This Day in History: 10/01/1980 - Yosemite Established

This Day in History: 10/01/1980 - Yosemite Established

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Find out what happened October 1st , including the opening of America's first super highway and Mao declaring the state of the People's Republic of China. Also, Yosemite National Park is established and the Magic Kingdom in Disney World is built.

Kutzadika’a today

The Kutzadika’a people still live by Mono Lake and in surrounding areas. They have maintained traditional practices, including harvesting kutsavi and pinyon pine nuts as well as traveling the long-established trade routes. They are connected to the Mono Basin now and forever.

A bill was introduced in September 2020 seeking federal recognition of the Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe. The passage of this bill would mean the tribe would possess certain inherent rights of self-government and tribal sovereignty, and would be entitled to receive certain federal benefits, services, and protections because of their special relationship with the United States. It would also mean that decades of work and centuries of resilience would be recognized.

Charlotte Lange, Tribal Chairperson and one of the tribe’s voices said, “The Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe has been enduring this process of recognition for decades. It saddens my heart to hear our elders say, ‘I won’t see it in my lifetime.’ My grandfather fought for the tribe and his strength keeps my dedication to follow in his path.” In a conversation with her, she plainly stated, “We just want to come home.”

1930s & 1940s: Big Walls

1933: Climbers Adopt Camp 4

Yvon Chouinard selecting pitons at Camp Four in 1964. (Photo: Tom Frost/Aurora Photos)

At dawn each morning, climbers form a line in front of the entry kiosk to Camp 4, a walk-in campground without cars, which is unique in Yosemite. Each climber is hoping to land a spot in the dirt the lucky ones end up shoehorned among six strangers into a campsite.

The area, a former Ahwahneechee Indian campsite, has been considered hallowed ground by the local climbing community ever since the first climbing ropes arrived in the Valley in 1933. It&rsquos the social center, where partnerships form and tales of epics on the walls are polished over cans of PBR and Old English 800. Scattered boulders are one of its draws. At dead center, on the east face of Columbia Boulder&mdasheasily the most mammoth rock in camp&mdashrises Midnight Lightning (V8), the most famous boulder problem in the world.

While some sponsored climbers can retreat to a house near the Valley, the legions of other climbers flock to Camp 4. But they, like campers throughout Yosemite, must abide by the park&rsquos 14-day camping limit. Circumventing that rule can run climbers afoul of park rangers, who have been known to deploy night-vision goggles to ferret out lurkers in the woods.

An event nearly 20 years ago threatened to ruin Camp 4 forever. On New Year&rsquos Day in 1997, meltwater poured over the rim of the Valley, washing away whole campgrounds and the riverside cabins at the Yosemite Lodge. Park planners drew up an idea to squeeze in a five-story employee dorm building above the Camp 4 parking lot.

In response, climber Tom Frost filed suit against the National Park Service and rallied climbers in protest. The rangers were near panic when 600 of us showed up one day in 1999. Law enforcement on horseback surrounded a photo session beneath Midnight Lightning, and there were speeches. Yvon Chouinard&mdashFrost&rsquos climbing partner&mdashstood up to address the crowd: &ldquoIf John Muir were here today, would he be staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel? Hell no, he&rsquod be in Camp 4!&rdquo

This gathering bred new respect from the rangers, and on February 21, 2003, Camp 4 was accepted into the National Registry of Historic Places. Its future secured, Camp 4 returned to its perennial role as a crucible. &mdashDoug Robinson

1934: First Ascent of Higher Cathedral Spire

Bestor Robinson, Dick Leonard, and Jules Eichorn. (Photo: Yosemite Climbing Association)

During the first decades of the early 20th century, California&rsquos best climbers, most of whom were Sierra Club members, took to the mountains like John Muir had: scaling logical paths to the top of the Sierra&rsquos highest peaks, carrying neither rope nor hardware. If their routes happened to traverse airy ground, they swallowed hard and made the moves&mdashor backed off. But lacking both a rope and the wiles to use one meant the range&rsquos most vertiginous summits lay untouched.

In 1931, Francis Farquhar, a Sierra Club board member and its future president, learned of Harvard professor Robert Underhill&rsquos travels among the technical peaks of the Alps and invited him to tutor the club&rsquos best climbers in European rope management. Bestor Robinson and Jules Eichorn took part in Underhill&rsquos classes, and Eichorn and others later accompanied Underhill on forays up two technical 14ers: Thunderbolt Peak and Mount Whitney&rsquos East Face.

Back home in the Berkeley Hills, Robinson and Eichorn, along with club member Dick Leonard, practiced and improved on those techniques. In September 1933, they launched off to climb Yosemite&rsquos most imposing unclimbed summit: the Higher Cathedral Spire. For two hours, they hiked steep talus slopes to the spire&rsquos 400-foot south face, where, after a daylong reconnaissance, during which they used ten-inch nails rather than proper pitons, the difficult climbing stymied the men. They returned in November with German pitons but again were rebuffed.

In April 1934, the men returned with 55 steel pitons, two ropes, a movie camera, and a retinue that included Farquhar himself. This time, by weighting the pitons to make upward progress&mdashwhich become known as &ldquodirect aid&rdquo&mdashthey gained the summit at sunset, where they unfurled an American flag, and then slid down their ropes to the ground.

Higher Cathedral was an inflection point in the trajectory of Yosemite climbing: direct aid became the solution for surmounting Yosemite&rsquos gargantuan faces. Perhaps Robinson put it best in his account in the Sierra Club Bulletin: &ldquoLooking back on the climb, we find our greatest satisfaction in having demonstrated, at least to ourselves, that by the proper application of climbing technique extremely difficult ascents can be made in safety.&rdquo&mdashBrad Rassler

1946: John Salathé&rsquos Pitons

One of Salathé’s game-changing pitons. (Photo: Courtesy of Gripped Magazine)

In 1946, John Salathé, a Swiss immigrant, was eyeing the Lost Arrow Spire, a 200-foot granite pillar in the Yosemite Falls area that stands alone, offset from the main wall by 120 feet. The Lost Arrow was considered an ultimate prize, and as Salathé eyed a route from its base to the tip via a series of cracks and chimneys, he knew it would be the longest and most technical climb yet attempted in Yosemite.

Salathé soon learned that the rock&rsquos many shallow cracks, which chewed up the standard soft steel pins of the day, would complicate an ascent by piton. His pitons deformed when nailed into a bottoming slot they also got stuck in the rock, or their heads broke off from repeated hammer blows.

Salathé could have bolted his way through the rock&rsquos difficulties, but he hated the idea of cheating his way up the climb. He solved the problem by forging a set of pitons from carbon steel containing vanadium, the same alloy used to make Ford Model A axles. The following year, Salathé and his partner, Anton &ldquoAx&rdquo Nelson, used the new pitons for five consecutive days and four nights to make the first ascent of the Lost Arrow Chimney. Word got out about Salathé&rsquos climb and his amazing pitons, but he made just a handful for himself and a few friends.

By the time I arrived in Yosemite Valley in 1957, Salathé and his pitons were gone. So I made a similar set for myself, and then for friends, and then for friends of friends, because everyone realized that the chrome-alloy steel piton was the key that unlocked the door to Yosemite&rsquos big walls.

Take the North America Wall on El Capitan, with its difficult aid climbing at the bottom. Most of those first four pitches go at A3, and we couldn&rsquot have climbed them without hard steel pitons. I made 50 in various sizes, which we leapfrogged to the top.

Business school professors and venture capitalists are fond of the term &ldquodisruptive innovation&rdquo to describe stuff that fundamentally changes how the game is played. Salathé&rsquos pitons were certainly game changers. They advanced the state of big-wall art and ushered in Yosemite&rsquos golden age.&mdashYvon Chouinard, as told to Brad Rassler

1947: First Ascent of Lost Arrow Chimney

John Salathé and Ax Nelson on the north rim following their ascent of Lost Arrow Chimney, Labor Day, 1947.

The slender Lost Arrow Spire, to the right of Upper Yosemite Falls, was first summited, in 1946, by a group of Californians. The team threw a weighted line over the tip from the Valley rim, 125 feet away. Two men then rappelled into the notch between the spire and the rim and ascended ropes to the summit. &ldquoSpectacular and effective though [it] was, this maneuver required very little real climbing,&rdquo admitted 29-year-old Anton &ldquoAx&rdquo Nelson, one of the climbers.

