, rather, I fell in love with their product and positioned myself to be a useful asset to their team.

Shannon bioBorn under a smoldering Mars, it is rumored that Shannon began setting routes as a young girl in the gaudy playpens at the Sultan’s palace in Delhi on walls of pure velvet and pinches of wrought gold. As word of her startling talent spread she was adopted by a traveling English sugar baron and quickly inducted into the glittering halls and silk petticoats of London’s new rich, where she lived for a time before stowing away on the four-master Santa Guadalupe, bound for the Americas. What transpired aboard the vessel can only be guessed at by a tremor in her root-like thumbs—though many have of course cited the numerous horrific diaries discovered among the wreckages of two Japanese whalers. How she at last came to Planet Granite remains unknown…

*What is known* about Shannon is that she is an ambassador of La Sportiva, Organic Bouldering Mats, Joshua Tree Skin Care, Flux Coffee, and Solo Eyewear. She chooses to wake up in the morning with a Flux and a snuggle with her dog/black bear, Philia. She is a wealth of information about climbing products, training for climbing, climbing holds and outdoor climbing and eagerly invites you to seek out or rival her Valerian steel sharpened advice. She’ll likely have a smile and snacks for you too!


*Follow Shannon’s adventures on her personal BLOG and Facebook athlete PAGE.*
Sep 082014


Planet Granite offers a warm welcome to our new Director of Setting, Bret Johnston!

Coming to us from Seattle, Bret just got into town three weeks ago. With the launch of Bloc Party 2014 it’s been a whirlwind of activity and non-stop action for him.
A perfect introduction to life in the Bay Area!

Eliot Carlsen, Manager at PG San Francisco, sat down with Bret for a good ol’ fashioned interview. Without further ado we give you the “man behind the drill”. Enjoy!

Q – Ok let’s start at the beginning. Where did you start climbing?  Seattle?  What are some of the areas up there that you love?

I started climbing at Vertical World in Seattle. I literally grew up in the gym! I also spent a fair share of time training for climbing comps while on their youth team. When I was over the competition scene I grew a love for all of the climbing in the Cascades in Washington, like Gold Bar and Leavenworth. 

But….. I have to add-in that although I have a lot of love for my home state, my favorite place to go climbing is still Bishop!

Bret outdoors

Bret bouldering at Leavenworth, WA. Photos by Mark Malijan.

Q – Hah Bishop’s awesome! And that’s a great way to rack up brownie points with your new community!… What attracted you to climbing in the first place?

My father was in the climbing gym industry when I was born so I really had no choice! After being exposed it just took me a little bit of time to realize that it was actually my passion. I tried other sports like baseball and basketball, but after a while climbing took over full time and it’s been nonstop since then.

Q – When did routesetting enter the picture? 

I’ve been setting for about ten years now. When I was on the youth climbing team my coach, who is also the head setter at the gym, handed me a set of wrenches and told me to set a route. The rest is history!

Ten years of retail setting, and over ten National level competitions later, here I am, setting for the great people of Planet Granite.

Bret setting indoors

A man and his drill. LEFT: Bret setting for the 2014 SCS Open Nationals at SenderOne. RIGHT: Bret at PG Sunnyvale for the launch of Bloc Party 2014.

Q – Yeah, we are pretty great aren’t we!  Ok here’s an important question… We recently went to a Giants game together, now that you live in the Bay Area are you going to be embracing our superior sports teams?

Haha. Ummm who won the Super Bowl last year? I have to say I’m a big Seattle sports fan, but I can embrace the love (hate) from San Francisco fans. There is an awesome sports fan culture down here and I can definitely appreciate that!

I’ll root for the Giants because they’re in the National league so they don’t deal with the Mariners too much… Until they’re facing each other in the World Series that is, then I have to wear white and blue. Sensitive subject though, thanks for throwing me under the bus already Eliot!

Q – Haha well you passed that test with flying colors! Now that you’re here, how are you liking the Bay?  Any climbing destinations you’re really looking forward to visiting this Fall/Winter?

I love living in the Bay so far. I’ve spent some time here in the past and it is really one of the few cities I would ever consider moving away from home for. I’ve never climbed in Yosemite so I’m sure I’ll be spending a healthy amount of time there. Other than that I am just really excited to see new things!

