Yosemite riots & the first ascent of Independence Pinnacle


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Barry Bates

Boulder climber
Smith River CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 3, 2010 - 07:24pm PT
I just realized that tomorrow, July 4th, will be the fortieth anniversary of the 1970 riots in Yosemite, something I had not thought about for years. I did a search of Supertopo and found only one brief mention of the riots by Werner (who was undoubtedly one of the prime instigators of the whole thing ). Surprisingly enough, there is a mention of the event in Wikipedia’s history of Yosemite.

On July 4th 1970 Matt Donahoe, Dave Hampton and I did the first ascent of the center route of Independence Pinnacle, located several hundred yards to the right of Reed’s Pinnacle. Although not destined to become a Yosemite classic, it seemed like a difficult route for the era and it ended in a free-standing flake of rock. We were excited to have been the first ones to climb it . I imagine we were probably also the last ones to actually climb all the way to the top, since it’s hardly worth the extra trouble. I would probably have forgotten about the date of our climb and much of the climb itself if it was not for the events that took place later that day.

Heading back to the valley from the Reed’s Pinnacle area we found a Yosemite Park maintance person standing at the intersection of Highways 120 and140, wearing a hard hat and holding an axe handle like a baseball bat on his shoulder. We stopped and Matt asked what was going on. Matt’s family owned Degnan’s Deli and one of the few remaining private residences in the park. Matt had grown up in the Park and knew just about everyone. The maintenance guy just glared at us. We were grimy and disheveled with somewhat long hair but he recognized Matt and said something like “You boys just better get home”.

Arriving at Matt’s house we found out that the rangers had tried to remove a large group of illegally camped people from Stoneman Meadow. Due to the large number of people camped there, they were destroying the meadow. The park service had asked them to leave several times, but they had refused to go. I don’t know all the details but from what I understand some of the rangers rode through the crowd on horses in an effort to disperse the crowd. In the processes, some of the rangers were pulled off their horses and beaten.

I spend the night at Matt’s family home. The Donahoe’s house no longer exists but it was several hundred feet from the chapel, on the other side of the valley from the village. We sat on the front deck of Matt’s house and watched dozens of cop cars from the Central Valley area pass by and each car had about four officers in it. From what I understand a full scale riot erupted that night: police cars were over turned and set on fire and a large number of people were arrested.

The next day I went over to the visitors’ center and the authorities were loading a large numbers of people into prison busses. Some of the people were severely beaten and covered with blood-stained bandages. A middle-aged woman standing nearby commented to her husband that she thought the police had gotten out of hand. I never heard if charges were filed against any of the rioters or how many people were really involved in the whole thing, but looking back on it certainly seems like a dark day in the history of Yosemite
Later that summer there was a letter published in the Berkley Barb, an underground newspaper of that period, suggesting that people should go to Yosemite on Labor Day to riot and burn the park down. In response, the Park service hired extra people for fire crews for the two weeks leading up to Labor Day. About half of Camp 4 signed up for the jobs. A bunch of us including Werner ,Mark Klemons ,Rick Sylvester , Dave and and Phil Bircheff Rod McKenzie Jerry Anderson Jim Pettigrew and I signed up to save the valley from an inferno that we all knew would never happen .

We spent about two weeks working four hours a day clearing brush from around phone lines and spending the other four hours goofing around. The park service split us into two crews of about fifteen people each; one crew wore silver hats and the other crew wore orange hats A rivalry quickly developed between the two groups mostly revolving around who could chop through an 18-24 inch log the fastest. One fellow, a non-climber would sneak off and chop down full-sized ponderosa pines just for the fun of it. There might have been less environmental damage from Berkley rioters than we created with our axes in two weeks of chopping down everything in sight.

When we weren’t chopping things down we spent the rest of the time napping and eating as much free food as we could at the cafeteria. On the last day we had a massive food fight throwing food at each other from two fire trucks driving through the valley at about 80 miles per hour side by side. The fire trucks, crews and all their equipment were covered with food by the end of the ride.

The government decided to enlist the help of the U.S. Border patrol to run the entrance stations and help patrol the park after the riots. This only resulted in people being hassled at the entrance stations by vehicle checks, especially if you were young with longish hair and driving a Volkswagen. The Border Patrol was finally removed when a U.S. Senator visited the park with his family and his long haired son was haled out of the family RV and questioned by the Border Patrol. It makes a fitting end to the story, even though the Senator and his son might just be an urban legend.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 3, 2010 - 07:59pm PT
Barry- Thanks for describing that day because it has a lot of bearing on the present day attitude towards climbers. We are little more than a law enforcement problem in the minds of many and it took Tom Frost singlehandedly filing suit against the NPS to even begin to change that institutionalized prejudice. Establishing respect was the point of the suit but it wasn't long before the rangers were even after Tom, pulling him over in the usual fashion.

Losing control of the Stoneman Bridge situation has never left the mindset of law enforcement, in my opinion, and still governs their heavy handed behavior.

No accident that the riots themselves have faded into obscurity after forty years.

Great route, by the way, I did it long ago.

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Jul 3, 2010 - 08:01pm PT
Great story Barry!

Seems I remember hearing about this when I made my first visit to Yosemite in 76, but by then it was already pretty "ancient" and seemed sort of irrelevent.

However, looking back, it does seem like a perfect reflection of the times in general.

