Children Tooled by Rangers in YNP


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San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 24, 2013 - 02:29pm PT
So, while I hate to be a purveyor of any kind of negativity, I must relate this story from last weekend, as venting may help cool down my otherwise white hot anger at the incident in question...

We finished climbing in scorching heat at around 2 pm last Saturday and went down to the El Cap Bridge to cool ourselves with an ice cold dip in the Merced.

After swimming and checking the depth below the bridge, I went up to the bridge and as I was about to climb over the railing and jump from the big wood pylons into the river, three rangers approached and asked me if I was about to jump. I asked, 'Why, is it against the rules.' To which one the rangers angrily replied, 'It's illegal! Have you already been jumping off?' I said, 'Well not to incriminate myself, but while I haven't jumped off yet today I've been doing so frequently for years and if its illegal a sign ought to be posted to that effect.' This resulted in him stepping up and getting into my face and telling me not to even think about doing it ever again. I apologized and said I'd follow that directive to which he stuck a big thumbs-up inches from my face. As an ex-Division One College Wrestler and law abiding citizen, this really got me steaming mad and I'm not going to lie...I almost lunged at the guy. A momentary fantasy of me knocking all three ranger's off the bridge and into the water flickered through my mind. But of course, I did not do this, nor would I ever assault an LEO or anyone else for that matter..

I decided to walk back down and rejoin my companions and just cool off. Moments later however, the rangers came down along the bank and yanking a rope swing out of the hands of an 11 year old, cut the cord leaving the remainder of the rope as mank hanging from the tree far out of reach.

They then begin to interrogate a half dozen or so kids whose ages ranged from approximately 8-12, demanding to know who had been jumping from the bridge and using the rope swing.

The swing was approximately 4 feet above 5-8 feet deep water with no dangerous impediments or other inherent risks.

The kids were shocked and the sad and confused looks on their faces perfectly captured the shock and disgust any normal adult would have at such as scene.

The Rangers seemed to send the following message to the children present:

1) It's not ok to recreate in nature, especially not in our National Parks. To avoid censure or trouble, its better to just go back to playing video games, watching TV, or playing with the smart phones they are all too young to have.

2) It's ok to trad climb, do A4 walls, hike up the Half Dome cables, and go scrambling up Class 3 and 4 gullies. But it is not ok to assess the dangers of swimming and jumping or swinging into the Merced River.

3) It's ok for Rangers to adopt a hostile attitude with children when the children don't know what they are doing is wrong.

4) It's ok for Rangers to question children without a legal guardian present.

I mean...what kind of adult, what kind of person, becomes a Park Ranger in the crown jewel of the Park system only to:

a) harass children and refuse to allow them to recreate and have fun in a natural setting
b) leave un-usable mank hanging from a tree (effectively turning something useful into litter and then leaving the someone who has participated in three Facelift's and who always picks up garbage as I find it along trails, at the base of climbs, etc I find that act alone to be despicable. That some a-hole would lecture me and act condescending that I'd even think to jump into the Merced when its 105 degrees out and then that same a-hole turns around and leaves garbage in the Park is beyond comprehension!)

Anyway, sorry for the long rant...but that event really was one of the least productive citizen/Ranger interactions and also one of the biggest acts of cowardice I've ever seen. Shame on those three. I hope they felt really big and tough after harassing those kids. At least that way, somebody would have gotten something out of it...


Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:33pm PT
Ya know, these 'tooled by Rangers' threads have become about as ubiquitous as 'Dogs at the Crags' threads lately.

Not agreeing or disagreeing...just sayin'.

Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:36pm PT

Big Wall climber
san jose, ca
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
I've seen this at the bridge as well.....very lame. Man I hate tool rangers.

The thing is they don't have to be this way either...

I was unpacking my haul bag in the Ahwahnee parking lot after climbing the column (with my shirt off and looking pretty dirty after a wall) and a ranger slowly pulled up behind me in his car. I was thinking great here we go again. He stopped, paused for a second, looked at me and said, "how did it go". I said, "awesome". He smiled said cool and then drove away.... So there is at least one nice ranger in YNP.
Dave Kos

Social climber
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:43pm PT
that event really was one of the least productive citizen/Ranger interactions

I've seen the "productivity" of citizen/Ranger interactions fall off a cliff in recent years.

My kids actually fear park rangers because of toolings they've witnessed firsthand (they were CA state park rangers, which are generally worse then the feds, IMO.)

I'd like to tell my kids that their fears are unwarranted, but that would be dishonest.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:46pm PT
I don't care for these kinds of attitudes from a LEO...however...

Especially in a place like YNP, one must understand that the LEO's do nothing but warn tourons over and Over and OVER again about the dangers...AND...they assist in LOTS of injuries and body recoveries.

All of that gets old....and can certainly lead to a rotten attitude. Granted, that is very unprofessional, but...given what they take EVERY day...I will ALWAYS give them the benefit of the doubt...and humble myself.

Jul 24, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
What a bummer. Any chance you know their names? I would contact the NPS to make a complaint.

p.s. Cragman- I disagree with you. Hating your job (or parts of it) is no excuse for being an excessive jerk.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:50pm PT
Report them. Simple as that.

There is a lot going wrong with the current training of LEO's in this country and it seems to be systemic and coordinated.

Confrontational and bullying seems to be standard procedure. Perhaps some study was done indicating that this provided safety for the LEO and now it's being taught to all the newbies. It's clearly a training issue at this point.

Again I say take the time to report them. Reports go on their record and those records are reviewed. Eventually if enough negative reports compile the officer finds himself in a corrective situation.

Cragman it used to be that these types of incidents were unusual and generally due to burnout. Now it seems to me to be commonplace and due to training. You have any input on changes in training procedure lately?