The next year, looking to climb Lost Arrow via a more sporting route, Nelson joined forces with John Salathé, a 48-year-old Swiss immigrant who had already tried twice to climb the spire from the notch. Although they were born a generation apart, both men were skilled tradesman, teetotalers, and happy to pack only dried fruit, nuts, and gummy bears, plus about two pints of water per day, for their multiday climb from the foot of the spire. They were armed with 18 of the revolutionary pitons that Salathé, a metalworker, had forged from a Model A car axle&mdashthese could be repeatedly driven into tiny cracks without buckling&mdashand a curved skyhook for hanging onto ledges.

All through the summer, rival teams traded attempts on Lost Arrow Chimney, the 1,200-foot gash forming the spire&rsquos left side. Over Labor Day weekend, Salathé and Nelson passed the previous high point. Steeper rock then slowed them to a crawl&mdashthey managed a total of only 400 feet during days three and four of the climb, enduring long, windy bivouacs sitting on bare rock with no tent or sleeping bags. &ldquoFood, sleep, and water can be dispensed with to a degree not appreciated until one is in a position where little can be had,&rdquo Nelson wrote later. On the morning of the fifth day, they finally stood on top. The Lost Arrow Chimney, made possible by new gear and a bold style, was by far the hardest wall climbed yet in North America, paving the way for much bigger faces on Half Dome and El Capitan.&mdashDougald MacDonald

“Devoted forever to popular resort and recreation”

The Trump administration is working to undo one of the guiding principles of U.S. conservation: that the nation’s great national parks should be accessible to the broadest possible public.


Carleton E. Watkins, River View, Cathedral Rock, Yosemite, 1861. [J. Paul Getty Museum]

It was during one of the darkest hours, before Sherman had begun the march upon Atlanta or Grant his terrible movement through the Wilderness, when the paintings of Bierstadt and the photographs of Watkins, both productions of the War time, had given to the people on the Atlantic some idea of the sublimity of the Yo Semite, and of the stateliness of the neighboring Sequoia grove, that consideration was first given to the danger that such scenes might become private property and … their value to posterity be injured. To secure them against this danger Congress passed an act providing that the premises should be segregated from the general domain of the public lands, and devoted forever to popular resort and recreation.

— Frederick Law Olmsted, 1865 1

In the summer of 1865, Frederick Law Olmsted welcomed two groups to a campsite in the Yosemite Valley. Olmsted himself led one of the groups, a commission established by the state of California to determine what it should do with two spectacular landscapes in the Sierra Nevada: the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Olmsted’s fellow commissioners were there to hear him deliver a report about what these nature preserves, which had been granted to the state by Congress the year before, should become. The other party was a delegation of Republican Party power brokers from the East who were making a post-Civil War victory lap of the West. Their ranks included Schuyler Colfax, a U.S. Congressman (and Speaker of the House) from Indiana, and Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican. This was their first look at America’s western states, and especially at Yosemite, which had been made famous a few years earlier by the essays of San Francisco minister Thomas Starr King and the photographs of Carleton Watkins. Olmsted, already prominent as the co-designer of New York’s Central Park and as first head of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a war-time relief agency, was particularly eager for the influential Easterners to listen in.

“Yosemite and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove: A Preliminary Report,” which Olmsted read that day and submitted to the California legislature shortly thereafter, is one of the founding documents of the U.S. conservation movement, and of what would later be known as the national park idea. While the state government formally rejected Olmsted’s text (the California Geological Survey feared that Olmsted’s proposed funding for the new preserve would cause a diminishment of its own appropriation), the Yosemite National Park that we know today is substantially the result of the recommendations contained in Olmsted’s report. More importantly, the principles underlying the nature-park idea — which have since been expanded upon by many nations — were first and most clearly laid out in Olmsted’s report. The heart of Olmsted’s concept was that America’s greatest places should be open to the broadest public:

It is the will of the Nation as embodied in the act of Congress that this scenery shall never be private property. … The establishment by government of great public grounds for the free enjoyment of the people under certain circumstances, is thus justified and enforced as a political duty. 2

Carleton E. Watkins, The Three Brothers, Yosemite, 1861. [J. Paul Getty Museum]

Carleton E. Watkins, Mount Broderick and Nevada Falls, 1861. [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Carleton E. Watkins, Yosemite Falls from the Upper House, 1861. [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

At the end of October, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made an official proposal which stands as a full and stark rejection of this founding vision for Yosemite and the many national parks that followed. Specifically, the department is proposing to double and nearly triple the cost of admission to seventeen of America’s most popular national parks. The public comment period runs through December 22, which means it is especially timely to re-examine Olmsted’s idea, and its justifications.

Olmsted’s report outlined two distinct and fundamental ideas: the preservation of landscapes of natural beauty, and the establishment of full public access to these landscapes. The first idea was rooted in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s landmark essay from 1836, “Nature,” which complained that Americans mostly valued land as something to use until all the trees had been cut down and any ore had been mined. Emerson offered a radical alternative he urged Americans to shift from using up land to appreciating landscape, and in so doing to prioritize the non-monetary value of natural beauty over the transactional value of commercial exploitation.

As Olmsted seems to have understood, Emerson had thus provided the intellectual underpinnings for the proposal which a group of San Franciscans had previously made to Congress to set aside the Yosemite landscape as a preserve. Congress agreed, and in the summer of 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed an act making Yosemite and the nearby Mariposa Grove “inalienable for all time,” a landscape whose value lay in the wonderment it aroused rather than in the natural resources that might be extracted from it. Olmsted, who knew and admired Emerson, underscored his friend’s influence in the nature-park idea by adapting passages from “Nature” into his report.

Albert Bierstadt, Cho-looke, the Yosemite Fall, 1864. [Putnam Foundation, Timken Museum of Art]

Albert Bierstadt, Valley of the Yosemite, 1864. [Museum of Fine Arts, Boston]

Having expanded Emerson’s ideas into what we now call “conservation,” Olmsted advocated for open public access. He located the source of this new principle in what might seem an unexpected text: the Declaration of Independence. As Olmsted argued, it was “the main duty of government … to provide means of protection for all citizens in the pursuit of happiness against the obstacles … which the selfishness of individuals or combinations of individuals is liable to interpose to that pursuit.” Olmsted believed that public access to nature was, in the famous language of the Declaration, an “unalienable Right.”

Olmsted devoted more than one-quarter of his report to explaining how he had formulated this new idea. He first explained that because the European aristocracy enjoyed private access to landscapes of “reinvigorating recreation,” that common Americans should too — that a young, republican nation should open its greatest landscapes to all its citizens. Olmsted repeatedly emphasized the inequities of the emergent Gilded Age. “There are in the islands of Great Britain and Ireland more than one thousand private parks and notable grounds devoted to luxury and recreation,” he wrote. “The enjoyment of the choicest natural scenes in the country and the means of recreation connected with them is thus a monopoly, in a very peculiar manner, of a very few, very rich people. The great mass of society, including those to whom it would be of the greatest benefit, is excluded from it.” Olmsted concluded his report with a final burst of republicanism. Had Congress not set aside Yosemite as a public landscape, Olmsted said,

It would have been practicable for one man to have bought the whole, to have appropriated it wholly to his individual pleasure or to have refused admittance to any who were unable to pay a certain price as admission fee. … The result would have been a rich man’s park, and for the present, so far as the great body of the people are concerned, it is, and as long as the present arrangements continue, it will remain, practically, the property only of the rich.

This is the regressive condition which the Department of the Interior seeks to impose upon Americans who can’t afford the exorbitant new fees which are now being proposed.

Carleton E. Watkins, El Capitan, 1861. [J. Paul Getty Museum]

Carleton E. Watkins, Mirror Lake with Mount Watkins, 1865-66. [Library of Congress]

Carleton E. Watkins, El Capitan, Yosemite, 1861. [Library of Congress]

As Olmsted surely knew, “Yosemite and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove: A Preliminary Report” was a political document. Especially given his first-hand observations of the political shenanigans that plagued the planning and construction of his beloved Central Park, he would have understood that the new and as-yet-undefined parks idea would benefit from being aligned with the Republican Party’s position on the West and on slavery. In three national elections, starting in 1856, Republicans John C. Frémont and Abraham Lincoln had run on an anti-slavery platform promising that Western lands would be open to white men and women who wanted to improve their lives without competition from slave labor. Olmsted’s linkage of landscape preservation to universal access was more than a principled philosophical position, it was an attempt to embed the Republicans’ foundational belief in opportunity and upward mobility for the common white man (and the rejection of aristocracy) to a landscape. It was an alignment of one of Olmsted’s core beliefs to the Republicans’ core political position. (Today this relationship lives on the land: several of the peaks that surround the Yosemite Valley and the mountain above the Mariposa Grove carry the names of anti-slavery Unionists.)