A whole country, trying to sort out just how much power the people or "the man" were going to have.
And some of the "people" were of the highest standard of thinking, really trying to change things for the future.
Some of them were just free-loaders and users, looking for fun and trouble, like any era.

Anyway, the man won, in most ways, like usual......

Social climber
Telluride, CO
Jul 3, 2010 - 08:23pm PT
The Stoneman Meadow Riot did start a whole emphasis on law enforcement for rangers. There was a film crew in Yosemite that weekend - working for the NPS. They were planning to film a nature film in the high country but when the riot happened, they filmed the riot instead. This film became a "training" for the NPS. It was one the first films shown to my Albright Ranger Training class. We were told that causing riots was what we were NOT supposed to do. During the two years I was a Valley ranger, 76 & 77, a few days before the 4th of July each year, every Valley Ranger had to watch the film. The Superintendent, the Chief Ranger and the District Ranger all watched it with us. And they would lead a discussion after the film on how and why not to incite another riot.

I got very tired of seeing the film over and over. Now 35 years later, I can fortunately barely remember it. The ranger "legend" was the maintenance crews had been angry with the hippies in the campgrounds. When the initial attempt to move everyone out of the meadow occurred, the rangers had the maintenance men help and a lot of fighting started. I wonder if the patrol rangers are still shown the film each 4th of July?

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Jul 3, 2010 - 08:39pm PT
Not all of them have learned.

More than 20 years after the riot one of the climbers there, John Cleary, became AMGA President.
paul roehl

Boulder climber
Jul 3, 2010 - 08:48pm PT
Spent most of the summer of '69 in the Valley and I have to admit things were getting a bit out of control. It seemed like the moment that the old park order could no longer deal with the changes in contemporary society. Camp four had the look and feel of a hobo jungle where you could drop down a tent or tarp just about anywhere and stay just as long as you damn well wanted. A guy I knew had stolen a mattress from CC for his tent and I'm sure he wasn't alone. It was a pretty crazy time. I remember watching a nice family arriving and setting up their camp and just as they all finally sat down for dinner some drunken transient stumbled up to their picnic table, sat on the end of the bench and barfed his guts out.

I was out of the park when the riot went down, but the change when I returned was palpable.
No doubt there was an over reaction on the part of LE. Things became super harsh. Going in, especially if you were young and looked at all scruffy, meant you were going to be hassled. 1970 was the first year I got ticketed for sleeping illegally and man it came as a big surprise. And, yeah, the harshness is still with us.

No doubt that riot was an important and very negative turning point in park history... too bad.

Trad climber
san Jose, CA
Jul 3, 2010 - 09:14pm PT
I remember that day well. My partner Dave Collins and I had spent the afternoon nailing up what became known as Churchbowl Tree, with a tension traverse to the crack to the left and some shakey aid with nuts (new at the time) to the ledge above. At the time we thought it might have been a first ascent, but Tom Rohr is reputed to have climbed it to the point where the belay bolts are. In any case, we had a splendid time, but darkness fell before we got finished. As we fumbled our way towards the road, I tripped over a bench and whacked my face into something solid. I was bleeding like a stuck pig, so we decided to go over to the Visitor's center and clean up. When we got there, there was a cop circus going on, with sheriffs from Modesto, and Fresno and all over the place, hung with guns, clubs, handcuffs, leg irons, and other implements of destruction like overweight versions of Rambo.

We inquired as to what was going on, and a beefy specimen who would have fit well into the Police department of some Southern town in the 1950's started ranting and raving about how the hippies were trying to take over the park, and how much he hated the damn long haired freaks, and how he was planning to shoot one (REALLY!!). This was sobering, and it occurred to us that we might be safer on the INSIDE rather than the OUTSIDE of this fiasco. In the end we got deputized as assistant deputy marshals, and spent an interesting evening eating donuts with the cops, and observing the poor, harmless, drugged out specimens that they were arresting. We ended up bivying in the back of a pickup truck parked in front of the Visitor's center and departed the Valley as soon as practical in the morning.

Opinions at the time differed as to the actual precipitating event, with the rangers on horses running amok in the crowd as the consensus cause. I had been living in Isla Vista, at UC Santa Barbara during all of the riots in the late 1960's and early 70's where the Bank of America burned (I had a fireside seat...) and subsequently, and from the viewpoint of many years I tend to cut the LEOs a bit of slack for some of the abuses of the times. These were the early days of a major shift in social ideas as to the role of government, the rights of citizens, and what constituted appropriate behavior. There was massive fear in government and judicial circles over what seemed to be anarchy at best, and Communist inspired destruction of the America that had become the default social condition at the worst. Many people genuinely feared that the end of America was imminent. No one in law enforcement understood that protest could also be a form of patriotism, or that strong disagreement over the proper things for government to be doing was not necessarily either threatening or treasonous. Fear can be a terrible distorter of perceptions, and the unfamiliarity and fear that Law enforcement at the time had, coupled with very primitive (and brutal) ideas about crowd control and demonstration dispersal led to many unfortunate events, such as at Stoneman meadow. Collectively, however, these events had a major impact on the US and also the world as a whole. Young people who have not lived through that period cannot imagine how much social consciousness, and governmental paradigms have changed as a result of the music of the era, the demonstrations, the riots, the Vietnam war, and the huge kink that the youth of the 1960's and 70's put into the established order and way of doing things. It was, in retrospect, one of the pivotal periods of American history, and I am very glad to have been priviliged to see some of it very close up.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 3, 2010 - 09:24pm PT
Thanks, Barry et al - fascinating stuff. It does seem to have been a microcosm of the times. That was the year of the Kent State shootings, and a lot of other unsettling things. There's an account of this in the NPS' own history:

