Top Ten National Parks for Rock Climbing

Yosemite National Park, California

Rock climbing was not born in the United States, but it came of age in America in a place called Yosemite.

Yosemite Valley is the centerpiece of California's Yosemite National Park. Here you will find enormous granite monoliths like Half Dome and El Capitan, which contain some of the most sought-after climbs in the world.

A roster of Yosemite first ascents reads like a who's who of modern rock climbing. Many who climbed here, legends such as Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, Warren Harding, John Salathe, Chuck Pratt, and Tom Frost, are as much a part of the history and lore of the sport as the climbs that made them famous.

Yosemite's contributions to rock climbing are both concrete and esoteric. In the 1930s new rope management techniques allowed climbers to scale Cathedral Spire. Later innovations—Salathe's steel pitons, Chouinard's new-design carabiners, and Ray Jardine's spring-loaded camming devices—allowed the next generation to ascend the granite walls with newfound speed and efficiency.

A Yosemite ethic rose up as the most difficult climbs fell. In the spirit of John Muir, legendary Yosemite climbers have recognized that climbing is more about communing with nature than subduing it. This ethic says to be bold but be careful, to use gear but to use it wisely, and to train hard and know what lies ahead.

Yosemite is a climbing mecca. Salathe's Wall on the Southwest Face of El Capitan is considered by many "the greatest rock climb in the world." Similarly, El Cap's Nose attracts climbers by the thousands.


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