Bret PG setter Chris

Bret sampling Cali rock at the Castle Peak boulders in Tahoe/Donner with PG setter Chris Sinatra (askew). Photos by Sydney McNair. 

Q – Wow I’m excited for you to get to the valley!  Yosemite granite lives up to its reputation for sure!  What about clipping bolts at Jailhouse?  Do you own a kneepad yet?  And for the valley, how are your widget placing skills?

Never been to Jailhouse and I don’t own a knee pad, but there is a lot of duct tape at PG so maybe I can cook something up! My widget placing ability is subpar and I’m definitely looking to improve in that area. You’re going to have to take me climbing Eliot!

Q – You’re on!  Once you have some free time that is! … Your first couple days working for Planet Granite you ran one of the largest bouldering competitions in the country, and certainly the biggest comp PG has ever seen; what were your thoughts running that comp?  Was that a surprise for you?

Well, they told me there were going to be a lot of people there, but WOW! There was an unbelievable amount of competitors and spectators!  

It was a really great way for me to be introduced to the climbing community at PG and I’m really excited to continue setting at these competitions for the member base. Comps are such awesome community events and that genre of setting is an area that I feel I excel at.

Q – Yeah that comp was off the hook! Great way to meet our community at PG. How are you liking getting to know everyone?

Everything is moving very fast right now, but everyone I’ve met has been super nice! I like how open people have been with me. They know I’m the new guy in town and they aren’t afraid to ask me questions.

I encourage all members and guests to approach me and ask any questions they would like! Climber feedback is essential to a successful routesetting program and I’m always open to listening and chatting about it.

Q – That’s perfect because our community loves our setters! Especially learning about what goes on behind the scenes… What are you looking to bring to PG in regards to your setting style or experience?

I hope to bring all of the experiences that I have to PG –  setting at Vertical World and at national competitions, climbing at destinations around the world – all of it will help me implement a fun and efficient routesetting program for Planet Granite.  I have a lot to give and our team is already full of many talented and hard-working setters. Together we’ll continue to provide an amazing climbing experience at all PG gyms. 

Bret outdoors 3

LEFT: Bret bouldering at Leavenworth, WA on Cotton Pony. RIGHT: Bret on the Green Goblin at Gold Bar, WA. Photos by Mark Malijan.

Q – Well I know I speak for our fellow staff and members and guests, that we’re all super excited to have you join the team Bret! … But now that you live in Cali you might have to give up the flannel…

Well it was a little cold in San Francisco this morning so….

Seattle boy at heart

Seattle boy at heart – flannel on flannel on flannel! Bret striking a pose at PG San Francisco.

IMG_3416Written by Eliot, Manager of PG San Francisco - A native of Sonoma, Eliot’s dad introduced him to camping, backpacking and mountaineering at an early age. After taking a rock-climbing course in Leavenworth, Washington, he immediately became hooked. While studying the last few years at UC San Diego, Eliot made the granite laden foothills of Mt. Woodson a home away from home. He’s always looking for enthusiastic climbers to share a rope or crash pad.

Sep 042014



Poem By PG San Francisco Yoga Instructor Charles S Jasper

Tuolumne Meadows Sunset

Budd Creek at full flow, with the Tuolumne River rampaging behind, Fairview Dome on the left. PHOTO: By Steve Dunleavy from Lake Tahoe, NV.

I don’t know where or how to start
A sacred bow of appreciation. Maybe
For these woods varied and quiet
An essential stillness and a cold night
Arriving sudden as a bear standing;

For the coyote clutch of young rangers
Who cheerlead the campers, read noteworthy poems,
And bravely their own
As a flute answers from the darkness,
modest campfire on a Saturday night;

For Mom, who lies now in a home for the forgetful
Who has forgotten how to die to
This largely useless body
Who fears learning again;

For myself for persisting
For dreaming, for caring
About a heat struck cyclist earlier today
Enough to lift him in my car and on my rack
Out of unrelenting valley summer
Into the fragrant safety of Yosemite
As others once did for me.