In the summer of 1970, a riot in Yosemite and a young boy's death in one of Yellowstone's thermal pools brought greater focus on lawenforcement and safety issues. The widely publicized riot by mostly countercultural youth in Yosemite Valley's Stoneman Meadows on the Fourth of July in 1970 emphasized to Park Service leadership that the bureau's lawenforcement capability needed serious attention. [10] The riot created a crisis atmosphere that made Congress more receptive to increases in lawenforcement funding. Russ Olsen, then assistant superintendent in Yosemite, later observed that Hartzog "parlayed" the American public's concern about law enforcement "into big bucks"; and in March 1971 the director announced the establishment of a law-enforcement office in Washington. He also announced a wider deployment of the U.S. Park Police, a Park Service unit previously engaged in policing parks and other federal properties in the District of Columbia and environs. Hartzog planned to increase the Park Police staff by 40 positions (from 371 to 411), the bulk of the new positions to be assigned to the Service's regional offices and to parks most in need of police authority.

In addition, the director began a "comprehensive" law-enforcement training program, to include 225 entry-level rangers and selected management personnel. He anticipated that by the beginning of the 1971 summer travel season, 50 rangers from throughout the national park system would each have completed 540 hours (17 and a half weeks) of police training. Furthermore, an "intensive" eight-week program was to be conducted for supervisory park rangers from the areas most impacted by crime; and a minimum of 100 rangers hired only for the summer season would receive training. [11]

Exacerbating the situation, law-enforcement emphasis conflicted with the antiestablishment attitudes of the times, as evidenced in Yosemite. As longtime Park Service law-enforcement authority William R. Supernaugh recalled, a critical factor was that park rangers did not understand the youth of this era—their concerns for free expression and their challenge to authority. The rangers were "separated in years and point of view" from the youth of the 1960s and 1970s. Still, the Service's expanded law-enforcement effort would become increasingly important in park management, and part of the customary scene in national parks.

Not a lot new, but another perspective.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 3, 2010 - 09:26pm PT
From a history of the Ahwahnee hotel:

The Stoneman Meadow Riot
On July 4, 1970, overcrowding in Yosemite Valley led to a clash between Park Rangers and anti-war demonstrators. The mob dragged mounted Rangers off their horses, and overturned the Mariposa Sheriff's squad car. Shots were fired. The riot led to more than a hundred arrests, several injuries, and great destruction of property – and changes to Park Service access policies and training practices.

I wonder what documentary and other records were kept of what happened, and the aftermath? NPS archives may be quite interesting.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Jul 3, 2010 - 10:44pm PT
Hi Barry

Those were some interesting and often challenging times. My girlfriend back then was Carol Ottonello and her dad was the judge in Yosemite and he had been there since 1943. A wonderful man and great friend for years.

On the 4th, Carol and I were returning via Tioga Pass back to the Valley after a trip on the East side. The Rangers were hassling the sh#t out of anyone with an old vehicle and long hair as they entered the Park. They were refusing to allow many people to enter.

In front of me at the entrance booth window was an old van loaded with some fun loving folks, picture the Fury Freak Brothers, and Ferdinand was reading them the riot the act and telling them they could not enter the park. I had been a Ranger in the Valley in the mid 60s and had to deal with the police mentality that was prevalent back then. A large number of the seasonal Rangers back then were majors in Criminology. Rather sit in an office and look at their gun than have anything to do with the Valley. One guy to this day reminds me of Steven Colbert when he pulls out his handgun he calls "Precious" and caresses it.

I got mad, slammed my VW Van into the back of the van in front of me, shoved them forward and yelled at Ferdinand to quit f*#king with people and let them into the park. Ferdinand was boiling mad and started yelling at me until he realized I had the judges daughter in the car and I had been a Ranger..................................

"Go slow and beware of the deer."

I was reflecting on this incident last year and got in touch with some old friends to clarify a similar attitude problem with the NPS later that summer in Camp 4. A certain party of three of our established and respected elders ended up in jail one night. Somewhere, there is a black and white photo of the three lads modeling their togs.

The following is an exchange last winter: The facts mate, stay with the facts! From my old friend and climbing mate........

"Like I said Joe, I'm not too comfortable glorifying drunkeness but here's a modest version.

In the aftermath of the Yosemite rangers having recently summoned the assistance of every available cop in California to help them beat out the San Fransico hippies who has invaded the Yosemite meadows with the stated intention of liberating the park, naturally this event had excacerbated the "us agaist them" feeling that already existed amongst the freedom loving climbers. This came to a head one night in Camp Four when a group of us were drinking, singing and and having a good time as usual .Although it was late at night, it was also late in the season and there were few if any other campers around to disturb who were not already present. Suddenly the rangers showed up and started pushing people around , handcuffing and searching. Outraged climbers tried to protest, demanding an explanation.

"Singing after quiet hours " was the reply.

