BARRY P. GORELICK, SBN 122281

DUANE, LYMAN, SELTZER & GORELICK

2000 Center Street, Suite 300

Berkeley, California 94704

Tel: (510) 841-8575; Fax: (510) 845-3016

 

LAURENS H. SILVER, SBN 55339

302 Sycamore Street

Mill Valley California 94941

Tel: (415) 383-5688

 

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

 

 

 

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE

NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA- SAN FRANCISCO DIVISION

FRIENDS OF YOSEMITE VALLEY, THE ACCESS FUND, GREG ADAIR, PAT AMENT, THE AMERICAN ALPINE CLUB, JOHN BACHAR, FRED BECKEY, ERIC BRAND, JIM BRIDWELL, DAVID BROWER, R.D. CAUGHRON, PETER CROFT, YVON CHOUINARD, CRAGMONT CLIMBING CLUB, ROGER DERRYBERRY, HANS FLORINE, TOM FROST, WARREN HARDING, SIBYLLE HECHTEL, TM HERBERT, LYNN HILL, CHRIS JONES, PETER MAYFIELD, JOHN MIDDENDORF, CHUCK PRATT, ROYAL ROBBINS, GALEN ROWELL, KIM SCHMITZ, STEVE SCHNEIDER, ALLEN STECK and BROCK WAGSTAFF,

 

     Plaintiffs,

 

v.

 

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,  DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, BRUCE BABBITT, in his capacity as the SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, ROBERT STANTON, in his capacity as the DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, STANLEY ALBRIGHT, in his capacity as the SUPERINTENDENT OF YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, and DOES 1 - 100,

     Defendants.

 

)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

 

 

 

Case No. 

 

 

DECLARATION OF JOHN MIDDENDORF IN SUPPORT OF COMPLAINT

(Violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and National Park Service Organic Act)

FOR DECLARATORY AND EQUITABLE RELIEF AND ATTORNEYS FEES

   I, JOHN MIDDENDORF, DECLARE:

     1.  My name is John Middendorf and I have loved the land we call Yosemite since I was a teenager.  My credentials revolve around rock climbing.  I graduated from Stanford with an Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1983, which I utilized when I began a business manufacturing rock climbing equipment, A5 Adventures.  In 1991 I sold A5 to The North Face, where I am currently employed as a designer.

     2.  I have spent as much as six years camping in Yosemite Valley.  I have spent a large portion of that camping time in Camp 4.  I will be going back to stay in Camp 4/Swan Slab and to use its camping facilities, open space and boulders before the end of the autumn of this year and during the climbing season (March through November) of every year to come for the foreseeable future.  My first visit in 1977 changed my life, when I climbed Half Dome.  I lived in Camp 4 from January 1984 to the fall of 1986 as a member of the Yosemite Search and Rescue Team ("SAR"), where I worked on many rescues with John Dill.  The rescues ranged from assisting people with sprained ankles to carrying bodies ten miles from the High Sierra, and we saved many lives during that period.  During those years, I honed my climbing skills on the rocks of Yosemite to the point where I was able to climb the Great Trango Tower in 1992, a fearsome rock wall in the Karakoram equivalent to El Cap and Half Dome stacked vertically.

     3.  Throughout the years, I have always returned to Yosemite, the place where my vertical life began. 

     4.  Camp 4 and the area between Camp 4 and the Swan Slab cliff are magic places.  In my mind they are one place.  It is where climbers from all over the world meet and share their souls.  Generally, plans are formed on the spot, when one finds a partner who has a similar frame of mind, and together, going off to experience the climbs of Yosemite. The days are spent on the vertical, often down Valley on the shorter cliffs along the Merced drainage and along the rim.  Evenings are spent bouldering on the finest boulders of the world around Camp 4 and the Swan Slab meadows, and in other spots on the Valley floor.  Periodically, a team finds the motivation to climb one of the big cliffs of Yosemite, and can be seen in the unpaved parking lot, carefully organizing their gear on a tarp under the shade of a tree.    Contributions to the Concession are marginal, mostly because climbers are a self-sufficient lot who buy groceries and cook for themselves, but occasionally a chipper morning is spent in the Lodge Cafe, drinking coffee and sharing exploits with fellow vertical travelers.

     5.  To give an idea of the layout in Camp 4 and in Swan Slab I walked this area, took photographs of it and prepared a map of the places of importance to climbers.  The places of importance are marked by hearts.  The boulders are named.  The photographs are numbered and referred to on the map that I prepared so that a person can see where I am walking and get an idea of what this magic area is like. 

     5.  The SAR members have prestige, mostly due to their permanent status--they are the lucky few who are not under the imposition of the peak-season 7-day limit.  For everyone else, getting a campsite requires a morning at the Kiosk, often time well spent due to its central location and note board, where one can find climbing partners and used gear, and get an idea of who's around.  When I began working rescues, I lived in site 27 with our excellent homemade gym.  I took my training quite seriously, and I leaped for the chance to help with rescues. We also assisted the Park Service with other tasks that required specialized help.

     6.  Once, I needed a rescue myself.  I was saved from a cold death on Half Dome by helicopter in 1986, and I was incredibly grateful to the NPS and proud of my teammates who had been hiking to the top of Half Dome in deep snow in case the Lemoore pilot couldn't reach us between the fierce storms (the inadequate equipment of the day became my inspiration to design more weatherproof shelters for big walls).