I pause in appreciation tonight
In the cathedral of John Muir
Soft and humble like the granite
Whose glacial scars remember
The pioneer climbers
And their ecstatic children
Who in night and in light fill the mountains
With song and ascents without end.

CharlesABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charles S. Jasper is a long-time student of yoga and meditation, and began teaching Hatha yoga in the flow form 8 years ago. He draws extensively upon 21 years experience as a chiropractor. He is currently in private practice as a clinical psychologist, consulting with individuals, couples, and groups in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy. He expresses a love and respect for teaching, and the relationships that grow out of spiritual practice. 

His classes flow from an integration of effort and ease, rooted in mindfulness. 

Join Charles in the Foundations of Flow class at PG San Francisco on Mondays at 7:30pm. 

Sep 022014

Event recap written by PG Sunnyvale Instructor Reinhard Cate.


A competitor sends one of advanced problems at the PG Sunnyvale Bloc Party.

*The atmosphere was positively vibrant at PG Sunnyvale’s August 22nd Bloc Party!*

Competitors in three different divisions took on an array of new problems at PG’s largest competition to date!

The night also held special significance for the PG Sunnyvale team as they bid farewell to the comp’s MC and veteran team member and setter Mitch Newman.

As Planet Granite said goodbye to a veteran, they also said hello to a new member of the team, Bret Johnston. Joining PG as the new Director of Setting, Bret only arrived the Monday before the comp!  But he was raring to go and immediately got to work with coordinating and setting for the 45+ competition problems on Tuesday.


Bret Johnson, PG’s new Director of Setting, putting the finishing touches on one of the problems.

Climbers flock to PG comps because they know the setting will be both creative and challenging, whether they’re roping up or pulling on a boulder problem.

The PG setting team produced an amazing set of problems that marveled competitors from across the three divisions, (Recreational: V0-V3, Advanced: V3-V6, Open: V6+).

The event was a bit bittersweet for the PG Sunnyvale staff and especially so for Mitch Newman who parted ways after being on the PG Sunnyvale team for over 8 years!

Mitch, who’s known for his warm and open personality at the front desk as well as being a talented setter, is leaving one PG community to join another; PG Portland is psyched for his arrival!


The PG Sunnyvale staff surprised MC of the night Mitch Newman with a farewell cake.

As the official MC of the night, Mitch amped up the competitors and introduced participants to vendors and reps from the different businesses and organizations that attended Bloc Party this year. His personality and energy lent itself to the positive vibes felt throughout the comp.

The popularity of climbs varied from level to level. The Black and Red High Ball in the Alcove was one of the most popular recreational division climbs forcing competitors to try a bit of a jump start testing climbers’ commitment and tenacity. The purple V4 in the learning center was a huge hit because it forced competitors to use unique beta to finish the problem.

The Prow wall had one of the most popular advanced problems, a Black V8, which gave the strongest climbers a crux to remember with a powerful dynamic move to the finish.  The yellow V9 on the left cheek may have provided the crux of the day tossing off some of the gym’s strongest climbers. But it was the purple V11 on the outside overhang that took the cake, as no one finished the problem in time.


LEFT: A competitor sticks the dynamic finish on the Prow. RIGHT: Competitors line up to try the ‘Dynos for Dollars’ dyno problems as PG staff give the ultimate spot.

Near the end of the night, the party kicked off a Dynos for Dollars event to benefit the PG Sunnyvale Youth Competition Team. Climbers donated a dollar toward the team for three attempts at dyno’s of varying heights. Each hold reached represented a number of raffle tickets; the lowest at 1 and the higher more difficult holds earned the participant 2 or 3 tickets.

The event was a hit and crowds packed around the start to give the dynos a shot.

Thanks to a $200 dollar donation from Goal Oriented Academics the event raised $223.75 for the Youth Competition Team!


Competitors are literally ‘fueled by Flux’ during the event. And as always Arsalan delivers with a smile!

The vendors also brought a special energy to the party. Flux Coldbrew Coffee provided competitors with liquid fuel to send, Three Twins Ice Cream brought plenty of sweetness, and Sports Basement reminded us that our wallets will never close for great outdoor equipment.

Access Fund reps were also there and on point in getting climbers to take care of their local crags specifically signing up volunteers for the Summit Rock clean-up.

