It’s 5:45 a.m. and I’m standing in a line of people that wraps around the Camp 4 parking lot. It feels like I’m waiting for concert tickets but this is just Yosemite National Park on Memorial Day Weekend. Rows of bodies in sleeping bags sprawl close to the camp registration booth; the occupants have bivied here to increase their chances of getting sites.
This sucks. What feels like an eternity passes before I’m snapped back to reality by a tap on the shoulder.
“I can’t believe you came to Yosemite and didn’t call!” I look around to find Eric Ruderman smilingly berating me. “Grab your stuff,” he says. “I’ll get you a guest pass. You’re staying with me.”
This isn’t Ruderman’s first rescue. For the last five years he has been a working member of the esteemed Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) crew, where a prodigious amount of climbing, rope-rigging experience, physical fitness, medical knowledge and a strong stomach are prerequisites. The desire to be a part of YOSAR hit him on his first visit to the Valley.
“The place blew me away,” he says. “I knew I wanted to live here. I wanted to be legit, though, as well as give back and help others. YOSAR was the perfect fit, so I got my EMT certification and my WFR cert and applied.”
Since his inauguration Ruderman has spent half of each year in Yosemite, and the other half traveling the globe climbing and surfing.
Growing up in Long Island, New York, Ruderman spent his youth surfing the Atlantic coastline near his home and exploring the concrete jungle of New York City. The family business, a music store there, exposed him to every genre of music and a thriving culture of music lovers. His first real outdoor experience was traveling and camping with the Grateful Dead and Phish—and eventually working for Phish’s Green Crew picking up garbage for recycling in exchange for free tickets.
“Those were great times—camping, dancing, and seeing the country. The only states I haven’t visited are Hawaii and North Dakota. Music has always been a tremendous part of my life.”
When asked what he likes most about his rescue work, Eric replies: “Besides the phenomenal climbing and the great work that SAR does, I come back each year to be with my co-workers. A small community lives on the SAR site for half the year. We work, climb, cook and hang out together. They are some of my closest friends and most trusted climbing partners. We are on call 24 hours a day, but we all find time to do what we love—climb. It’s a rewarding lifestyle that allows me to spend time in the most beautiful place on earth.”