Home > News

Yosemite Closed Due to Smoke; ‘El Capitan Under Orange Skies’ Print Sale to Benefit Climbing Museum

Yosemite National Park closed Sept. 17 to protect visitors and locals from dangerous wildfire smoke, where the AQI (Air Quality Index) read 574

El Capitan Under Orange Skies Photo by: Ken Yager

Mariposa, Calif. Recently I stepped outside to feel raindrops for the first time in months bringing a welcome reprieve from the overwhelming smoke and haze I have lived in for the last few weeks. With the light rains came the parting of smoke so thick it felt like low-lying fog from the Creek Fire, which as of Sept. 22 chewed through  283,724 acres and blanketed Yosemite Valley forcing it to close. Looking out my living room window for the first time in days, I can now see the surrounding rural landscape and black oaks instead of a curtain of thick ugly smoke. 

The Yosemite Climbing Museum, forty-five minutes from Yosemite in the town of Mariposa is a place I frequent weekly to hear stories from the founder and climbing historian Ken Yager and Stone Master and artist in residence, Dean Fidelman. Though their doors remain closed to the public due to the pandemic, the owners are friends and they let me in. The museum’s opening is on hold due to Covid-19.

In addition to founding the Yosemite Climbing Association (YCA), Yager also launched the annual Yosemite Facelift now in its seventeenth year. Over the years his effort has contributed to the removal of 1 million pounds of trash. This year’s Facelift started today (Sept. 22) and ends Sept. 27, but due to the park’s closure, Yager is asking people to act local. To make a pledge to clean local areas while reducing the risk of spreading the pandemic, visit this page.

Taking a pledge means dedicating an hour or more to pick up trash within your area; participants are eligible for a raffle by entering the contest below. 

Instead of being cooped up next to his air purifier in his yet-to-be-opened Yosemite Climbing Museum, Yager is outside cutting picture frames for his vast collection of prints.

Inside, images of Yosemite climbing’s most famous icons grace the walls, with Warren Harding, John Bachar, Jim Bridwell, and many more pioneers.

The collection also includes John Salathé’s hand drill, Bill “Dolt” Fuerrer’s hand-crafted pitons, and Jim Bridwell’s paisley shirt — the one that John Long wore in El Cap meadow after Bridwell, Long and Billy Westbay became the first to climb the Nose in a day in 1975.  

El Capitan Under Orange Skies
El Capitan Under Orange Skies. Photo: Ken Yager

Yager is also a photographer who captured the above picture of El Captain on Sept. 5, the first day the Creek Fire poured smoke into the park.

The park closed two weeks later, on Sept. 17 when with a 574 AQI, many times the number considered hazardous by the Air Quality Index (normal is 50 to 100). Yager is selling prints of this image “El Capitan Under Orange Skies” to benefit the museum. 

“These are difficult times to start a new business,” Yager says. “Buying a print will help us keep operations running until we open. All proceeds benefit YCA.”

The signed 11” x 14” print “El Capitan Under Orange Skies” is available for $75 USD. Price includes shipping in the U.S. International orders cost extra. To purchase, email Ken Yager at yagerprints@gmail.com.

Check out the latest buyer's guide:

Helmets Can Save Your Life

Safety and performance go hand-in-hand with these climbing helmet picks
Lead photo: Ken Yager