October 1, 2013 was Yosemite National Park’s 123rd birthday, but the park was conspicuously empty. No crowds wandered the trails; no climbers ascended any of the iconic rock formations. Even the National Park Service website was halted as a result of the US Government shutdown.
Obamacare has no discernible effect on National Parks, but our frozen government resulting from budgeting issues caused total shutdown of the entire National Park System. With no certain end in sight, National Parks may remain blocked off for weeks.
Although this may not be a huge issue for many Colorado College students, imagine the dismay of a hypothetical Japanese tourist group flying in on Sept. 30 to tour America’s greatest National Parks, monuments, and zoos.
Even worse—at least in the eyes of climbers everywhere—is the fact that the shutdown coincides with Chris Sharma’s announcement to join a climbing team in Yosemite. The group of climbers, including Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson, and Jonathan Siegrist hope to put up the most difficult big-wall free climb ever on El Capitan.
Sharma announced he would join the team the very same day that the park shut down. Some of the original three climbers have been working on the route, called Dawn Wall, since 2007. It consists of 28-30 pitches, seven of which are rated 5.14. The team plans to continue its assault on the wall as soon as Yosemite re-opens.
In any case, do not expect any ORC or personal trips in Great Sand Dunes, Black Canyon and Gunnison, Mesa Verde, or Rocky Mountain National Parks this weekend.