The night officially ended with the winners announced and the prizes passed out. Then raffle numbers were called out and more prizes were given away! Competitors lucky enough to win or get their ticket called walked away with everything from crash pads, to ropes, quick draws, guide books, and a ton of other climbing clothes and gear.


A lucky competitor walks away with a brand-new crash pad!

This years winners represented 3 divisions of competition and got their first choice of prizes. The Open Division Women’s winner was Sara Evensen with 22,550 points and the Open Men’s Division Men’s Winner was Ryan K Olson with 27,980 points.

The Advanced Division Women’s winner was Amanda Anderson 17,190 points and the Advanced Division Men’s winner was Bryce A Wat with 20,290 points.  The Women’s Recreational Division winner was Allikay Leung with 7800 points and the Men’s Recreational Division winner was Alex Chuong with 9360 points.

A BIG thanks to ALL that came to our competition!  

*The party continues!* Join us for the next 2 stops in the tour on:

Friday, September 26th at PG Belmont
Friday, October 17th at PG San Francisco

*All photos by PG Sunnyvale Instructor Max Stuart and 100% RAW Media.

For more photos from the event check out the hash tag #blocparty2014 on Instagram and click HERE for the Facebook album.*

Reinhard photoABOUT THE AUTHOR: Reinhard Cate is a Planet Granite Instructor, graduate student, and a freelance multimedia journalist. His work has appeared in Alpinist Magazine, BBC World News, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, New York Daily News, and Santa Clara Magazine. He currently is pursuing a M.S. in International and Development Economics at the University of San Francisco.

Aug 272014


Walker Emerson is an avid outdoor climber, PG routesetter and monthly contributor to the Planet Granite blog.

Last week I got attacked by a peregrine falcon. Cowering on a small ledge a thousand feet in the air. The bird flew straight at us, its talons and wings outstretched, moving with incredible speed.

A long day requires a long route. The temperature was rising in the valley.  Summer had arrived. It was 21 June and I was having trouble convincing anyone it was worth climbing in Yosemite. During the summer the sun becomes too intense to climb, baking the granite walls and crisping their surface like a loaf of bread in a hot oven. Most climbers seek refuge at higher elevations or at more extreme latitudes, but I was not ready to move on just yet. Fortunately, I was able to persuade my friend and fellow PG route setter, Anthony Orso, assuring him that we could stay in the shade most of the day if we started early and moved quickly.

The West Face of El Cap is a beautiful route on golden rock with many cruxes. It’s a huge day with over an hour approach and fifteen hundred feet of steep climbing.

The Peregrine Falcon is a common sight in the valley; its unmistakable acrobatic flight pattern is hard to miss. As it soars along the towering walls it dive bombs small birds at over two hundred miles an hour, colliding with its prey and killing it on impact. Peregrines can also be territorial and very aggressive; if you come too close to their nest they will let you know.

The Falcon

The Peregrine Falcon in all its beauty. (Left image: Right image: Mendocino

From the 1950’s through the 1970’s the birds’ numbers plummeted due to the increasing use of DDT, a pesticide that was widely used to eliminate pesky insects but, at an unforeseen cost, poisoned the food chain. As the chemical seeped into the falcons’ diet it weakened the shells of their eggs, causing them to break easily. With the ban of the chemical, combined with seasonal cliff closures for climbers on inhabited climbs, the birds’ numbers have risen and falcons are no longer endangered.

The alarm went off at four forty five am. We waited for the water to boil, watching the shadowy monoliths turn into discernible shapes and colors as the morning crept over the mountains from the East. We stood by the El Cap bridge filling our bellies. A light high on the wall switched on. Someone else was getting an early start to beat the heat.

The West Face

The West Face of El Capitan. (Image:

We stowed our food in the bear bins and set off, skirting along the base of El Cap, passing route after route; Muir, Kosmos, Dihedral Wall, Aquarian, Lurking Fear….

Finally, we arrived at the base of the West Face.