Secretary Zinke and today’s Republican Party would do well to acquaint themselves with the history of the national parks they are charged with administering on behalf of the citizens of the United States. Zinke’s proposal to raise some national park admission fees — and thus to limit access — is ahistorical and un-American. Neither income nor class should determine who has the opportunity to enjoy our public lands.

El Capitan

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El Capitan, byname El Cap, mountain in Yosemite National Park, east-central California. One of the park’s most notable landmarks, the granite monolith features nearly vertical walls and stands 7,569 feet (2,307 metres) above sea level and towers some 3,600 feet (1,100 metres) over the western end of Yosemite Valley at its base is the Merced River. Nearby is Bridalveil Fall, with Half Dome at the head of the valley.

Native Americans gave the mountain various names, including To-tock-ah-noo-lah, which meant “Rock Chief” or “Captain.” The first recorded sighting by white settlers occurred in 1851, when a local militia known as the Mariposa Battalion entered the valley while pursuing Indians. While several names were given to the granite buttress—including Crane Mountain—it eventually became known as El Capitan, Spanish for “The Captain.” The monolith and scenic valley attracted artists, including painters and photographers. Their works helped make the area well known, and in 1890 Yosemite National Park was created.

For many years it was believed that climbing the mountains’ vertical walls was impossible. In 1957, however, Warren Harding led an expedition to scale the peak. The group focused on the prow that formed where the southeastern and southwestern faces meet it became known as the Nose. For 45 days over more than one year, they established a route by inserting pitons and drilling bolt holes for the fixed ropes. On November 12, 1958, Harding and two others finally summited the mountain. Since then El Capitan has become popular with climbers, and in 2017 Alex Honnold became the first to ascend the mountain without using ropes his climb was documented in Free Solo (2018). In addition, hikers are able to summit via an arduous trail.

How an Obscure Photographer Saved Yosemite

In June of 1864, as Sherman’s armies were moving toward Atlanta and Grant’s were recovering from a bloody loss at Cold Harbor, President Abraham Lincoln took a break from the grim, all-consuming war to sign a law protecting a slice of land “in the granite peak of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.” The act granted the area “known as the Yo-Semite Valley” to the state of California, to “be held for public use, resort, and recreation. inalienable for all time.” It was the federal government’s first act to preserve a part of nature for the common good—a precursor of the National Park Service, now enjoying its centennial—and it might not have happened but for an obscure 34-year-old named Carleton Watkins.

From This Story

Carleton Watkins in Yosemite

Related Content

Born in a small town in New York, Watkins headed west in 1849 to seek his fortune in California’s gold rush, to no avail. After apprenticing to a pioneer daguerreotypist named Robert Vance, he made his money shooting mining estates. In the summer of 1861, Watkins set out to photograph Yosemite, carrying a literal ton of equipment on mules—tripods, dark tent, lenses and a novel invention for taking sharp photographs of landscapes on glass plates nearly two feet across.

We associate Yosemite with the photographs of Ansel Adams, who acknowledged Watkins as one of “the great Western photographers,” but it was Watkins who first turned Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan into unforgettable sights. Weston Naef, a photography curator and co-author of a book about Watkins, described him as “probably the greatest American artist of his era, and hardly anyone has heard of him.”

Sketches and awed descriptions of Yosemite’s grand views had reached the East in the mid-1800s, but nothing provoked public reaction like Watkins’ photos, which were exhibited at a gallery in New York in 1862. “The views of lofty mountains, of gigantic trees, of falls of water. are indescribably unique and beautiful,” the Times reported. The great landscape painter Albert Bierstadt promptly headed to Yosemite. Ralph Waldo Emerson said Watkins’ images of sequoias “are proud curiosities here to all eyes.”

Watkins’ works coincided with a move by California boosters to promote the state by setting aside lands in Yosemite, home to “perhaps some of the greatest wonders of the world,” Senator John Conness bragged to Congress in 1864. Historians believe that Conness, who owned a collection of Watkins photographs and was a friend of Lincoln’s, showed the images to the president the year before he signed the bill protecting Yosemite.

The Sentinel, in a stereograph card in Watkins’ Pacific Coast series (Library of Congress) Yowiye, or the Nevada Fall, and Mount Broderick (Library of Congress) North Dome, Royal Arches and Washington Column (Library of Congress) Cathedral Rock (Library of Congress) The Domes (Library of Congress) The Vernal and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point (Library of Congress) Yosemite Falls from the Sentinel Dome (Library of Congress)

Watkins’ fame as a photographer rose, and he journeyed throughout the West: Columbia Gorge, the Farallones, Yellowstone. But he kept returning to Yosemite. Today, it can be hard for us postmodernists, who are more used to images of wilderness than the thing itself, and who tend to associate photographs of Yosemite with clothing ads, to imagine the impact of those first vivid pictures. Yet somehow they retain their power—make us “look anew at nature itself, shining with a clarity that is at once ordinary and yet very magical,” says Christine Hult-Lewis, a Watkins expert.

In his later years, Watkins lost his eyesight, and then his livelihood. The 1906 earthquake destroyed his studio and many of his negatives (and threw 4-year-old Ansel Adams against a wall, giving him a crooked nose). For a time Watkins lived with his wife and children in a boxcar. He died 100 years ago this month, 86 years old, broke and blind, at Napa State Hospital, an asylum. Two months later, President Woodrow Wilson established the National Park Service, a steward for the sublime place Watkins had shown to a war-weary nation.

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This article is a selection from the June issue of Smithsonian magazine

About Brooke Jarvis

Brooke Jarvis is a Seattle-based magazine writer. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Pacific Standard, and many other places. She is a contributing writer to The California Sunday Magazine.


The Currys Edit

David and Jennie Curry were schoolteachers who arrived in Yosemite Valley in 1899. [7] The couple ran a tent camp in the valley [8] and, despite the two-week round-trip journey via horse and wagon from Merced, California, the camp registered 292 guests in its first year. [9] The Curry Company went on to dominate the politics of the park for decades, and David wrote the Secretary of the Interior, Franklin Lane, in an effort to extend the park's tourist season so as to expand his business. [7] In the Currys' opinion, national parks were for recreational use, [10] and the couple marketed the park with attractions like the Firefall. [11]

David Curry died in 1917 and left the management of Camp Curry to his widow Jennie, who was then known as "Mother Curry". She received help from her children, particularly her daughter Mary, and Mary's husband Donald Tresidder. [8] The camp still exists today as Curry Village.

Yosemite National Park Company Edit

In 1915, Stephen T. Mather convinced D.J. Desmond to convert an old army barracks into the Yosemite Lodge. Desmond also began a hotel at Glacier Point the following year, while buying out a number of businesses to improve DJ Desmond Park Company's position in upcoming park leasing contracts. [12] A congressional act permitted this efficient supervision of the park for the enjoyment of the public. [13] However, prominent tourists were refusing to stay at the park due to the poor conditions of the facilities [14] (socialite Lady Astor reportedly described the Sentinel Hotel as "primitive" [10] ), and in 1916 the newly formed National Park Service began a concerted effort to attract visitors to the parks and create better accommodations and services. [15] Under the direction of Mather, whose greatest desire was to build a luxury hotel in Yosemite, an attempt was made to build accommodations near Yosemite Falls but it failed due to a lack of funds. [16]

Yosemite Park and Curry Company Edit

In 1925, the Park Service, unhappy with the declining concessions situation within the parks, decided to grant a monopoly to single entities to run the hotel and food services in each park. In response, the Curry Company and The Yosemite National Park Company (successor to DJ Desmond Park Company) were merged to create one larger concessions company, with Donald Tresidder from the Curry Company as the new head. As part of this reorganization, the newly formed Yosemite Park and Curry Company proposed a new luxury hotel. [17] Given the Curry Company's enormous success in the park, it was hoped that their involvement would help realize Mather's hotel. [16] While the National Park Service technically had complete control over the park's operations, the Yosemite Park and Curry Company began to have further influence. The monopoly obtained leasing privileges and accumulated both financial and political benefits. [18] What began as a simple campsite run by two Indiana schoolteachers ended up as the sole concessionaire for the park, [19] and Yosemite Park and Curry Company went on to build much of the park's service structures. [20]

Early years Edit

Donald Tresidder, as president of the Yosemite Park and Curry Company, oversaw the building of the Ahwahnee Hotel and several other major structures within the park. [21] [11] The name originally selected for the new hotel was "Yosemite All-Year-Round Hotel", but Tresidder changed it just prior to opening to reflect the site's native name. [10]