Apparently there was a bylaw limiting noise after ten o’clock at night. When I asked how many decibels we were allowed to make and how many had that truck made that just went by, I found myself handcuffed and thrown in the squad car too.

While three of us were being processed inside the tiny jail a crowd of climbers had gathered outside and to my delight were singing "We Shall Overcome Someday".

As well as being stripped naked, fingerprinted and mug shot, we were ordered to "bend down and open our cheeks!"
At this point “The Duke of Earl”, bent down and opened his mouth wide with his fingers.
We spent the night in jail, were let out next morning but had to appear before a judge a few days later. Fortunately for me he was decent enough to let me off with a dismissal from the park. Bugs and I left next day for Canada.

Having a hard time relating to all this virtuality although I agree a good story should stand whether it ever happened or not.
In that vain you can blog me or flog me or whatever turns your crank Frank or Wank.
Now you've got me into it whatever it is. In for a nickle in for a dime .

I agree things are more oppresive now and we were righteously bucking the thin end of a god almighty or more likely godless security wedge. Climbers drunk and disorderly playfulness in a public place is relatively minor compared to the institutionalized violence of the Rangers.

Guido’s response:

“Ah the sweet lady was Carol and her daddy, the non-hanging judge, was Geno Otonello

and the momma was Adrianne and after you were allowed back in the Valley we had you up for dinner with the non-hanging judge and we all set around the table with the never empty wine cow and talked and talked about how messed up this Viet Nam thing was and how things have to get better and how climbers are really not that bad as the non-hanging judge, good old Geno Otonello had two daughters in relationships with climbers and we drank more wine and solved more problems.

and we all lived happily ever after.”

Cheers your buddy



Jul 4, 2010 - 12:40am PT

Who else here was there?

The next morning it was police state. They came to the site and asked for ID.

I think I was the first one up and they asked me who's pile of sh'it vehicle sitting there belonged to.

I told them "Jim Bridwell" and he's our fearless leader.

They call our names over the radio and our names come back confirmed non hostiles, hahaha.

The food fight was awesome. I threw my cafeteria food trays at Klemens and it bounced off his helmet.

The trucks were wasted with food. We threw a lot of yogurt lol.

Then cases of beer back at the firehouse.

Don Cross made us clean the trucks afterwords.

Awesome period of time back then and soooo much fun.

Trad climber
The Circuit, Tonasket WA
Jul 4, 2010 - 01:48am PT
Great historical thread, Barry.
The only information that I would like to add is that in my recollection the Rangers weren't pulled off their horses and beaten, but pulled off their horses and thrown in the Merced River (which might have been more humiliating).
I agree, it certainly seemed like a "police state" for days (weeks) afterward, with gestapo-like, black uniformed police standing at the base of climbs and yelling up to you: "what are you doing?" And I agree it probably had a profound and negative effect on climber-ranger relationships for years.
It's interesting how time changes the validity and importance of the issues then. Now, I believe, all parties involved would agree that we don't want Yosemite's meadows littered with busted, empty one gallon bottles of Red Mountain wine.

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
Jul 4, 2010 - 03:19am PT
I’m mostly glad I missed the events that weekend. I climbed Mt Abbott on the 4th and 5th and then drove though the park back to Fresno late Sunday. I recall my feelings, unknowing of the events that took place on Saturday – it was smoky and sticky, and had the feeling of a worn-out, crowded and urbanized park. Far from the alpine wilderness I had just been to.

The riots were the result of an accumulation of tension brewing for a few years beforehand. During Spring break 1970 we camped in Upper Pines and the chanting, drumming, music and singing in the meadow went on all night. It was really wonderful and fun, but the rangers were watching us from the road. We weren’t disturbing anyone but them, and I guess they finally decided they would make their move on the 4th. Even during Spring Break, we were protective of our “party in the meadow.” After all, isn’t it a free country?

The next year they opened up Yellow Pines and relegated all the partiers there. I also recall these “party campfires” at Happy Isles that were sanctioned events, where I’ll bet they just watched us. Battle lines were drawn, and from then on, rangers and climbers were at odds. LEO was born, and the generalist ranger in Yosemite Valley was no more.

Are gallon bottles of wine still banned from the Village Store?

Trad climber
one of god's mountain temples.... ಠ_ಠ
Jul 4, 2010 - 03:35am PT
Great stuff, appreciate your sharing it.


Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jul 4, 2010 - 03:47am PT
It's very interesting to look at all of this in terms of the inherent and internal push for change, the chaos of the transitional periods, and the forces of control ready to do most anything to anyone in order to assert their will. It's the human circus in crisis, and that's when aggression can run amok, especially with LEOs. Let's hope there will never be another riot, even though there always will be, somewhere, because that's just how we humans roll. Always have.

Per the Center Route on Independence Pinnacle. I always found that one to be the hardest of the "Bates" routes, which included the Fringe, Five and Dime, Vanishing Point, New D. free, and of course Indep. Center. Them are some great routes. All time classics.

Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Jul 4, 2010 - 08:59am PT
It actually was the National Guard that was in charge of the Park after the incident. I even have a photo somewhere of this NG goon at the Arch Rock station then. I was trying to get into the Valley to solo Quarter Dome that weekend-- the few days I had off from my dismal job working for a moving company in Berkeley.

