by: James Connelly

The 15th annual Yosemite Facelift took place at the end of September and boy was it awesome! My name is James Connelly and I am the Lead Supervisor at Planet Granite Sunnyvale and I had the pleasure of participating in this amazing week-long event. We stayed in the gorgeous Yellow Pines Campgrounds with a large number of the volunteering organizations and had the privilege to meet and connect with the Yosemite climbing community.

One of my favorite parts about this event was meeting so many new faces including, some from our very own company! Ethan Schwarz from Earth Treks Englewood and Joling Campo from Planet Granite San Francisco also volunteered. Ethan just graduated high school and it was his very first time in the Yosemite Valley. Joling had been to the Valley before, but never been for the facelift event. All three of us had an absolute blast all week long helping clean up the park, listening to accomplished climbers share their most favorite stories and of course climbing! Neither Ethan nor Joling had ever been on a Yosemite multi-pitch, so our goal was to get them on some classic lines (we hopped on Munginella, After Six and Commitment). Ethan even led his first trad route, built his first anchor and took his first trad fall, about 10 feet!

This was my first time climbing with people I had never met before, but it felt like Ethan, Joling and I had always known each other. I think it comes from our background in Planet Granite and Earth Treks. The missions and values of both of these companies draw in a certain type of person and that was so evident throughout the entire week Ethan, Joling and I spent together. I feel proud to be a part of such an amazing and inspirational company and am so happy that we got to work together to give back to the climbing community.

Microtrash is Impacting Yosemite National Park

One thing that really amazed me during this trip was how much trash the Facelift organization has managed to clean up over the years. Thousands of pounds of trash have been picked up by hundreds of like-minded volunteers. This year there was a difference in the trash being found–it was all microtrash! Previous years volunteers would find large pieces of trash including car parts, bicycles, rusted pipes and fences as well as more. This year it was almost impossible to find any large items like this, but if you looked close enough, you’d find cigarette butts, toilet paper, wrappers, hair ties, rubber bands, etc. You would think it would be impossible to clean up as much trash as previous years, but despite the lack large items, we still picked up hundreds of pounds of microtrash!

As stated by Yosemite National Park, “These small pieces of trash can have a big impact on our experience and can affect the ecosystem. Microtrash can also be dangerous to wild animals that mistake it for food or nesting material.” This is a clear reminder that trash is still an issue in Yosemite National Park and that we play a major role in keeping the park clean. If you haven’t been to Yosemite Facelift, I highly recommend signing up for next year’s event. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

Upcoming AAC Craggin’ Classic

Can’t wait and want to give back sooner than later? There is another event hosted by the American Alpine Club in Bishop early this November called the Bishop Highball Craggin’ Classic. This 3-day climbing festival is a true celebration of climbing and community in the Eastern Sierra. Started over a decade ago by local climbers looking to clean up the Buttermilks and afterwards drink some beers with friends, the Highball has always been a grassroots event by climbers, for climbers.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experience at this year’s Yosemite Facelift and I encourage you to pick up that little piece of micro trash the next time you’re on your way to the crag!