Hidden Adventures: Mariposa Climbing Museum

MARIPOSA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Exactly 43 miles from the valley floor of Yosemite National Park, in the town of Mariposa, lies a new museum that has more or less been a lifetime in the making.

It's the Yosemite Climbing Association's (YCA) biggest project and a '28-29 year process', according to YCA president Ken Yager.

"It's a little bit anti-climactic that we finished some projects and nobody can see it because of the COVID," says Yager.

While the Oscar-winning film 'Free Solo' helped to make rocking climbing more mainstream, Yager is the man with the vision behind the rock climbing gallery and museum that sits on the last turn on your way out of Mariposa.

"And it all stems from going in to get neck surgery and going, 'Oh my gosh, if I die, all this history is going to be lost.' I felt really bad," says Yager.

Two years ago, Yager needed a neck fusion and shoulder surgery and had a high chance of being a paraplegic, quadriplegic, or even a one in 100 chance of dying.

"It freaked me out and so I made a promise to myself when I got out of surgery that I would increase my board members and move this thing forward," he says.

Around 10,000 artifacts moved out of his garage in El Portal and into this permanent location.

"If you feel at all passionate about the actual pursuit of climbing there's no way you couldn't walk in the doors here and just be astounded by the photographs, the history, the scenes from Camp 4," says YCA's managing director Allyson Gunsallus.

From the equipment that set up the cables on Half Dome to climbing journals with original pictures taken by Ansel Adams, Yager calls the collection 'priceless.'

"These notebooks portray the beginnings, the real beginnings of rock climbing in Yosemite Valley and it put Yosemite on the map."

For the visual learners, Yager also included an interactive area where you can learn to place gear in the cracks of a rock wall.

"There's other interactive displays," Yager says. "I've had portaledges before with pictures looking down El Cap and you can see other people looking down beneath you and you get that feel for what it's like to be sleeping up on El Cap."

COVID-19 has shut down those experiences for the time being. A kickstarter that had the support of famous rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Jimmy Chin has helped pay the museum's overhead for the next few months.

"While we're not able to open to the public yet, we're going to be sharing those artifacts and that collective history through a website which we'll be building in the next several weeks," Gunsallus says.

The museum was set to open on May 9th, the same day a permanent climbing exhibit was set to be unveiled in Yosemite's visitor center.

While there isn't a 'grand opening' set, Yager says you can book a private tour.

"We want to be a meeting place," said Dean Fidelman, the artist in residence. "For climbers and non-climbers, people that are interested in learning about it. That's what we want. Don't be afraid to come here. In fact you're going to be really happy that you did."
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