After the Ahwahnee was built, Tresidder had to overcome a number of financial obstacles. The cost of the hotel was nearly double the original estimate, and as fall approached, the number of guests began to dwindle. [22] Park officials became concerned and suggested closing the hotel for the winter. [23] To avoid this and to keep guests and income flowing, Tresidder centered the hotel around skiing and other winter activities. [24] [14] In order to keep the hotel filled throughout the holiday period, Tresidder also proposed Christmas entertainment. A banquet event was planned based on a story by Washington Irving about an eighteenth-century English Christmas at the home of the Squire of Bracebridge. The cast was filled with locals from the park, including photographer Ansel Adams. [25]

Trademark and intellectual property disputes Edit

In 1993 the National Park Service required a new concessioner to purchase the Yosemite Park and Curry Company from MCA Inc. and rename the business as a new company. [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] The new concession contract was awarded to Delaware North and required that it assume all the assets and liabilities of the previous operator and deed the real property to the National Park Service. [31]

In 2014, Delaware North lost a bid to renew its contract with the U.S. government to Yosemite Hospitality, LLC, a division of Aramark. [32] When it had originally taken over the concessionaries in 1993, Delaware North was contractually required to purchase, at fair market value, "the assets of the previous concessionaire, including its intellectual property, at a cost of $115 million in today's dollars." This property included trademarks that were registered by both Delaware North and its predecessors, including place names such as Ahwahnee, Badger Pass, Curry Village, Yosemite Lodge, the slogan "Go climb a rock", and even "Yosemite National Park" itself. [33] [34] The contract with Delaware North also required that if it were to be succeeded as concessionaire, the successor must acquire all of the assets of the previous operator at fair market value. The contract with Yosemite Hospitality stated that the company be required to purchase furniture, equipment, vehicles, and "other property", but did not explicitly include intellectual property. [35]

In 2015, Delaware North sued the NPS in the United States Court of Claims for breach of contract, claiming that the contract with Yosemite Hospitality excluded intellectual property from the asset purchasing clause, and demanded a payment for the property to be determined in court. Delaware North initially asserted the fair market value of its properties to be $51 million, [35] but the National Park Service estimated the value of the intangible assets at $3.5 million. [35] Delaware North claimed to have offered to temporarily license the trademarks while the dispute was unresolved and further claimed that the government did not respond to its offer. [33] [34] The dispute gained national attention after it was publicized in an issue of Outside magazine, which led to the Sierra Club issuing a petition requesting that Delaware North drop the lawsuit. [33] [34]

In January 2016, it was announced that due to a trademark dispute with outgoing concessionaire Delaware North, the Ahwahnee Hotel, as well as other historic hotels and lodges in the park, would be renamed. The Ahwahnee was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel effective March 1, 2016. [33] [34] The names were restored in 2019 upon settlement of the dispute. [6]

Architecture and interior design Edit

The Ahwahnee is a 150,000-square-foot (14,000 m 2 ) Y-shaped building [36] and has 97 hotel rooms, parlors, and suites, each accented with original Native American designs. 24 cottages bring the total number of rooms to 121. [37] The hotel was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who also designed the Zion Lodge, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge. It was made to feel rustic and match its surroundings, and the hotel is considered a masterpiece of "parkitecture". [10] The hotel is situated below the Royal Arches rock formation in a meadow area that previously served as a village for the native Miwoks and later as a stables complex known as Kenneyville. The site was chosen for its exposure to the sun, which allows for natural heating, and for its views of several Yosemite icons, including Glacier Point, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. [38]

The original concept art for the hotel depicted a building that was far grander than what would eventually be constructed. [39] Underwood's original design called for a massive six story structure, [10] but Tresidder and the board requested a hotel with only 100 guest rooms that would feel more like a luxurious country home than a hotel. The design was changed several times and at one point the hotel was to be no larger than three stories high, but eventually a more expansive layout was selected to accommodate the 100 guest rooms along with several public spaces. [40]

The interior design of the hotel also underwent several changes. Artist and interior designer Henry Lovins originally suggested a "Mayan revival" theme with Hispano-Moresque influences. [10] However, the husband and wife team of Professor Arthur Upham Pope and Dr. Phyllis Ackerman was selected over Lovins. [36] Drawing on their experience as art historians, Ackerman and Pope created a style that mixed Art Deco, Native American, Middle Eastern, and Arts and Crafts styles. [41] The interior work was carried out by a number of artisans under their supervision. Much of the decoration originally used was Persian, and Ackerman and Pope would go on to become consultants in Iran. [42]

Construction Edit

The hotel was constructed from 5,000 tons (4,500 t) of rough-cut granite, 1,000 tons (910 t) of steel, and 30,000 ft (9,100 m) of timber. [38] The steel came from the Union Iron Works in San Francisco and the timber came from land owned by the Curry family. [16] The apparent wood siding and structural timber on the hotel's exterior are actually formed from stained concrete poured into molds to simulate a wood pattern. [36] Concrete was chosen as the material for the outside "wood" elements to make the hotel fire resistant. Construction lasted eleven months and cost US$1,225,000 upon completion in July 1927. [38]

After construction was complete, the company began an advertising campaign to showcase the new amenities. [17] However, just before opening day, the director noticed that the porte-cochere planned for the west side of the building, where the Indian room now sits, would allow exhaust fumes from automobiles to invade the premises. A hastily designed Douglas Fir pole porte-cochere entry and parking area were erected on the east side of the hotel to correct this (the logs were replaced in the 1990s). This would be the first of many changes to the hotel. In 1928, a roof garden and dance hall were converted into a private apartment after the dance hall failed to draw an audience. In 1931, the load-bearing trusses in the dining room were reinforced after it was discovered that they were barely adequate to support the snow load on the roof and potential earthquake stresses. [36]

When Prohibition was rescinded in 1933, a private dining room was converted into the El Dorado Diggins bar, evocative of the California Gold Rush period. [36] 1943 saw the United States Navy take over the hotel for use as a convalescent hospital for war veterans. Some of the changes made to the hotel by the Navy included a repainting of the interior, the conversion of chauffeur and maid rooms into guest rooms, and the enclosure of the original porte-cochere. [36]

The 1950s, '60s, and '70s brought several upgrades to the hotel, including fire escapes, a fire alarm system, smoke detectors, and a sprinkler system, along with an outdoor swimming pool and automatic elevators. [36] From 2003 to 2004 the roof was overhauled, and virtually the entire slate-tile roof and copper gutter system were replaced. Martech Associates, Inc. of Millheim, Pennsylvania, designed the updated roof and served as the general contractor for the project. The project cost approximately US$4 million and is especially notable for its 97 percent material recycling rate. An article in the Los Angeles Times on March 13, 2009, stated that seismic retrofits may be needed for the Ahwahnee. [43]

The Grand Dining Room is 130 feet long and 51 feet wide, with a 34-foot ceiling supported with rock columns creating a cathedral-like atmosphere. [44] For fire safety reasons, the wood beams in the dining room are actually hollow and contain steel beams. The alcove window at the end of the room perfectly framed Yosemite Falls when the hotel was completed. [16] Although the dress code for the park is usually very casual, the Ahwahnee Dining Room used to require a jacket for men, but it later relaxed that tradition. Now collared shirts for men are allowed and women may wear either a dress or slacks and a blouse. [45]

The Grand Dining Room was originally designed to accommodate 1,000 guests, but it was eventually scaled down to seat 350 guests. [40] However, the enormous kitchen still reflects the original design concept and includes separate stations for baking and pastries. [46] High quality kitchen appliances were installed so the hotel could compete with fine dining establishments, and the facility was specifically constructed to handle special events and functions. [16]

Regular entertainment is provided at dinner by a pianist. Local Yosemite artist Dudley Kendall played piano in the dining room at the Ahwahnee for years and had his work displayed at the hotel. [47]

Bracebridge tradition Edit

The Bracebridge Dinner is a seven-course formal gathering [48] held in the Grand Dining Room and presented as a feast given by a Renaissance-era lord. This tradition began in 1927, the Ahwahnee's first year of operation, and was inspired by the fictional Squire Bracebridge's Yule celebration in a story from The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. by Washington Irving. Music and theatrical performances based on Irving's story accompany the introduction of each course. [49] Donald Tresidder conceived the idea for the event with his wife Mary Curry, their friends, and park staff.

