Volunteers and some of the biggest names in the outdoor world will gather in Yosemite this month under less-than-glamorous circumstances. From September 25-30, they will collect dirty diapers, cigarette butts, food wrappers and other trash from Yosemite’s roadways, trails, corridors and river ways.
The rewards for volunteers' hard work will be raffle tickets for prizes from more than 75 sponsors, free camping, and presentations by big names such as Cheyne Lempe, James Lucas and Alex Honnold, Conrad Anker and Mikey Shaefer. There will also be live music by Little Brother.
The event, known as the Yosemite Facelift, was the brainchild of Ken Yager, a guide for the Yosemite Mountaineering School who first visited the park in 1972. At 17, he moved there to pursue rock climbing full time. To fuel his passion, he collected cans from the trash for money and lived in a cave, so he's had a hand in cleaning up in the valley, one way or another, for a very long time. (He's also climbed the famous face of El Cap more than 50 times.)
Yager’s low-impact lifestyle may explain why he got so fed up with all the trash. In an interview with ABC, Yager said he was tired of picking up other people’s messes. Instead of staying angry, he decided to do something positive.
In the first year, 365 people came to help clean up. At the eighth annual Facelift in 2011, there were nearly 3,000 volunteers. The effort has paid off. The amount of trash collected from the park over the years has shrunk from an average 30,000 pounds to 4,000 pounds.
Due to a recent outbreak of Hantavirus in Yosemite -- eight people contracted the disease after overnight stays in Curry Village or the High Sierra camps -- special precautions will be taken to protect volunteers. Because the virus is killed by UV light, volunteers will stick to outdoor work and protective equipment will be available. People weighing and sorting trash will have access to respirators and gloves.
A partnership with the National Park Service and the Access Fund helps make the Yosemite Facelift possible. Yager says he would like to see the event continue indefinitely, and inspire similar efforts in other National Parks and communities.