Yosemite Valley (Ahwahnee in the language of the Ahwahnechee, who originally inhabited the area) has long been a bastion for American climbing, from the first ascent of the NW Face of Half Dome (Tissaack) to the first free solo of El Cap (Tutocanula). The AAC has been there nearly every step of the complicated (and sometimes dark) way—from guiding the establishment of the park to fighting for climbing as a legitimate use of wilderness in National Parks and advocating for the preservation and 2018 improvements to Camp 4, the iconic climbers' campground.
Help the AAC continue its efforts in Yosemite and across the country by using PROMOCODE: HONNSOLOSHIRT when you join or renew in June and receive a free “Honn Solo” t-shirt with illustration by Lynn Mandziuk. Learn more and get your free shirt!
4,000 years ago - The first humans inhabit Yosemite, according to archeologists' evidence.
800 years ago - Ahwahnechee people perform controlled burns in the Valley to limit undergrowth and promote the growth of oak trees, which provide acorns, a staple to the Awahnechee's diet.
1851 - The first attempt at Indian removal by the NPS occurs: non-Indians enter Yosemite Valley in 1851 by the Mariposa Battalion, a state-sponsored militia. The Battalion makes two attempts to remove the Indian people to the Fresno River Reservation, but those attempts, along with a U.S. Army punitive expedition in 1852, are ultimately unsuccessful in removing the Indian people from the Yosemite region.
1864 - ABRAHAM LINCOLN SIGNS THE YOSEMITE GRANT, PLACING YOSEMITE VALLEY (AHWAHNEE) AND THE GIANT SEQUOIAS of MARIPOSA GROVE UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA.
1864 - Abraham Lincoln signs the Yosemite Grant, placing Yosemite Valley (Ahwahnee) and the giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove under the protection of the State of California.
September 1869 - Founding AAC member John Muir makes the first ascent of Cathedral Peak.
October 1890 - On October 1, 1890, an Act of Congress established Yosemite National Park. This park excluded the Yosemite Valley (Ahwahnee) and the Mariposa Grove, which remained in control of the state of California.
1903 - John Muir and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt spend three days camping in Yosemite Valley (Ahwahnee).
1905 - Yosemite Valley (Ahwahnee) and the Mariposa Grove are transferred from California to the federal government by a Joint Resolution of Congress.
1908 - John Muir is named the second President of the American Alpine Club. View the full list of AAC presidents.
1913 - President Woodrow Wilson signs the Raker Act, permitting the city of San Francisco to build a dam in the Hetch Hetchy valley (hetcheci being the Ahwahnee word for a seed that they used for sustenance) in the northwestern part of Yosemite National Park. John Muir, the Sierra Club, and others had fought long and hard against the dam, and though they lost the battle for Hetch Hetchy, this national debate contributed towards a growing national awareness of the need to protect natural and wild landscapes and helped lead towards the creation of the National Park Service three years later.
1916 - The National Park Service is established by an Act of Congress as a bureau within the Department of the Interior, and the NPS takes over management of Yosemite National Park.
1918 - Clare Marie Hodges becomes the first female ranger in Yosemite.
1920’s - Yosemite National Park includes Indian removal in their development plan.
September 1947 - John Salathe and Anton Nelson complete the first ascent of Lost Arrow Chimney (1,400', III 5.5 A3) on Lost Arrow Spire. Allen Steck recounts the ascent in the 2002 American Alpine Journal: "One of the most important items of equipment—without which the climb certainly would not have succeeded—were the hard-steel pitons that Salathé had crafted. ... In other ways, the climb was representative of a new era as it was the first big wall done with multiple bivouacs and hard steel pitons, and the first use of bolts for upward progress." Read the full American Alpine Journal article.
1950 - Allen Steck and John Salathe complete the first ascent of Steck-Salathe (1,500', IV 5.10a). The 1958 American Alpine Journal described the ascent: "John Salathe and Allen Steck made the first ascent of Yosemite’s Sentinel Rock by its sheer N. face. This, undoubtedly, must be considered as one of the outstanding rock climbs in the history of the sport." Read the full American Alpine Journal article.
June 1957 - Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas make the first ascent of the Regular Northwest Face (5.9, A1, 2200', Grade VI) on Half Dome (Tissaack).
June 1957 - Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick, and Jerry Gallwas make the first ascent of the Regular Northwest Face (2,200', VI 5.9 A1) on Half Dome (Tissaack) over five days. The first Grade VI climb established in Yosemite (Ahwahnee), this ascent represents a monumental leap forward in climbing on the Valley's big walls. "Undoubtedly the year 1957 produced one of the most impressive rock climbs ever to be completed in Yosemite Valley, and one which certainly ranks with any climb completed or attempted in the world," reads the American Alpine Journal recap. Read Mike Sherrick's recollection of the climb in the 1978 American Alpine Journal.
1994 - Lynn Hill climbs the The Nose on El Capitan (Tutocanula) in a day. Despite her past achievements on the route, Lynn "soon realized that she had underestimated what it would take to free climb The Nose in 24 hours," according to the American Alpine Journal. "When she arrived at the Great Roof in midday, it was hideously hot, and she repeatedly fell near the end of the traverse. Partnered with Valley veteran Steve Sutton, it was all they could do just to aid up the rest of the route that day." Read the full American Alpine Journal article.
1997 - Major flooding in the Valley leads to a change in development plans and threatens a series of employee dormitories abutting Camp 4. The AAC, including climber Tom Frost, files a lawsuit against the NPS to save the campground and the adjacent climbing areas. The American Alpine Journal details the Club's decision process: "The December 1996 flood of Yosemite Valley provided the second major challenge of access and environmental policy. Despite openness and sympathy from Park Service personnel for our positions, it gradually became clear that other pressures had persuaded them to propose unacceptable plans for redevelopment that would compromise Yosemite Valley’s environment and accessibility to climbers. Whether we would be more effective inside or outside of the National Park Service tent was discussed repeatedly at our board meetings during 1997. In the end, John Middendorf, Tom Frost, and others persuaded our board to challenge the National Park Service to be true to its own mandate—'to protect and preserve natural resources'— through support of a lawsuit, an unprecedented act for our small organization. The future would clearly show how right were Frost and Middendorf to insist on such a dramatic shift from our policy of exclusive reliance on dialogue and persuasion." Read the full American Alpine Journal article.
October 1998 - Alex Huber completes the first free ascent of Freerider (3,500', VI 5.13a). With the first continuous ascent completed in a day, Huber adds multiple variations to Salathe Wall. Freerider quickly becomes known as the easiest free route up El Capitan (Tutocanula) and opens El Cap to free climbing for more than simply "the elite." Read the full American Alpine Journal article.
January 2015 - Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson complete the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall (3,000', VI 5.14d) on El Capitan (Tutocanula), a project that took over eight years of work and stands as the most difficult free route on El Cap. Kevin Jorgeson writes about his narrow margin for success in the 2015 American Alpine Journal: "The last ten times I’ve been at this spot the result has been the same. Something has to change. I’ve decided to revert to a foot sequence from earlier in the season. The difference is subtle, but while holding the crux iron cross, from fingertip to fingertip, I feel the difference I’ve been seeking. My right foot is secure. Anxiety is replaced by confidence. Trembling is replaced by control. I’m through the crux, with one more bolt of insecure climbing to negotiate. As I grab one of the final crimps, I see the tape on my index finger saturated with blood. Doubt lasts only an instant. Moments later, everything is silent except the strong wind in my ears." Read the full American Alpine Journal article and view the photos.