Tresidder hired Garnet Holme for the event's first year to write the script and produce the event, [50] and Tresidder and his wife played the squire and his lady until Tresidder's death in 1948. Photographer Ansel Adams, who was working for the Yosemite Park and Curry Company [51] and was well known in Yosemite for his eccentricities, was asked to be a part of Tresidder's new winter celebrations in the elaborate, theatrical Christmas dinner with friends from the nearby Bohemian Club. Cast as the "Jester", Adams had asked the director for suggestions but was told to just act like a jester. Adams fortified himself with a few drinks and went on to climb the granite pillars to the rafters. [51] Adams played the Lord of Misrule for the first two years. When Holme died in 1929, Tresidder asked Adams to take over the direction of the show. Adams reworked the script considerably in 1931, creating the role of Major Domo, head of the household, for himself while his wife, Virginia Best Adams, played the housekeeper.

The dinner was not held during World War II, when the Ahwahnee was functioning as a naval hospital. When it resumed, the 1946 dinner introduced chorale concerts and more significant musical performances. Up until 1956 there was only a single performance, and then the number of performances gradually increased to a total of eight. Ansel Adams retired from the event in 1973, passing it on to Eugene Fulton, who had been part of the male chorus since 1934 and musical director since 1946. Fulton died unexpectedly on Christmas Eve in 1978 and his wife, Anna-Marie, and his daughter, Andrea, took over that year and produced the show. In 1979, Andrea Fulton assumed the role of director, which she holds to this day while also playing the role of housekeeper. [52]

In 2011, the Bracebridge dinner celebrated its 85th anniversary. [53] Travel + Leisure magazine named Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel as one of the best hotels in the United States for the holidays [54] for two consecutive years (2011 and 2012). [55] For much of its history, tickets to the event were difficult to obtain. [56] In prior years, the scarce tickets were awarded to applicants by lottery. In 1992, there were a reported 60,000 applications for the coveted 1,650 seats. [57] In 1995, the organizers of the traditional dinner accepted ticket cancellations because the park could have been shut down due to the national budget impasse. [58]

The Great Lounge is one of the main public spaces in the hotel. The large space spans the full width of the wing and nearly its full length (minus the solarium). There are two large fireplaces on either end of the room made from cut sandstone. On either side of the lounge is a series of floor-to-ceiling plate-glass picture windows ornamented at their tops with stained glass. [59] The individual border designs in the beams of the Great Lounge are by artist Jeanette Dryer Spencer. [46]


The formation was named "El Capitan" by the Mariposa Battalion when they explored the valley in 1851. El Capitán ("the captain", "the chief") was taken to be a loose Spanish translation of the local Native American name for the cliff, variously transcribed as "To-to-kon oo-lah" or "To-tock-ah-noo-lah" (Miwok language). [4] It is unclear if the Native American name referred to a specific tribal chief or simply meant "the chief" or "rock chief". [5]

Tutokanula (another spelling) is found in the story The Two Bears as retold by Robert D. San Souci. In this legend the translation means Measuring-Worm Rock.

The top of El Capitan can be reached by hiking out of Yosemite Valley on the trail next to Yosemite Falls, then proceeding west. For climbers, the challenge is to climb up the sheer granite face. There are many named climbing routes, all of them arduous, including Iron Hawk and Sea of Dreams.

El Capitan is composed almost entirely of a pale, coarse-grained granite approximately 100 MYA (million years old). In addition to El Capitan, this granite forms most of the rock features of the western portions of Yosemite Valley. A separate intrusion of igneous rock, the Taft Granite, forms the uppermost portions of the cliff face.

A third igneous rock, diorite, is present as dark-veined intrusions through both kinds of granite, especially prominent in the area known as the North America Wall. [6]

Along with most of the other rock formations of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan was carved by glacial action. Several periods of glaciation have occurred in the Sierra Nevada, but the Sherwin Glaciation, which lasted from approximately 1.3 MYA to 1 MYA, is considered to be responsible for the majority of the sculpting. The El Capitan Granite is relatively free of joints, and as a result the glacial ice did not erode the rock face as much as other, more jointed, rocks nearby. [7] Nonetheless, as with most of the rock forming Yosemite's features, El Capitan's granite is under enormous internal tension brought on by the compression experienced prior to the erosion that brought it to the surface. These forces contribute to the creation of features such as the Texas Flake, a large block of granite slowly detaching from the main rock face about halfway up the side of the cliff.

Between the two main faces, the Southwest (on the left when looking directly at the wall) and the Southeast, is a prow. While today there are numerous established routes on both faces, the most popular and most historically famous route is The Nose, which follows this prow.

Pioneering The Nose Edit

The Nose was climbed in 1958 by Warren Harding, [8] Wayne Merry and George Whitmore in 47 days using "siege" tactics: climbing in an expedition style using fixed ropes along the length of the route, linking established camps along the way. The fixed manila ropes allowed the climbers to ascend and descend from the ground up throughout the 18-month project, although they presented unique levels of danger as well, sometimes breaking due to the long exposure to cold temperatures. [9] The climbing team relied heavily on aid climbing, using rope, pitons and expansion bolts to make it to the summit. The second ascent of The Nose was in 1960 by Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, Chuck Pratt and Tom Frost, who took seven days in the first continuous climb of the route without siege tactics. [8] The first solo climb of The Nose was done by Tom Bauman in 1969. [10] The first ascent of The Nose in one day was accomplished in 1975 by John Long, Jim Bridwell and Billy Westbay.

Expansion of routes Edit

Efforts during the 1960s and 1970s explored the other faces of El Capitan, and many of the early routes are still popular today. Among the early classics are the Salathé Wall (1961, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt and Tom Frost) on the southwest face, [11] and the North America Wall (1964, Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt and Tom Frost) on the southeast face. [12] Also climbed in the 1960s are routes such as: Dihedral Wall (1962, Ed Cooper, Jim Baldwin and Glen Denny) West Buttress (1963, Layton Kor and Steve Roper) and Muir Wall (1965, Yvon Chouinard and TM Herbert). [13] Later ascents include: Wall of the Early Morning Light, now known as Dawn Wall, on the Southeast face, adjacent to the prow [14] (1970, Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell) [15] Zodiac (1972, Charlie Porter (solo)) The Shield (1972, Porter and Gary Bocarde) Mescalito (1973, Porter, Steve Sutton, Hugh Burton and C. Nelson) Pacific Ocean Wall (1975, Jim Bridwell, Billy Westbay, Jay Fiske and Fred East) Sea of Dreams (1978, Bridwell, Dale Bard and Dave Diegelman) and Jolly Roger (1979, Charles Cole and Steve Grossman). Today there are over 70 routes on "El Cap" of various difficulties and danger levels. [16] New routes continue to be established, usually consisting of additions to, or links between, existing routes.

Solo climbing Edit

After his successful solo ascent of the Leaning Tower, Royal Robbins turned his attention to the Yvon Chouinard-T.M. Herbert Muir Wall route, completing the first solo ascent of El Capitan during a 10-day push in 1968. The first solo ascents of El Capitan's four classic "siege" routes were accomplished by Thomas Bauman on The Nose in 1969 [17] Peter Hann on the Salathé Wall in 1972 [18] Robert Kayen on the Layton Kor-Steve Roper West Buttress route in 1982 [19] and Beverly Johnson on the Cooper-Baldwin-Denny Dihedral Wall route in 1978. [20] Other noteworthy early solo ascents were the solo first ascent of Cosmos by Jim Dunn in 1972, Zodiac by Charlie Porter in 1972 Tangerine Trip by David Mittel in 1985 and The Pacific Ocean Wall by Robert Slater in 1982. These ascents were long 7- to 14-day ordeals that required the solo climber lead each pitch, and then rappel, clean the climbing gear, reascend the lead rope, and haul equipment, food, and water using a second haul rope.

