Ken Yager fell in love with Yosemite as a 13-year-old when his dad pulled over and let him run to the base of the 3,000-foot monolith called El Capitan. When he touched it for the first time he said it felt like magic.
"It was like sparks going into my hand," Yager said. "It was just really intense. It changed my life. I just became infatuated with the place."
Yosemite National Park is known to have some of the best and most challenging granite climbing in the world. Yager moved to the Yosemite area in his late teens. He's now in his late fifties and runs the Yosemite Climbing Association, a nonprofit that supports climbers in the park.
Back in the day there wasn't much support — in fact, climbers weren't always adored. Yager said they were viewed as long-haired rebels. They'd stay in the park longer than allowed, scrounge for food and partied.
"We had no money, so we weren't very welcome because we weren't adding to the economy up here — like taking showers, sometimes you kind of had to sneak in," said Yager. "It kind of forced you to be a criminal."
He says that's almost entirely changed now because the sport has gone mainstream with an estimated 150,000 climbers per year trying their skills in Yosemite. The big equalizer? "Climbing gyms have really got people out on the rock," said Yager.