I was turned away hostilely as many up-thread were but then realized that if I slept down at Redbud outside the Park that evening and re-approached really early say around 5 am the next day I might find this nonsense at the entry had not quite set up shop yet for the day. And so I got to spend the big weekend up in Tenaya Canyon after all, in a Yosemite of my own actually.

Yeah, The center route of Independence was really hard for me; I actually couldn't do it at that point. Bridwell and I went up on it the late spring of 70 or 71. He successfully lead the crux pitch while Barry watched from the road, the bastard. Then I followed but the overhanging arching thin hands crack just repelled me; I couldn't get much going with it and also it was really painful with sharp nubbins and stuff in it. Great pitch, Barry. It probably is underrated also, at least for people with giant hands.
Double D

Jul 4, 2010 - 09:56am PT
Barry, Guido & Werner...Great takes on this historical mishap...thanks for sharing! The "clean-up" crew food-fight sounds like a lot of fun.

Jul 4, 2010 - 10:07am PT
Thanks for sharing that one as its a great story and awesome storytelling Barry, followed by some equally great followup tales by some legends!

Thank you all!

Trad climber
quaking has-been
Jul 4, 2010 - 10:24am PT

I saw a great documentary on the Stoneman Meadow riots once and, for the life of me, I can't remember where I saw it (might have been TV). It had black and white film of the actual riot with the rangers swarming the meadows on horseback and on foot. A lot of the park people involved looked like maintenance workers with construction hardhats. There were night time scenes of the meadow with groups of people partying around fires. Spent some time googling for the documentary but came up empty.

My first season in the Trench was the spring after the riots. Things were still on pretty tight lockdown....

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Jul 4, 2010 - 11:08am PT
Don Cross-Now there is a name from the past. Old school Ranger, head Fire Dude for Yosemite, loved his liquor and you wanted to be on his good side. Don and Joann eventually split up but she was a class act on her own. Some of the old boys, although inherently conservative were the most forgiving of the liberal culture "threatening" the status quo. They could give a rats ass what the higher ups dictated or the career path ever upward.
Park Rat

Social climber
Jul 4, 2010 - 02:58pm PT
The Stoneman Meadows riot was a blip on the radar in July of 1970.
I did not witness the event, but I was working at the Mountain Room when this happened, you have to understand we were used to being knee deep in hippies. Drugs were everywhere; no one seemed to care if the air was filled with the smell of pot, LSD use was common.

When we heard that there was trouble with hippies at the Meadow it was greeted with jokes not alarm. Only later when we heard of fires being set and a car burned did we think it was serious.

I remember us joking about the navy being called in and how they would bring a destroyer up the Merced River. We didn’t take the whole thing very seriously. It was more like a Saturday Night live sketch.

A few weeks later, I noticed a group of young men who were too well-dressed for the Park. I first assumed that we had real undercover drug agents in our midst.
I was close,they were a detachment of Washington DC Park police, who had been sent to the Park because of the riots. They stayed at the Yosemite Lodge for about six weeks. I can't remember how many there were, but I'm thinking about 20 guys.
First, all they talked about was the amount of drugs that were in evidence around the Park. I do not recall that they ever arrested anyone. They actually had to march around during the day, in uniforms, in the heat of summer to be a presence; so that any would be troublemakers would think twice.
The only problem was that we were short on troublemakers and long on Park police. They quickly became extremely bored with their new assignment; the girls of the Mountain Room became very popular.
We were about the same age as these young men.

I remember being at the Yosemite Lodge swimming pool, one afternoon, I said something about not wanting to go swimming because I had to go to work. Two minutes later, I was being tossed into the deep end of the pool by three or four of the Park police. It was their idea of having a wild time. I didn't get mad, but I did get even. Some time later, they were playing baseball against the Rangers. We were on the sidelines watching the event. When I noticed that the Park police had stacked all of their side arms and badges next to where I was standing. Noti, another Mt Roon girl and I decided to play a little joke on them. You guessed it. We hid all their stuff; they didn't see us do it. When they noticed that every thing was missing. They had a moment of panic. Our laughing, and red faces gave us away. We restored their equipment, and all was forgiven.

So, we had to thank the hippies for providing us with this large group of male admirers. The following picture is more innocent than it appears. I was being escorted back to my dorm, and as I recall, the young man decided I needed his jacket for comfort. I figured I may as well have the hat as well. Only after the picture was developed did I notice that my skirt was covered by his jacket. Our appearance caused much laughter, and this old Polaroid picture resulted.


Social climber
Jul 4, 2010 - 03:31pm PT
Enlightening perspective Park Rat... thx
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Jul 5, 2010 - 03:08pm PT
Keep those stories coming!

I wonder if Steve Roper or Royal Robbins was in the Valley then, and could add to this?

1970 does seem to have been a kind of sea change, both in the Yosemite climbing community with the Dawn Wall etc, and as shown by the Stoneman incident. Ultimately I suspect a lot comes down to sociology, in particular demography. A quickly growing proportion of people in their teens and twenties (many better educated), economic growth (more money), a bit of rebound from the Depression, the war, and the Eisenhower era, some liberal trends, and reaction to schizophrenic and corrupt governments. In a way, perhaps a harbinger of the reactionary Nixon and Reagan years.

Jul 5, 2010 - 08:16pm PT
When does the SuperTopo riots start?
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
Jul 5, 2010 - 10:36pm PT
Certain links are an ongoing riot.