Ascents by women Edit

Beverly Johnson successfully ascended El Capitan, via the Nose route, with Dan Asay in June 1973. In September 1973, Beverly Johnson and Sibylle Hechtel were the first team of women to ascend El Capitan via the Triple Direct route, which takes the first ten pitches of the Salathe Wall, then continues up the middle portion of El Capitan via the Muir Wall, and finishes on the upper pitches of the Nose route. [21] In 1977, Molly Higgins and Barb Eastman climbed the Nose, to become the second party of women to climb El Capitan and the first to climb it via the Nose. [22] In 1978, Bev Johnson was the first woman to solo El Capitan by climbing the Dihedral Wall. In 1993, Lynn Hill established the first free Ascent of The Nose (IV 5.14a/b). [23] Hazel Findlay has made three free ascents of El Capitan, including the first female ascent of Golden Gate in 2011, the first female ascent of Pre-Muir Wall in 2012, and a three-day ascent of Freerider in 2013 and 'Salathe' in 2017. [24] On June 12, 2019, 10-year-old Selah Schneiter became the then-youngest person to scale El Capitan, via The Nose route. [25] [26] The oldest woman to scale El Capitan is Dierdre Wolownick, mother to Alex Honnold, who was 66 at the time of her climb. [27] On November 4, 2020, American Emily Harrington became the fourth woman to free climb El Capitan in a single day and the fourth person (and first woman) to have done so via the route Golden Gate. [28]

Free climbing Edit

As it became clear that any non-crumbling face could be conquered with sufficient perseverance and bolt-hole drilling, some climbers began searching for El Cap routes that could be climbed either free or with minimal aid. The West Face route was free climbed in 1979 by Ray Jardine and Bill Price but despite numerous efforts by Jardine and others, The Nose resisted free attempts for another fourteen years. The first free ascent of a main El Cap route, though, was not The Nose, but Salathé Wall. Todd Skinner and Paul Piana made the first free ascent over 9 days in 1988, after 30 days of working the route (graded 5.13b on the Yosemite Decimal System). [29] The Nose was the second major route to be freeclimbed. Two pitches on The Nose blocked efforts to free the route: the "Great Roof" graded 5.13c and "Changing Corners" graded 5.14a/b. In 1993, Lynn Hill came close to freeing The Nose, making it past the Great Roof and up to Camp VI without falling, stopped only on Changing Corners by a piton jammed in a critical finger hold. [9] After removing the piton she re-climbed the route from the ground. After 4 days of climbing, Hill reached the summit, making her the first person to free climb The Nose. A year later, Hill returned to free climb The Nose in a day, this time reaching the summit in just 23 hours and setting a new standard for free climbing on "El Cap." [9]

The Nose saw a second free ascent in 1998, when Scott Burke summitted after 261 days of effort. [30] On October 14, 2005, Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden, then husband and wife, became the third and fourth people (and the first couple) to free climb The Nose. They took four days on the ascent, swapping leads with each climber free climbing each pitch, either leading or following. [31] Two days later, Caldwell returned to free climb The Nose in less than 12 hours. [32] Caldwell returned two weeks later to free climb El Cap twice in a day, completing The Nose with Rodden, then descending and leading Freerider in a combined time of 23 hours 23 minutes. [33]

On January 14, 2015, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed the first free climb of the Dawn Wall after 19 days, one of the hardest climbs in the world. [34] [35] In November 2016, Czech climber Adam Ondra free climbed the Dawn Wall in 8 days. [36]

In 2016, Pete Whittaker became the first person to make an all-free rope solo ascent–which means on every pitch one free climbs to an anchor, abseils to retrieve gears, and then jumars up again to the high point–of El Capitan's Freerider in one day. He left the ground at 3:02 pm on November 11 and finished at 11:08 am on November 12–spending total 20 hours and 6 minutes. [37] [38]

On June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold completed the first free solo climb of El Capitan. [39] He ascended the Freerider line in 3 hours and 56 minutes, beginning at 5:32 am PDT and reaching the peak at 9:28 am PDT. The climb was filmed for the 2018 documentary Free Solo.

Speed climbing Edit

The speed climbing record for the Nose has changed hands several times in the past few years. The current sub-two-hour record of 1:58:07 [40] was set on June 6, 2018, by Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell after two other record-breaking climbs in the days before.

Mayan Smith-Gobat and Libby Sauter broke the speed record for an all-women team with a time of 4:43 on October 23, 2014. [41]

Climb photography Edit

Climbers Tommy Caldwell, Lynn Hill, and Alex Honnold photographed their El Capitan climbs using 360 degree spherical VR photography. The photographs were taken by them or by other photographers during the climbs. [42] [43] [44]

In January 2015, climbers Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell photographed their free climb of the Dawn Wall. [45]

Climb fatalities Edit

Over thirty fatalities have been recorded between 1905 and 2018 while climbing El Capitan, including seasoned climbers. Critics blame a recent increase of fatalities (five deaths from 2013 to 2018) in part on increased competition around timed ascents, social media fame, and "competing for deals with equipment manufacturers or advertisers". [46]

El Capitan has a controversial history regarding BASE jumping, and the National Park Service has enacted criminal regulations which prohibit the practice. Michael Pelkey and Brian Schubert made the first BASE jump from El Capitan on July 24, 1966. Both men sustained broken bones from the jump. During the 1970s, with better equipment and training, many BASE jumpers made successful jumps from El Capitan. In 1980 the National Park Service experimented with issuing BASE-jumping permits. The first permitted BASE jump was performed on August 4, 1980, by Dean Westgaard of Laguna Beach. [47] These legal jumps resulted in no major injuries or fatalities. After a trial lasting only ten weeks, the National Park Service ceased issuing permits and effectively shut down all BASE jumping on El Capitan. [48] On October 22, 1999, BASE jumper and stuntwoman Jan Davis died in a jump conducted as part of a protest event involving five jumpers. The event was intended to protest the death of Frank Gambalie, [49] who had landed safely but drowned while fleeing park rangers, and to demonstrate the assertion that BASE jumping could be performed safely. [50]

El Capitan is featured on a United States quarter dollar coin minted in 2010 as part of the America the Beautiful Quarters series. [51]

The Ahwahneechees: A Story of the Yosemite Indians (1966) by John W. Bingaman

The beginnings of human life in the Yosemite Valley are shrouded in inpenetrable mystery. As we seek to trace back the history of the people who were occupying the region when white men entered its fastness, we come almost immediately into the realm of myth and legend, from which it is impossible to extract any element of attested fact. But from the Indian legends, filtered through the imagination of the white folk, we can draw out a fairly consistent story which, in the absence of authentic history, may serve as an introduction.

From time immemorial there had dwelt in the fair Valley of Ahwahnee the powerful tribe of the Ahwahneechees. To this place they believed the Great Spirit had led them from their original home in the far distant west. In their new, high walled home the Ahwahneechees were secure from attack, and their warlike prowess made them feared and respected by all the other tribes of the mountains. But at length an evil time came upon them, wars and a fearful pestilence decimated the tribe. The Valley was held to be accursed, and the feeble remnants of its inhabitants fled to their neighbors or to the wild tribes across the mountains. For many years the Valley was deserted.

But a certain noble youth of the tribe, who had gone among the Monos, married a maiden of that tribe, and to this pair a son was born, who was named Teneiya. Now Teneiya, when he had grown to man&rsquos estate, remembered what he had heard about the home of his fathers. So he gathered together the remnants of the tribe, and returned with them to the valley of Ahwahnee and they prospered, and once more became powerful.

One day it happened that a young brave, going to the Lake of the Sleeping Water to spear fish, was met by a monster grizzly bear, and a terrific battle ensued, from which the Indian emerged victorious, though grievously wounded.

After this the young chief was called Yosemite, or the large grizzly bear, and finally the name came to be applied to the whole tribe. [Editor&rsquos note: For the correct origin of the word Yosemite see &ldquoOrigin of the Word Yosemite.&rdquo&mdashDEA]

Thus far the legend. But with Teneiya we come to a historical personage, the last chief of the Yosemites. He was ruling over the tribe. when the white men came to the Valley.

When asked about the name Yosemite he is reported to have said that when he was a young chief this name had been selected for the tribe, because they occupied the mountains and valleys which were the favorite resort of the grizzly bear, and because those neighboring Indians who had bestowed it were afraid of the grizzlies, and feared his band.

Ethnologically the natives of the Yosemite Valley belonged to the Mariposa dialect group of the southern Sierra Miwok Indians, and the ethnologists assure us that the Indian name for the valley was, and still is Awani (Ahwahnee), which was the name of the principal village in the valley, and by extension, the name of the people also. The ending, tei or chee, signifying location or origin, is sometimes added to Awani or Ahwahnee, when speaking of the people. The name Yosemite is simply a corruption of the term which the southern Miwoks applied to any species of bear, and particularly to the grizzly, and was given to the valley, as we shall see, because the white people who first came in contact with its native inhabitants called them Yosemites.

Teneiya was recognized by the Mono tribe as one of their numbers, as he was born and lived among them until his ambition made him a leader, and founder of the Pai-ute colony in Ahwahnee. His history and warlike exploits formed a part of the traditionary lore of the Monos. They were proud of his success, and boasted of his descent from their tribe, although Teneiya himself claimed that his father was a Chief of the independent Yosemite people, whose ancestors were of a different tribe. Teneiya had, by his cunning and sagacity in managing the deserters from other tribes who had sought his protection, maintained a reputation as a chief whose leadership was never disputed by his followers, and who was the envy of the leaders of other tribes. After his subjugation by the whites, he was deserted by his followers, and his supremacy was no longer acknowledged by the neighboring tribes, who had feared rather than respected him, or the people of his band.