Even though we had just hiked almost half of the wall, the climb still looked huge. And even though I had done the route just two years ago looking up from the base I had trouble finding the meandering path that the climb ascends. Nonetheless, without wasting any time, we began; moving slowly but steadily, Anthony following with a small pack containing water and food. The rock was hot and slimy, and I found myself a few times in an uncomfortable position high above my last piece, taking deep breaths trying to not think about slipping.  Just rock climb… Exhale.

Returning to a climb that you’ve done many years ago is a rewarding experience, like a checkpoint to see how much you have improved or need to improve. The first few pitches of The West Face are where you get your points. The first pitch is a thin 11c with a boulder problem protected by a bolt. I approached the crux and reached for the edge I remember yarding on last time. It felt tiny and slippery. Placing my feet high I prepared to execute the move. Just as I was thinking ‘this isn’t gonna happen,’ I noticed chalk leading around to the left on larger holds. I reversed past the bolt and climbed to the left, discovering it is much easier. Arriving at the anchor, I thought, ‘Well I may not be stronger, but I am certainly smarter than I was two years ago’. Excited to be back on this excellent climb and with lots of ground to cover we pushed on, passing pitch after pitch of superb patina climbing.

Sometime after noon the sun hit us accompanied by a strong wind. The sun was hot, but the wind softened its intensity. We were now high on the wall. The valley stretched out below us and the profile of the wall fell away, joining it somewhere far below our feet. The route became less difficult but more committing with long meandering run outs on featured rock.

We pull onto a ledge high on the route and enjoyed two almond butter, cream cheese, and blueberry sandwiches. We watch a peregrine falcon swoop in the distance. “Seems late in the season for a falcon to still be here,” I mention to Anthony as I sip from my bottle of water. Suddenly Anthony yells “look out!” We hit the deck. A wall of air hits my exposed back.

Silently a large bird bombs over our heads with its talons and wings outstretched. We watch it fly out away from the wall and double back for another pass, coming straight for us again at incredible speed. I grab the backpack and swat at the falcon as it passes inches from our heads. “The pack is open!” Anthony screams at me. “Don’t throw all our stuff off the cliff!” Cowering on the ledge, shielding ourselves with the pack, we watch an amazing display of maneuvers. The falcon circles, flipping around mid-flight and returning to attack us again. The bird’s bright orange eyes burn terror into me and I wonder how long this will last.

Do I climb the next pitch with the pack on and then lower it down so Anthony can do the same, hoping that if the bird were to actually make contact it would only tear at the pack and not my flesh?  I instinctively grab a rock and hurl it at the falcon as it comes in for another pass. The falcon dives after the rock, plummeting down and down and out of sight.  We wait and watch. The coast seems clear and I gather up our gear with no choice but to expose myself to the bird on the next pitch. I start up the crack.

Luckily, the bird does not return. We finish the climb an hour later, topping out for Anthony’s first El Cap route.

Walker + Anthony

Walker & Anthony – enjoying a special moment on the top of El Cap.

The falcon was relatively small compared to us, and we were both tiny compared to the cliff… I had to defend myself with instinct.

Whether it be trusting a foot not to fail far above a last piece, or being forced to think fast using what little information is known, problem solving quickly and trusting intuition is what I enjoy most about climbing the big walls of Yosemite Valley.

walker bio photo
Walker Emerson is a contributing writer for the PG Blog. He also sets routes at Planet Granite under the alias ‘Smash’. When he’s not plugging grips and jugging lines, he can be found on weekends clipping bolts at Jailhouse or sailing the granite seas of Yosemite.

To keep up with Walker’s adventures, follow him on the PG Blog, join him on InstagramVimeo and Facebook.

Aug 222014


Planet Granite prides itself on the PG Gives Back Program. You might remember when you signed up for membership, you were asked to choose a category for us to donate to in your name: Climbing, Community, or Environment. 

With support from the PG Gives Back Program and additional sponsors, the Yosemite Climber Stewards (along with the Climbing Trails Program) have worked on trail restoration projects including the trails at El Cap, East Ledges Descent, Royal Arches, Pat & Jacks, Cathedral Peak, Fairview Dome, DAFF Dome, Medlicott Dome and more!

In this guest post, John Connor from the Yosemite Climber Stewards introduces the mission of this all-volunteer non-profit organization, as well as shares his experience cleaning up El Cap in a 2012 Nosewipe event.