There's been riots & a meltdown on the forum over at SummitPost.com. They even tossed The Chief in the brig. It's tame today but last summer turned into a flame thrower fight.
Ricky D

Trad climber
Sierra Westside
Jul 5, 2010 - 10:51pm PT
"When does the SuperTopo riots start?"

Probably at whichever Sushifest that includes Pate, Rokjox, Skipt, Bluering and the rest of us.

Toss in Crowley and Mimi and a riot will be guaranteed.


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jul 6, 2010 - 01:33pm PT
Thanks for the post, Barry, and all the others. I'd always wondered whether Matt was related to the Degnan-Donohoe enterprise.

I was in Beirut when the riots happened, but read about them about July 6 in one of the French language papers there. By the time I got back to the States, Robbins had posted a blurb in Summit warning us to clean up and try not to look like hippie freaks. We did as Robbins said, and had little trouble, but I've heard plenty of stories that confirm fattrad's overreaction scenario.

In 1971 I tried the Center Route of Independence Pinnacle; it was a gallant but quite decisive failure. That one and a few others quickly taught me that Indian Rock proficiency didn't necessarily translate to Yosemite crack climbing competence.

Thanks again for the post.

Social climber
Paradise Island
Jul 6, 2010 - 03:03pm PT
Thanks, Barry, for starting this thread. Great recollections and insights all around! While I was in the Park the night of the Stoneman Meadow riot, I was up in Tuolumne. At the time I was “protesting” the Viet Nam War by serving my country as a teacher in an impoverished area. But I followed the aftermath of the Stoneman Riot as well as many other incidents around the country where it was determined after analysis that on so many occasions, it was the law enforcement folks were the ones that initiated the violence. The Chicago DNC, Kent State, Stoneman Meadow, and others.

What is most puzzling and troublesome to me is how the NPS’ law enforcement types may have easily equated climbers with those hanging out in Stoneman Meadow. I imagine it was by the superficial standards of unwashed bodies and clothes, pot-smoking with a mix of irreverence and youthful desire for freedom thrown in. However, the NPS also had more long-standing complaints against climbers such as stealing showers, scarfing meals at the Lodge, sleeping out-of-bounds, as well as the more outrageous antics of the “Duke of Earl” and many others.

In the mid-60’s, I remember having really good relations with the Rick Anderson who was Chief Valley Dist. Ranger or similar title. And Steve Hickman knew climbers really well and sympathized with them. Jeff Foott and Guido were both rangers, and Rick even offered me a seasonal job, knowing that they had no climbing expertise in-house nor any way to affect a major rescue that he could see would eventually come.

After the riots, with the non-ranger, heavy-handed “Park Police” presence, the vibe certainly did change for the worse. I still think that much of the friction between the NPS and climbers was brought on by the climbers’ behaviors as some of the posts up thread confirm.

Somewhere I have a picture or 2 of Carol O., Guido’s gf at the time…

Here is Carol:

Anne-Marie Rizzi

Jul 10, 2010 - 02:47pm PT

Barry, thanks for the memories.

1970 was my first summer in Yosemite, and when I started climbing. I was working at the old Chinquapin store, and living at Badger Pass with other Curry employees who worked at Glacier Point. We heard news of the riots and went to Glacier Point itself to watch the Valley activity---I remember fires in the meadows below.

Somewhere in that timeframe, I was belaying some nameless, dirty, and not remarkable new route on the Chinquapin side of the Wawona Tunnel. It was evening, I remember that much, with mosquitoes flying around, and me smoking like a chimney to dissuade their bites. I was getting ready to follow the second pitch when a road patrol ranger spotlighted us and started barking about what the hell we were doing. We were ordered to descend, which we did, under his observation. I think our gear was searched.

The Stoneman Meadow riots became lore among all of us living there at the time. Those of us not directly at the meadow never knew exactly what happened, but most of us chose sides.



Jul 10, 2010 - 04:59pm PT
Great story, thanks Barry!
I climbed the Center Route on Independence in 76.
My friend Scott said we had to do it if we planned to do "Real Valley Climbs".
It was excellent and I remember looking down Steppin' Out thinking, holy sh#t man, there's some real Valley climbing!
Never did get back to try that one.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 7, 2011 - 12:16am PT
Riotous Bump...

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
May 7, 2011 - 12:53am PT
Sweet thread- and the abbey essay is great
Rick Sylvester