Many years ago the old chief said, "The Ahwahneechees had been a large and powerful tribe, but by means of wars, and fatal black sickness, nearly all had been destroyed, and the survivors of the band fled from the valley, and joined other tribes."

For years afterwards this locality was uninhabited, but finally Teneiya, who as mentioned, claimed to be descended from an Ahwahneechee chief, left the Monos where he had been born and brought up, and gathering some of his father&rsquos old tribe around him, visited the valley, and claimed it as the birthright of his people. He then became the founder of a new tribe or band, which received the name "Yosemite."


The discovery of gold, February 2, 1848, by James Marshall, near Coloma on the American River, brought a stampede of gold seekers to California, and there came about a great change with the Indians. A serious situation was thrust upon the Indian tribes in and about Yosemite Valley, when, on the discovery of gold, miners by the thousands flocked into California. Miners staked their claims on the Indian&rsquos territory, cut his acorn trees for fuel, hunted his game for food, destroyed his bulbous roots in digging for gold, invaded his family, and taking young Indian women, willing or not, for servants and wives.

Suffering from loss of food and territory the Indians made raids on the whites, taking what they could from the trading posts, stealing horses, burning houses, even murdering, then fleeing to the mountains. A deadly hate was engendered. The Indian would drive the last miner from his territory. The whites determined to subjugate the Indians, and kill all of them if necessary.

INDIAN WAR OF 1850 - 1851

When the white men flocked into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in search of gold, it was not long before difficulties arose with the Indians. What happened here was the same thing that had happened everywhere on the frontier, the red man had to give way to the white but he did not do so without a struggle. This struggle, it is true, was short, since the California Indians were not capable of maintaining a long contest. The war in the Mariposa country was only one episode in the red man&rsquos fight which we need to consider in this connection.

In the beginning of 1850, James D. Savage had a trading post and mining camp on the Merced River some 20 miles below the Yosemite Valley, which at that time was known to only a few whites. During the spring of that year Indians supposedly belonging to the tribe known as the Yosemites made an attack on this post. They were driven off, but Savage thought it best to abandon the place and remove his store to Mariposa Creek. He also established a branch post on the Fresno River.

Savage had several Indian wives, and obtained a really remarkable influence over the Indian tribes with which he was connected. But there were malcontents among them, and the tribes in the mountains were suspicious and easily incited to acts of hostility.

On December 17, 1850, Savage&rsquos Indians deserted the Mariposa camp, and on the same or the following day his post on the Fresno was attacked, and two of the three men there present were killed. Several other similar outrages occurred Soon thereafter, which started the beginning of a general Indian war.


Under these circumstances the white settlers took prompt action to protect themselves. Under the leadership of Sheriff James Burney and James D. Savage, a volunteer company was formed, January 6, 1851, with Burney in command. This force had several indecisive skirmishes with the Indians. Meanwhile, the governor had been appealed to, and he immediat[e]ly authorized Sheriff Burney to call out 200 militiamen, and organize a battalion for service as the emergency might demand.

Under this authorization the Mariposa Battalion was formed, February 10, at Savage&rsquos partially ruined store on Mariposa Creek. Savage was elected major, Burney having declined to be a candidate for the position. Three companies were organized under command of Captains John J. Kuykendall, John Bowling, and William Dill. Headquarters were established on Mariposa Creek, and here the battalion was drilled in preparation for the campaign, and occasional scouting forays were made into the enemy&rsquos country.


At the same time that Governor McDougal issued his order for the calling out of the militia he appealed for cooperation to the United States Indian Commissioners, McKee, Barbour, and Wozencraft, who had just arrived in California with instructions to make treaties with the Indian tribes. It was agreed that the commissioners would go at once to the affected region and endeavor to treat with the hostile tribes. If negotiations failed, force would be used to bring the Indians to terms.

The commissioners arrived at the Mariposa camp about the 1st of March, and immediately sent out runners inviting the various tribes to come in and have a talk. A meeting was arranged for the 9th of March, and on the 19th, a treaty was made with six tribes, which were at once removed to a reservation between the Merced and the Tuolumne rivers. The commissioners then went on to talk with the tribes south of the Merced River and left part of the volunteer battalion to deal with the Indians who had refused to -enter into the treaty.

Among the tribes which had agreed to come in to talk with the commissioners was one which the latter called the "Yosemetos," and which Adam Johnson, the Indian agent, refers to as the "Yosemite." This tribe had failed to appear, and reports brought in by friendly Indians indicated that they had no intention of coming in. It was, therefore, deemed necessary to send a military force after them.

On the evening of March 19, Major Savage set out with the companies of Captains Bowling and Dill. On the morning of the 22nd, a Nuchu rancheria on the South Fork of the Merced River was surprised and captured without a fight. At this point a camp was established, and messengers were sent ahead to the Yosemites with a request that they come into camp. Next day the old chief Teneiya came in alone, and after an interview with Savage promised that if allowed to return to his people he would bring them in. He was allowed to go. The next day he came back and said his people would soon come to camp. The day passed and no Indians appeared. Major Savage, growing impatient, set out on the morning of March 25, with a part of his command, taking the old chief along with him as guide. After a little while they met a company of seventy-two Indians on the trail, and Teneiya said that these were all of his people except some who had gone over the mountains, Savage replied, "There are but few of your people here, your tribe is large, I am going to your village to see your people, who will not come with you. They will come with me if I find them. "


Teneiya was allowed to go to the camp on the South Fork with his people, but Savage took one of his young braves as a guide, and continued his march toward the north. Within a short time the company came to old Inspiration Point, and the full view of the valley was presented to their gaze. It must be confessed, however, that the scenic wonder of the valley made very slight impression on these rough men of action, and without much ado they hastened down the trail and camped for the night on the south side of the Merced River, a little below El Capitan. The day of Savage&rsquos discovery was March 25, 1851.

As the tired campaigners sat about the camp fire that night the events of the day were passed in review, and the question arose of giving a name to the valley which they had found. Dr. L. H. Bunnell, upon whom the scenes and events of this campaign made a deeper impression than upon any of the others, suggested the appropriateness of naming it after the aborigines who dwelt there. The suggestion was agreed to after some good natured banter, and since the white men called these Indians Yosemites the name Yosemite was given to the valley, rather than the more melodious Indian name Awani (Ahwahnee) which already belonged to it.

The next day was spent in a search of the valley, but no Indians were found save an ancient squaw who was too old and decrepit to make her escape. The villages had been deserted. Much corn, nuts, seeds, and grass were stored in caches. The valley was thoroughly explored by the volunteers. The search proved fruitless, and as the supplies were running low, it was decided to abandon the chase, and return to the camp on the South Fork.

From there the Indians who had been gathered together were started toward the commissioners camp on the Fresno River, but before they arrived at their destination the negligence of the guard permitted them to escape, and they returned to their mountain home. On the 29th of April, the commissioners made a treaty with 16 tribes of Indians, and placed them on a reservation.


A second expedition against the Yosemites was sent out to bring the Old Chief to terms. May 1851, when this expedition entered the valley, it was seen that a few huts had been rebuilt, and there was evidence that Indians had been living in them, though not one was to be found. At length, five Indians were discovered among rocks and trees, but these were soon captured.

Three of these Indians were sons of Chief Teneiya, the other two were young braves. One of the sons was sent to tell Teneiya that he and his people would be safe if they would come in and make peace with the white men. Teneiya refused to come in, he insisted on staying in the mountains. But soon the scouts brought Teneiya in, where he learned of the death of his sons, who were shot by the soldiers for trying to escape. Some days later Teneiya attempted to escape but was caught before he plunged into the river. Angry, he cried out to the Captain, "Kill me, yes kill me, as you killed my people."

With several scouts, and Teneiya as guide, the Captain went in search of the Yosemites who he knew were not far away. When well up Tenaya Canyon, one of the scouts pointed to a cloud of smoke, which revealed an Indian Village about two miles away on the banks of a beautiful lake. The inhabitants were soon captured thirty-five were taken prisoners, all of whom belonged to Teneiya&rsquos family, among them his four squaws. They had fled to the mountains without food or clothing, and were worn out. They had hoped to go to the Monos. As the Soldiers left the lake they named it "Lake Tenaya" though the Chief protested, "It has a name, we call it Py-we-ack, or Lake of the Shining Rocks." And from here the captives were taken to the Fresno Reservation, where they arrived about June 10, 1851.

