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Hiking with a Purpose: MT Sobek Volunteers at Yosemite Facelift 2019

by Susannah Starr

October 8, 2019 Adventure Experts

September 24th through 29th saw hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts swarm Yosemite National Park for their annual Yosemite Facelift event. This event, co-presented by the Yosemite Climbing Association (YSA) and The North Face in cooperation with The National Parks Service, allows park lovers to give back by collecting garbage and cleaning up the park. We were so happy to participate for the second year in a row with four of our staff members, a few loved ones and one furry friend joining in the clean-up.

Madison, Kate, Gaby, and Erick – all members of the MT Sobek team – worked to clean up garbage along established trails while other volunteers donned their rock climbing gear to reach trash and debris in hard to reach cracks and ledges. Additional volunteers worked on this season’s Special Project, giving historic Camp 4 a total makeover.

“This was my first time at Facelift 2019 and I absolutely loved it!  The camaraderie was incredible, both from the rock climbing community as well as locals that come from towns bordering Yosemite to clean up a place beloved by all.  One thing that stood out for me was how easy and fun it was to do my share.  You could volunteer for 1 hour to the full week if you wanted – no pressure to do set hours… it was just incredible to see everyone pitching in – little kids, people that have been coming over a decade, artists, nature lovers, smaller companies such as ourselves, bigger companies such as The North Face and Patagonia that are involved in responsible consumerism, as well as successful climbers that got their start in Yosemite, such as Tommy Caldwell (The Dawn Wall) all did their part.” Gaby said.

Gaby and Erick with friends of MT Sobek in Yosemite Valley

One of the wonderful things about this event, that Gaby mentioned, is how diverse and welcoming it is. For two years in a row, MT Sobek has worked in the park alongside nature loves of all ages, some as young as 2 years old. This event not only allows children and their families to work together towards a common goal, but it also follows and teaches everyone about the tenants of the Leave No Trace initiative. Something we uphold on several of our adventures, for example, our John Muir Trail: Northbound to Yosemite trip.

For example, did you know that “…it can take an orange peel up to six months to decompose? For a banana peel, it could take up to two years. Feeding these items to wildlife damages their health, alters their natural behaviors and exposes them to predators and other dangers. This is because when an animal finds or receives human food consistently over time by campers and visitors, they no longer seek their own food in nature.

Even though these things decompose more quickly than materials like plastic or glass, they still stick around for a while. And in a popular area that sees dozens of visitors per day, even a handful of people leaving behind food waste can add up to a big pile of decomposing garbage.”

Kate and Madison snapped a picture at Vernal Falls while cleaning up the Mist Trail

Upon returning to the office, Madison said, “YCA Facelift is one of the reasons I love this job. Getting to directly interact with the environment and likeminded people aligns with what we promote at MT Sobek. Hiking under roaring waterfalls and fall-scented trees just aren’t the same when man-made trash distracts the eye. I love contributing to keeping the park clean for locals, tourists, and future generations all while being active and enjoying it myself.”

Erick added, “I was amazed at how many people were headed up to the valley to join in on the Yosemite facelift. I have never seen the parking lot outside the visitor’s center so full! Equipped with my brown burlap bag, gloves and hiking boots we all set off to help clean one of the most beautiful parks in the world. The teamwork and comradery in the air was great to see. I had a fantastic time with my coworkers and friends in this pristine – and now even more so – wilderness! I look forward to years to come and that one day this event will no longer be needed because everyone will do their part every day to clean as they go!

And Kate said, “It was my second year in a row volunteering for the Yosemite Facelift on behalf of MT Sobek, and it certainly won’t be my last! I am continuously surprised at how people from far and wide gather to help clean this beloved park. A small community assembles all with a common passion preservation and the outdoors. My favorite moment is at the end of each day is when we gather to hear the tally of pounds collected and every person in sight is covered in dirt and dust from a long day’s work. Yet, across everyone’s face is a big, bright smile, so thrilled to be doing it. I always end up leaving feeling accomplished and itching for more ways to get involved.  I go home and plan to clean the trails and parks near my house. What’s better than to clean the trails we love so we can continue to love them?”

We can’t wait to join our friends in Yosemite for their 2020 Facelift so we can give back to a park that provides so much too so many. Protecting and caring for our natural places, learning new skills and building bonds with our community are integral parts of what makes our outdoor family so special!