Last year, the Yosemite Climbing Association (YCA) launched a project to open a museum and gallery in Mariposa, California, showcasing the rich history of Yosemite climbing. The YCA Museum and Gallery will feature artifacts like old iron protection, classic climbing photography, and the stories that accompany them. It will be the first of its kind, dedicated solely to the history of Yosemite climbing. The museum was scheduled to open this spring, but a physical opening has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Longtime valley dweller Ken Yager—founder of the YCA and Yosemite Facelift—has been collecting climbing artifacts and photographs since the inception of the YCA in 2003. It is their mission to make this history available to the public.
The museum will showcase old climbing relics and art from legendary Yosemite photographers, including: Glen Denny, Bob Swift, Wayne Merry, George Whitmore, George Meryers, Dean Fidelmen, and others.
The physical space of the museum is not yet open for the public on account of the health crisis. The YCA is uncertain at this time when it will be safe to host events, but they hope to allow visitations by appointment by late summer. In the meantime, the YCA is working on developing a website that archives these climbing artifacts and photographs as part of their ongoing effort to make Yosemite climbing history available to the public.
The YCA is currently holding a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the costs of website development, and to pay rent and utilities for the museum. At the time of this writing, the Kickstarter has already exceeded its goal of $21,000, though donations are still welcome. Donors will receive a print or poster of their choice featuring classic Yosemite climbing and culture.
“Without art, you can’t have culture,” says Dean Fidelmen in the Kickstarter video. “Climbing has that art, climbing is that art. All of us are joined together by our common history. That’s why right now we’re asking you to do anything you can to keep this flame moving forward.”
The YCA Museum and Gallery isn’t the only new climbing collection coming to Yosemite. The park service, Yosemite Conservancy, American Alpine Club, and YCA have also partnered to establish a permanent climbing exhibit at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. The exhibit is not yet open to the public.