Read on to hear your PG membership in action!  

As I rappel over the edge of El Capitan, 3,000 feet of exposure instantaneously confronts my senses: heart-pounding, eye-popping exposure. I descend the fixed line slowly, spinning in space, staring alternately at my gri-gri, prusik backup, the anchors as I pass them. Checking and re-checking my rigging, there is no choice but to breathe deeply and focus on the safety chain that we have built. Rappelling is a simple task for a competent rock climber, one I’ve done many times. However, this is my first time on El Cap and as I spin uncontrollably in circles, it seems as if the exposure itself will somehow vaporize my rappel device, my harness, my mind…

yosemite stewards pic 1

Climbing Ranger Ben Doyle and volunteer Dave Campbell during the 2012 Nosewipe. Photo by John Connor.

That day, one of many I look back on from the Autumn of 2012, myself, National Park Service Climbing Ranger Ben Doyle, and fellow volunteer Dave Campbell, rapped 600 feet down The Nose of El Capitan. A semi-annual event dubbed the Nosewipe, this cleanup attempts to stem the tide of human waste on one of the most famous and popular rock climbs in the world. Our goal is to remove trash from, and restore, a triangular shaped ledge called Camp VI. The ledge, a less-than-ideal bivouac site bordered on two sides by 5-7-inch-wide cracks, offers a near-perfect natural latrine and garbage depot, one that climbers have historically, and unfortunately repeatedly, made use of. This is Ben’s job. And mine: I volunteer, along with other climbers, as part of an NPS-managed crew known as the Yosemite Climber Stewards, whose mission is to preserve climbing in Yosemite.


Illustration by Yosemite big wall climber Mash Alexander.

The all-volunteer Stewards receive grant funding from a few key organizations, such as Planet Granite, in order to perform cleanups, as well as other work including trail maintenance, patrols of popular climbing routes, instruction for climbers on proper food storage, and many other important tasks.

Stewards serve as volunteer interns, receiving basic support in the form of a campsite, reimbursements for food, and the opportunity to live, work, and climb in what is perhaps the world’s most popular climbing area. In exchange, the Stewards work 40 hour weeks, assisting NPS Climbing Rangers.

The brainchild of Ranger Ben Doyle, the Steward program began in 2012. It runs from May through October each season in Yosemite, effectively tripling the personnel helping to manage climbing in this busy park during its high season. This Autumn, the Stewards will migrate south for the winter, to another busy, historic, destination climbing area, Joshua Tree National Park.

Yosemite stewards pic 2

Climbing Ranger Jesse McGahey dumping out a bag of refuse from the event. Photo by Cheyne Lempe.

Planet Granite, through its PG Gives Back program, has provided the initial seed funding for this 1st year in Joshua Tree!

And we aim to put it to good use performing cleanups, assisting with re-vegetation efforts of sensitive desert plants in burned or impacted areas, volunteering with JOSAR, and so on.

Climbing continues to grow in popularity, especially in cities with newer, modern gym facilities. But outdoor climbing grows at a much slower rate. With more climbers comes additional impact to often fragile ecosystems.

For this reason, partnerships between public and private organizations, such as the National Park Service and Planet Granite, have become increasingly important, not just in popular climbing areas, but at many crags and boulderfields throughout the country.

Back on El Cap in 2012, we filled two Grade VI haulbags to the brim and began rigging for the long, bicep-inflaming, jug-haul back to the top. En route, we witnessed a sunset like no other, bands of color slowly receding on the skyline as we moved ever upwards. As a schoolroom for steep jugging, the upper 600 feet of the Nose has no equal…

At the end of the overhangs, towards the top, I cast one last look downwards at where we’ve been. The tiny white blooms of headlamps begin to show in the gloaming as other teams take advantage of the early October temps to engage in their own adventures. I hope that they care for the stone the way they do for their partners and themselves. The more that climbers on their own can continue the tradition of clean climbing, the better the climbing will be for all of us.

To learn more about the Yosemite Climber Stewards, please visit

“$1 per Member per Month” is our pledge to donate funding to local non-profit organizations who are out there doing great things in our community, from preserving climbing access to working with under-served youth.