Trad climber
Squaw Valley, California
May 9, 2011 - 06:11am PT
Wow, another treasure - a posting from my old friend and sometime climbing partner, Barry. You supplied some of the names of other climbers I'd forgotten were part of the fire crew. But I'd forgotten the food fight -- what a waste! Spoiled rich Americans. 80 mph- a bit of poetic license for added dramatic effect perhaps? But what I never knew until now was that our being hired had anything to do with fear of another riot. I thought it was just due to the need for the usual brush clearing and so on. Are you sure about this?
I'd been hassled by the enhanced security, the border patrol agents brought in, that summer. Despite a "No Swimming " sign on Steamboat, the pool-like portion of the Merced below Elephant Rock, ostensibly due to one or more prior drownings there, Chuck Ostin and I were side stroking across it holding aloft our climbing gear with one arm in an attempt to keep it dry. Our aim was a route above. But we were summoned to shore by an armed agent. Chuck, a true Berkeley -- well, Oakland hills -- liberal was no idealistic idiot. He kept urging me to reveal my address -- that is, my former, my parents' one. Its zip code was 90210. He knew that authority is likely to back down before perceived power. It worked. Suddenly I switched from mountain hippie to someone who might be in a position to make trouble. And he departed...although it did kill the day's climbing plan.
Chuck and Betsy whom I'd later marry left Camp Four and observed the Stoneman Meadow riot. I remained behind. In the morning I saw the cold concrete ground of the adjacent gas station filled with people forced to lie there at the direction of law enforcement. It was shocking to see them like that. We learned that during the night the rangers and related and gone through campgrounds pulling sleeping people out of their bags and tents. Yes, this was the Sixties; there was revolution and unrest throughout much of the world. And this was Yosemite's microcosm of it. But the final analysis was that the rangers had gotten the riot they'd been training for all summer. And it looked like the odds were vastly in favor of their getting away with it but for only one stroke of luck. Supposedly a Florida state senator or former state senator happened to be on vacation in the Valley at the time. He witnessed the whole sorry debacle and had a letter to the editor of, I believe, "The New York Times" published, probably due only to his stature. So there were repercussions, multiple firings...and naturally overreactions. One example: Bill Jones, the chief park naturist -- his wife Darla was a fellow Squaw ski instructor -- lost his job. He wasn't law enforcement; he had nothing to do with it.
Onto a less dismal subject. I climbed all of your great thin hands first free ascents, Barry. I found Vanishing Point the hardest back then. I led the Independence Center Route followed by Carlos Buhler and his then girlfriend, Canadian Sharon Wood who was the first North American woman to get up Everest, and did so outdistancing her male companions. She had some trouble following at the steep crux. I found this interesting. The day before she'd led Carlos and me up several of the lower pitches of "Hall of Mirrors" on the Apron. I think Carlos led some pitches but I led only one, at .10a. Sharon's leads involved .10d and .11a moves 40' out with potential nearly unimaginable 80' or more slides. On Independence Pinnacle I could, if needed, get protection every couple of feet, ie. no runout. It had been said that women due to their physical structure, lower center of gravity and/or shape due to the nature of their pelvis, were better suited to lower angled friction slabs, that this type of route was one of the great equalizers, like speed skiing and for similar reasons. Another endeavor where there's supposedly less difference between gender athletic performance despite men having in general greater muscle mass is distance, channel type swimming, but for different reasons.
Every one of those first ascents is a classic. I always felt Steve Roper did you a real disservice by not including mention of those significant ascents, thin cracks that hitherto were considered A1, in his "Camp Four" book, despite his disclaimer that it wasn't intended as a definitive history. You were the first climber due to the precise way you made your hand and foot placements to make me realize climbing could be an art form, a dance, not just a wrestling match. Of course I later felt a bit betrayed when I learned of your superior genetic strength. Excuses, excuses...rationalizations and rationalizations.
By the way, what ever happened to Matt Donahoe? I knew he went to Alaska to become a professional fisherman and that you joined him on occasion. Is he still up there? And what about you, what and how are you doing? Call me -- I'm in the book.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 3, 2011 - 02:31pm PT
Independent Bump!

Mountain climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Oct 25, 2011 - 10:50pm PT
Bumping this.

I went to a wedding this summer and met an older woman who told me the hippies ruined Yosemite in the 70s. She no longer felt safe taking her family there, so they stopped that family tradition. I'm sure the valley was a great scene, for awhile, but like so many other places, they get popular and get played out.

Gym climber
Oct 26, 2011 - 12:57am PT
And that nice Abbey piece was surrounded in Life magazine by ads for Miller High Life, Benson & Hedges, and McDonalds.

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 26, 2011 - 02:17am PT
The wikipedia entry:
Broader tensions in American society surfaced in Yosemite when a large number of youths gathered in the park over the summer of 1970, triggering a riot on July 4 after rangers tried to evict visitors from camping illegally in Stoneman Meadow.[89] Rioters attacked the rangers with rocks, and pulled mounted rangers from their horses. The National Guard was brought in to restore order.
The source for this is cited as a book by O'Brien, Bob R. (1999). "Our national parks and the search for sustainability". p. 175. Might be interesting to track it down and see what it says.

Another article is titled "Reform the National Park Service" - http://nps-reform.blogspot.com/2007/08/nps-gestapo-another-reason-for-reform.html It includes extensive quotes from a ranger who seems to have been on the spot. There's a clear agenda.

Other accounts by rangers who were there, with a lot of detail. From a book called "The Sierra Nevada: A Mountain Journey, by Tim Palmer: http://books.google.ca/books?id=kgAAug7PZiEC&pg=PA92&lpg=PA92&dq=stoneman+meadow+riot&source=bl&ots=G08_edQfPO&sig=ZmwEyIbXGBFE0sENTQizRfLNQao&hl=en&ei=DqanToUx78mJArnhjb0N&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&sqi=2&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=stoneman%20meadow%20riot&f=false
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 26, 2011 - 02:37am PT
And a link to the 1971 Edward Abbey article in Life, about Yosemite at the time. (Posted by IHP, the unpancake man).

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Oct 26, 2011 - 02:48am PT
Ahhh gee-wiz Anders... Can't a guy get any credit?

