Petapixel and now others are posting about this and its definitely worth considering. I posted a comment on Petapixel this morning and I’ll repost it here.
Here’s the National Park Service notice: Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) Prohibited in Yosemite National Park.
Image of Yosemite Falls and Point by flickr member ScottD75.
Over 30 years ago I spent summers climbing in Yosemite Valley. If you look at the image used in this post, you see Yosemite Falls and at the far right on that ridge is Yosemite Point. Just to the left of the point you can just make out a small pinnacle detached from the cliff which is called The Lost Arrow Spire.
When my then girlfriend and I climbed the Lost Arrow Spire what we didn’t consider was its proximity to the most populated spot in the valley: Yosemite Village. I happened to be wearing a red shirt when I lead this climb and when I topped out every car horn in the valley went off; I had no clue so many people were following us with binoculars and the sound about knocked me off the top (yes, I was tied in but I didn’t expect it, guess it was a tradition I didn’t know about).
I’m pretty sure that had there been drones around in those days someone might have decided to get a closer look at us with one. Three things to consider:
1. Had the drone gotten too close and knocked me off the A-4 pitch (back then) in the middle of this climb, it might have caused a serious problem.
2. The falls wasn’t running when we did the climb so all we could hear (before the car horns went off) was a bit of wind. I’m not sure I’d have appreciated a drone hovering nearby, even with a quiet electrical hum. If it got in the way of our leader-belayer signals I’d have been unhappy about it and it was tough to hear each other on the very extended last pitch.
3. We did take some pictures on the climb but I’d have paid a lot of money to the drone pilot/photographer for that video had it turned out well, or even if it was mediocre. (I’m having those slides scanned right now. Stay tuned for a post with them.)
One of my favorite movies on climbing in Yosemite back in the day, El Capitan, has been digitally remastered and is available on Amazon (I posted about it here). When it was made, over a single summer, the climber/filmmaker Glen Denny did the climb with the three climbers but also got footage from a helicopter. All of that is cut together by Fred Padula. The film is dated but it remains one of the finest accounts of an early climb of the Nose Route on one of the greatest granite cliffs on earth.
Bottom line: had Padula and Denny had drones, there is no doubt in my mind that they would have used them and it would have made the film better. That said, the Park service would have (correctly) warned other climbing parties on El Cap about the drones.