Lotsa odd training they get. Most people simply have no idea what they are up against when conversing with LEO's.. little tricks and lying are part of the toolbag of the tool. I noticed one after a couple stops in one month where the officers told me my eyes were dialated..huh wth? The second time I heard the same bs out of the LEO's mouth I simply told him .. no they aren't. I was onto their little game.

Folks remember you are always going up against a trained adversary when confronted by LEO's. Be polite and know your rights and politely insist on them.

Social climber
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:57pm PT
Fook that!

"one must understand that the LEO's do nothing but warn tourons over and Over and OVER again about the dangers...AND...they assist in LOTS of injuries and body recoveries. All of that gets old....and can certainly lead to a rotten attitude."

Ya, if you can't deal with the job and be PROFESSIONAL get a new job.
There is NO excuse acceptable for the attitude in any NPA or by any form of LEO. As in none.
Dave Kos

Social climber
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:58pm PT
one must understand that the LEO's do nothing but warn tourons over and Over and OVER again

It's their JOB.

Just about every job consists of doing less-than-fun things over and over again. That's why it's called WORK.

It's not a valid reason to act like a jerk.


Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
Jul 24, 2013 - 02:59pm PT
i usually just tell them something
absurd and completely off topic,

"hey did you know that a
fresh-slight-fuzzed peach skin
protects its sweet fruit
with about the same tensile capacity
as a hymen protects a virgin cavity?"

they usually are quite taken back,
too removed and suprised to harness anger.
a moment or so of silence,
and then a small lecture ensues.

it's worked for me a few times
with LEO's (a chp came rippin into
my driveway accusing me of hit and run;
a ranger tooled my buddy and i for cutting
the switchbacks on the halfdome walkoff,
and once in the sheriff's car
after i got the shite kicked out of me
by some coked out heads.)

use my advice at your own risk.

San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 24, 2013 - 03:06pm PT
Cragman - I'm 99% of the time right there with you. I empathize a great deal with NPS personnel and their need to balance a good visitor experience with keeping people safe in what is for the most part an environment that many visitors are unused to...where there is a lot of dangerous 'hey-we-are-at-Disneyland' behavior. And while it's unclear from my above post, I was very respectful, calm, and polite in my interaction with the Rangers. Even when they escalated the tone of our discussion I maintained perfectly measured speech, used the word 'sir' a number of times, and kept an un-threatening stance.

I have a great deal of respect for LEOs and Rangers. Having grown up in Baltimore city, I came to see LEOs as allies and not people to disrespect or shy away from.

That's why I'm particularly disheartened by this event. It instills an us against them mentality when it really doesn't need to be that way.

If they had approached me - but more importantly, those children - with a sincere conversational tone and briefly pointed out the dangers of jumping off the bridge or using the rope swing, and then climbed up and removed the cord, that would be one thing. There would be a feeling of community. And while the children would have still been disappointed they wouldn't have felt abused or attacked.

I think our Parks are one of the places that best inculcate a sense of community in America's citizens. Making friends in the mountains with people from all over who have different levels of experience in nature while enjoying the shared resource of our protected lands is one of the reasons I keep going back week after week, year after year(that and perfect splitter cracks!) How many people who wouldn't give a stranger the time of day in a city head out to the hills and are quick to strike up conversation with fellow visitors - sharing information, providing directions, pointing out a particularly beautiful view, etc, etc, etc. The actions this weekend that were observed at the El Cap Bridge create an environment of division, fear, disrespect, etc. Such an unnecessary shame...

Trad climber
greater Boss Angeles area
Jul 24, 2013 - 03:08pm PT
The County Sheriff should patrol the parks, and leave the rangers to help the tourists identify trees and sh#t.

There's obviously nowhere near enough actual crime in the parks to warrant a full-time LEO presence, if the rangers have enough spare time to triple-team a kid on a tree swing.

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jul 24, 2013 - 03:10pm PT
Great post, Al_Smith...and I am in agreement with you totally.

Reporting them would be great.

For me personally, I'd just move on. Every group, including climbers (even some here on ST, believe it or not!!!), has what I call a "jerk factor".

Knowing that, for me it's simply easier to just move along.

Boulder climber
Sylvan Grove
Jul 24, 2013 - 03:18pm PT

Dave Kos

Social climber
Jul 24, 2013 - 03:19pm PT
Whenever a cop or ranger walks toward you and says "how's it going?" it's a given that they don't give a rat's ass about how it's going.

Sure, there are jerks everywhere, but there's something particularly distasteful about jerks who make their living with money taken from my paycheck.
Ian Jewell

Jul 24, 2013 - 03:21pm PT
maybe they were short staffed in the valley that day because most of the shift on duty were chasing paragliders into the central valley

Social climber
The internet
Jul 24, 2013 - 03:28pm PT
Tools will be tools. Wait for the interruption to leave, then continue with your swimming.

Trad climber
Nevada City
Jul 24, 2013 - 03:38pm PT
i wonder what their reaction would have been to calmly approaching after the whole mess and asking their names. quite unfortunately, i'm the idiot that would have had trouble stopping myself from doing this.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Jul 24, 2013 - 03:59pm PT
"Moving on" does nothing to correct the root of the problem.

We have a militarized police mentality that is creeping into all LEO orgs throughout our country, including fed ranger LEOs.

A couple/three years ago I wrote here about an incident I witnessed in the valley...multiple LEO cars driving about 85mph down the loop road, then jumping out with AR15s at the elbow beach turnout, and running around like headless chickens surrounding an empty vehicle while pointing their g@##%mn weapons into oncoming/sitting traffic, i.e. directly at me.

In 35 years of handling and shooting firearms, I've never in my life seen worse muzzle control, or more reckless disregard for bystander safety. And for what? Not a damn thing, a parked, empty car. Something needs to change.

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