Teneiya and his people soon tired of the reservation and restrictions. All that had made life interesting and joyous was gone, and they longed for the mountain huts without walls, and their former freedom to hunt food. Life was humiliating to the old chief, and after a few months. he begged to return to his territory, and gave his pledge. He was allowed to go and take his family with him. With this remnant Teneiya returned to his beloved and secluded home, Ahwahnee.


On May 20, 1852, a party of eight prospectors started from Coarse Gold Gulch on a trip to the upper waters of the Merced River. They had just entered the Yosemite Valley when they were set upon by a band of Indians, and two of them, named Rose and Shurborn, were killed, and a third badly wounded. The others got away, and after enduring great hardships arrived again at Coarse Gold Gulch on the 2nd of June. The same day about 30 or 40 miners set out to punish the treacherous Yosemites. This party found and buried the bodies of the murdered men, but were compelled to return without punishing the perpetrators of the deed.

The commander at Fort Miller having been informed of these events, sent a detachment of regular soldiers under Lieut. Moore, with scouts and guides, at once into the mountains. On arriving in the Yosemite Valley this expedition surprised and captured five Indians wearing or carrying clothing belonging to the murdered men. They were summarily shot. The remainder of the Yosemites with their old chief Teneiya made their escape, and fled over the mountains into the Mono country. The soldiers pursued but were unable to catch any of them. The party lost a few horses, killed by the Indians. They explored the region about Mono Lake, discovered some gold deposits, and then returned to the fort on the San Joaquin by a route that led south of the Yosemite Valley. This expedition was made in June and July 1852.


Teneiya and his little band stayed with the Monos until the autumn of 1853, when they returned to Yosemite Valley. They built their huts in the east end of the Valley. They obtained acorns from the oak trees, and hunted game it was a good life in the secluded valley of Ahwahnee.

The Piutes and Monos had made successful raids on ranches and had captured a number of horses. Several of Teneiya&rsquos men went on a foraging expedition, and knowing it was safer to rob their allies than risk a raid on the whites, they succeeded in stealing a few horses from the Monos. In the Valley they felt secure, and after a few days had a feast of horse flesh. The Indians gorged themselves, and on crammed stomachs, slept soundly. The Monos, revengeful and warlike, pounced upon them, and before they could rally for the fight they dealt blows of death to the Yosemites, whom they had so recently fed and sheltered. The young chief of the Monos hurled a rock at old chief Teneiya whose skull was crushed by the blow. More rocks were hurled, and the last chief of the Yosemites lay stoned to death in his Ahwahnee. All but eight of Teneiya&rsquos young braves were killed. These made their escape through the canyon below. The women and children were made captives, and taken across the mountains. The once powerful cunning tribe of the Yosemite Indians was all but wiped out. Teneiya was the last chief of his people. He was killed by the chief of the Monos in retribution for a crime against the Mono&rsquos hospitality.

Teneiya&rsquos band was attached to this valley as a home. The instinctive attraction that an Indian has for his place of nativity is incomprehensible it is more than a religious sentiment, it is a passion. Here they lived as in an earthly paradise, engaged in a grand hunt or festival, offered up religious sacrifices, and awakened the valley with echoes of their vociferous orations.


When we look back over the spectacle of Indian annihilation, the ruthless advance of the frontier crushing out the lives of Indians on every hand, though sacrificing a lot of white blood to achieve this end, we are moved to ask "Did the Indians live in vain? Was all that they did, struggled for, fought for, for ten thousand years to be obliterated in three centuries,? Was it misplaced charity on the part of the victors to put their helpless victims on reservations, to be wasted by disease, hunger, and poverty, and later do everything possible to keep them alive merely to live as minorities in our midst?"

These and many other questions may rise to disturb our peace of mind, but there are no satisfactory answers. We can, however, look at the record to see what the Indian achieved, and what the world took from him without giving much in return.

This Day in History: 10/01/1980 - Yosemite Established - HISTORY

Historical events for the month of October, by day:

1 Yosemite National Park was established. (1890)

1 The Television series "The Twilight Zone" premiered (1959)

1 Walt Disney World opened in Orlando, Florida (1971)

2 Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schultz first appeared in newspapers (1950)

3 Captain Kangaroo premieres on television. (1955)

3 The "Mickey Mouse Club" premieres on television. (1955)

3 Frank Robinson becomes major leagues baseball's first black manager for the Cleveland Indians. (1974)

4 The Orient Express train takes off on its first trip from Paris to Istanbul. (1883)

4 Founder Julian Assange launches WikiLeaks. (2006)

5 The World Series was broadcast on radio for the first time (1921)

6 Thomas Edison showed the 1st motion picture (1889)

6 The first Physician's Assistants graduate from Duke University (1967)

6 "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" premieres on television. (2000)

7 "Cats" premieres on Broadway, the second longest running play ever. (1982)

8 The Great Chicago Fire levels 3 1/2 square miles of the city. According to legend, it was started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow. (1871)

9 The general public was first admitted into the Washington Monument. (1888)

9 Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus performs its last show, a victim of falling attendance, animal rights protests, and high operating cost. (2018)

10 Griswald Lorillard of Tuxedo Park, NY cuts the tails off a tailcoat, creating the first tuxedo. (1886)

10 Spiro Agnew becomes just the second person to resign as Vice President of the United States. Pleaded no contest to income tax evasion(1973)

11 Saturday Night Live premieres on television. (1975)

11 Space Shuttle Challenger astronaut Kathryn Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in space. (1984)

12 The very first Oktoberfest is held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany (1810)

13 The cornerstone was laid for the Whitehouse. (1792)

13 The U.S. Continental Navy was created. See Navy Day

14 Martin Luther King Jr was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1964)

15 "I Love Lucy Show" premiered on television. (1951)

15 U.S. Department of Transportation was created (1966)

16 Marie Antoinette was guillotined for treason. (1793)

16 Cuban Missile crisis begins. (1962)

17 Mobster Al Capone was convicted of income tax evasion. (1931)

18 The United States purchased the territory of Alaska from Russia for $7.2M. What a deal that was!! (1867)

19 The Senate passed a bill making Martin Luther King's Birthday a national holiday. (1983)

19 The Revolutionary War ended. (1781)

21 "Old Ironsides", the USS Constitution was launched in Boston, MA. (1797)

21 Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric lamp. (1879)

23 25,000 women marched in New York City demanding the right to vote. (1915)

24 Black Thursday stock market panic. Investors panicked and dumped over 13 million shares of stock. The market then rallied for a few days before the crash on October 29. (1929)

24 The United Nations came into existence. (1945)

24 Anna Edison Taylor is the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. (1901)

25 U.S. forces invade Grenada. (1983)

26 The Erie Canal opens, connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River. (1825)

26 The "Gunfight at the OK Corral" occurs. Wyatt Earp, his two brothers, and "Doc" Holliday, have a shootout with the Ike Clanton gang. (1881)

26 The Erie Canal opens, connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River to commercial shipping. It is the first manmade waterway . (1825)

27 President Theodore Roosevelt's birthday. (1858) The "Teddy bear" was named after him.

28 Harvard University is founded in Cambridge, MA. (1636)

28 France presents the U.S. with the statute of Liberty. (1886)

28 The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is completed. It was built as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. (1965)

29 The New York Stock Exchange crashed on what became known as "Black Tuesday", starting the Great Depression. Prices plummeted and billions of dollars were lost. (1929)

29 The Internet is created when the first bits and bytes of data are sent between computers at UCLA and Stanford Research Institute.(1969)

30 Orson Wells' "War of the Worlds" is broadcast on the radio, sparking panic as listeners believed the news bulletins about a Martian invasion. (1938)

31 Magician Harry Houdini dies from complications of a ruptured appendix. (1926)

31 Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi was assassinated. (1984)

Holiday Insights , where every day is a holiday, a bizarre or wacky day, an observance, or a special event. Join us in the daily calendar fun each and every day of the year.

Did You Know? There are literally thousands of daily holidays, special events and observances, more than one for every day of the year. Many of these holidays are new. More holidays are being created on a regular basis. At Holiday Insights, we take great efforts to thoroughly research and document the details of each one, as completely and accurately as possible.

Note: If you are using the dates or historical information on our site for calendar or other publishing purposes, we recommend you double check with other sources.

Watch the video: Climbing Yosemite 1986 (July 2022).


  1. Molmaran


  2. Faekazahn

    rarely .. .. We can say this exception: i)

  3. David

    very helpful thinking

  4. Hamlett

    I must tell you this is a false path.

  5. Umayr

    Notable topic

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