     7.  We had one run-in with the concession (then the Curry Company run by Ed Hardy).  One cold and rainy night Charles Cole and I were playing chess in the Cliff Room on the Lodge complex.  A hotel manager asked us to leave because we weren't hotel guests.  Since every other venue was open to all, not just Lodge guests, we refused.  Rangers (who we knew and had worked with) soon arrived on the scene and told the manager that we were within our rights.  What resulted was a meeting at the Ahwahnee with Ed Hardy and the park Superintendent, whereupon we were granted a Concession "Privilege Card", which allowed us discounts and free showers at the WOBs.  Our part of the agreement was to make sure the Rescue Team set a fine example for the rest of the climbers.  We felt that we were capable of the respect that we deserved as good people of this planet.

     8.  Today, though I believe that climbers have maintained status quo (if anything, climbers have become more affluent and respectable), I feel a different attitude from the National Park Service. I see a direction towards making the visitor experience more accessible from the roads, and less accessible to the outlying areas for people like climbers who come to live away from their cars and away from buildings for a short time.  The trend over the last decade has definitely been a dwindling number of walk-in campsites.  Perhaps there is less tolerance for a group of people who may appear scruffy because they have just spent their day pushing their limits struggling up a climb and haven't had the chance to get over to Housekeeping for a shower. 

     9.  Despite these appearances, climbers are a well-behaved lot using the lands in specific, environmentally friendly ways. Climbers as a group also contribute to the Park in other ways, exemplified by the trail and area maintenance organized by the American Alpine Club.  Climbers require a place in the Valley where a basecamp for forays into the wild can be set up, and as far away as buildings as possible.

     10.  I have made a map of Camp 4 so that the Court can understand how it is used.  I put in all of the boulders so that you can see where the climbers practice.  I put in the Search and Rescue tent (SAR) because of the important history of SAR.  The parking lot is not just a parking lot.  Its where we gather before and after climbs to sort out our equipment and meet friends.  The kiosk is not just a place to check in for camping, it has a bulletin board used by all of the climbers to leave notes for friends, find climbing partners, sell equipment or other such activities. 

     11.  Camp 4 and Swan Slab are sacred spots to climbers.  The sun is good, even in the winter months.  It is a place where one can get away from the indoor life, camp with the stars and moon, and feel the pulse of nature.  Swan Slab is visited daily and it is an integral part of Camp 4; without Swan Slab and the grove of trees connecting it to Camp 4, Camp 4 loses its solitude.  The solitude and the ability to remain away from buildings is key to the experience.  And the dirt parking lot is not just any parking lot: it is a place where climbers meet.  There are many more sacred areas, such as the Leidig Meadow, where one can walk to the river or hug the magnificent Muir Tree.  The new plans clearly will disrupt the current ability to roam these areas, integral to the Yosemite experience and exactly what the Park was originally set up to preserve.

     12.  I believe the NPS has the ability to retain the aspects with which it was originally created, and to see that the plan to develop the area directly east of Camp 4 with three-story employee dorms and the area north of Northside Drive with fourplexes is clearly both overly developmental and unfair to those who love the "Sunnyside" area.

     13.  The atmosphere of Camp 4/Swan Slab will be ruined by the addition of over 300 people (counting employee dorms at 226 and estimated 120 people in the 48 four-plex rooms) in the area north of Northside drive, and the buildings will sever the natural, peaceful connection between Camp 4 and Swan Slab.  Visually, the magnificent views of Sentinel, Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome will be marred by the new buildings.

     14.  The NPS and climbers have traditionally had a strong alliance since the 1950's when climbing began to get popular, and I believe that it is possible for the NPS to agree to fair negotiations with the American Alpine Club for specific rights for the people who come to Yosemite to experience the world's finest resource of granite cliffs.  As Tom Frost says, we love the NPS, and want to help the NPS return to their traditional path of preservation of our country's heritage sites.

     15.  My involvement in opposing the Lodge DCP began when I obtained maps and figured out the difference between the written documents and the realty reality in the Lodge expansion plans. My feelings were shared by others who wrote in during the comment period.  In the spring, Tom Frost, Greg Adair, and myself founded the Friends of Yosemite Valley, and we created a brochure to describe what we could best decipher as the real facts and details of the DCP.  I talked to many friends who had also spent time in Camp 4, and when they became apprised of the plans, they were shocked, confirming my desire to clarify the real issue for all. I participated in a Sierra Club special meeting to discuss the issue.  At the September 1997 AAC board meeting, I made a motion (which passed) for the board to oppose the construction planned for the area north of Northside Drive, and the December AAC annual meeting, I was a member of a panel on the use of Federal Lands, and I spoke out openly opposing the Lodge DCP and questioned Jerry Mitchell why the NPS appeared to be following the Concession's fondest dreams of expansion in the Lodge area.  I also attended the Yosemite Open House in San Francisco (regarding the VIP), where I met Joyce Eden and talked with several rangers, including Gary Colliver.  I initiated a letter writing campaign to Bruce BabbitT, Barbara Boxer, and the NPS.  I have set up a web site to describe the travesty that is planned to take place, and I have contacted many climbers in the US and around the world on the issue.  I also met with the NPS on April 6 along with Tom Frost, Yvon Chouinard, Jim McCarthy, Dick Duane, and others in which we presented our case elegantly, but got very little response from the NPS.

     16.  I can only hope that the NPS will see the folly of their plans before it is too late.

 

 

 

     I have personal knowledge of the foregoing and if called as a witness could testify competently thereto.

     I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

Dated:

 

                               ____________________________________

                               JOHN MIDDENDORF