Troy, MT
Oct 26, 2011 - 09:44am PT
Great thread. I've enjoyed every post so far. As for the documentary, when I was a resources ranger, I checked the documentary out from the archives and watched it at home. It was awesome. If you're in the valley, they'll let you watch it, I'll bet.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Social climber
Retired to Appalachia
Oct 26, 2011 - 09:53am PT
Great story Barry.

I haven't seen you since I watched you crank 1-arm, 1-finger pull-ups in the back room of the San Jose North Face store back 'bout 1982.

Did I ever tell you that I saw some of your artwork in a gallery in Santa Fe?

Oct 26, 2011 - 10:11am PT
This thread shows how good the forum can be. It's all in the first-person details, while speculation and disgorging of items read somewhere take an appropriate backseat.


Mountain climber
Pinon Hills, CA
Nov 25, 2011 - 08:36pm PT
I was partying in the Stoneman Meadow on the July 4th weekend of 1970. I remember that remarkably well under the circumstances. It seems I was drinking beer and smoking quite a bit of pot. I'd have to say it was the most uninhibited party atmosphere I have ever encountered. There were people there under every level of intoxication possible. There were obviously some people on acid and on down to people like me; a little drunk and pretty stoned.

These people were not war protesters as was mentioned. I wouldn't say there was a riot. It was just about as many people as you could possibly fit in that meadow partying their brains out. Before it got dark, I saw Rangers riding around the meadows keeping an eye on things. Then after dark I didn't see anything until 10:00 P.M. when the Rangers were all lined up on horseback along the road east of Stoneman Bridge. They used megaphones to tell us leave the meadow and go back to our camps. It was park quite time after 10:00. Now, I've read that rocks and bottles were thrown at the Rangers. I think there may have been some of that then. I wasn't involved in that or near it. Nobody left and just kept doing what they were doing. The Rangers were vastly out numbered. I think they just left. I sure didn't see any get pulled off of their horses or beat up. If that kind of commotion was going on I think I would have noticed. I'm not saying it didn't; I might have been too distracted by the partying. The next day I think I remember hearing stories about that stuff happening but I took it as just talk.

It was thick hippy partying on that dark smokey night. The valley would fill up with smoke at night from all the campfires. There was a couple guys riding choppers around slowly through the crowd. One had his headlight pointed straight up. You could follow him with that shaft of light up in the smoke. Once in a while it would jerk like he ran over a rock or maybe someone passed out on the ground. There was a guy with a huge strobe light on a rope around his neck that would flash every two seconds or so. Just walking around through the crowd. It was great fun just being there and watching all the crazed stoners. It was just a wild, wild time but not a riot.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 26, 2011 - 01:51am PT
Thank you for a first person account. A sort of precursor to the Occupy movement, perhaps? It sounds like more of a party than a riot, although it seems the authorities didn't see it that way. They probably had quite legitimate concerns for the safety of both the partiers and the public, although they seem to have been somewhat heavy-handed in addressing them.

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
Jun 7, 2013 - 08:01pm PT

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
Jun 7, 2013 - 09:52pm PT

Trad climber
Jun 7, 2013 - 10:08pm PT
A post of mine from another thread I thought I'd add.

Lets see...being a 18 yr old kid from Merced in 1968, Yosemite was my San Francisco and Stonemans bridge was my Haight Street. Became a full hippie by smoking my first joint under said bridge. Met two freaks in a van named Thor and Raoul, scored a handful of Purple Double Domes and tripped with my buddies for the first time among the cascades above Happy Isles. And it was a Full Dose. Just like the movies. I recall the rocks were spongy and looked like persian rugs.

Lots of other groovy stuff happened over the summer(s). Missed the Stoneman Meadows riot...ironically, I was in SF that weekend.

Got busted by ranger Bob Cahill for pot, locked up in the Yosemite jail, sent to Mariposa for grilling, then two nights in Merced juvi. Bummer. But I did get a job as a Merced city garbage man from my probation officer, so all was cool. Great job.

Not too long after that, I ran into de Flames, was taught to tie a figure eight, and the rest is history.


Social climber
Menlo Park, CA
Aug 27, 2013 - 11:02pm PT
July 5th, 1970, Boyfriend and I there to celebrate 1st anniversary of relationship. Saw Families, children, picknicking, on "Main Meadow"...apparently, curfew had been given day before on the 4th-not there so can't testify...walked to edge of Meadow for drink of water...turned back after seeing quiet parade of horseback and foot-soldiers bearing axe handles...immediately engulfed by barrage of horse-back and foot-soldiers chasing us- TERRIFIED-fleeing for their lives-all I ever saw were families playing "Frisbee"...at the Bridge, someone yelled, "Are we going to let them get away with this?"...At this time, the crowd stampeded the horses, while I and my boyfriend ran for our lives to the cross street and our car. Just as reaching the drive, a police car "screaming sirens" was hit by a rock through the window...We continued our run for escape to my VW Bug, and got the hell out...A Government Official, camped on the other side of the River wrote a two-page account in the San Francisco Chronicle...he was very supportive of just some families trying to have a peaceful time in Yosemite. I was never witness to nudity, extreme behaviour of any sort...Just some young ones trying to have a picnic...I have never returned. I did not associate with the term "hippy"..just a young woman, working, supporting our troops, and wanted peace. I have never returned. Sherry Hanbury
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