Finding Hetch Hetchy: The Hidden Yosemite – to Premiere at Telluride Mountainfilm Festival

“Finding Hetch Hetchy: The Hidden Yosemite,” a new short climbing documentary jointly produced by Burkard Studios and Q Stories, will premiere at Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride on May 27.  The film features veteran climbers Timmy O’Neill and  Lucho Rivera, one of the few familiar with the canyon, for a dramatic and spirited ascent of Hetch Hetchy Dome.   

Timmy O’Neill had spent three decades scaling the monoliths in Yosemite Valley but, like so many climbers in the park, had never visited nearby Hetch Hetchy. As it follows Timmy and Lucho, Finding Hetch Hetchy shows breathtaking views of the canyon and the excellent opportunities for climbers while explaining the opportunity to relocate Hetch Hetchy’s namesake reservoir and restore the valley below to its natural beauty.

“What is really unique about climbing in Hetch Hetchy is how few people are there. It is truly this wild place. You always hear Hetch Hetchy is equal in beauty to Yosemite Valley. That is true,” says O’Neill in the documentary. Of the mission to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley, O’Neill says: “I see the ability to have a clean slate, a blank canvas, where you take the lessons learned from Yosemite Valley but have it be cleaner, quieter and less congested.”

When Congress created Yosemite National Park in 1890, Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy, once home to Native Americans, was to be protected in perpetuity. In the early 1900s, however, San Francisco launched a campaign to dam and flood Hetch Hetchy and won Congressional approval, in 1913, to do so, burying the extraordinary valley under water and making the surrounding canyon nearly inaccessible to visitors. Although the  unprecedented battle to stop the dam was unsuccessful, it helped launch the international environmental movement.

“Yosemite Valley is well-known as the epicenter of American climbing, but Hetch Hetchy, its sister valley to the north, has long been left in its shadows, despite being part of Yosemite National Park. When Hetch Hetchy is restored to its natural splendor, it will be another mecca for climbers—as well as for those who simply like to watch them from terra firma,” said Martin who co-directed the film. “It was thrilling to shoot on those towering granite walls as Timmy and Lucho took on this climbing challenge, and an honor to be part of bringing a message of both access and restoration, to climbers and the outdoor community, about this remarkable place.”

Finding Hetch Hetchy, which has a run time of ten minutes and will be released broadly after it screens in Telluride, was sponsored by Restore Hetch Hetchy. “This is a view of the majesty and splendors of Hetch Hetchy like none we have seen before,” said Spreck Rosekrans, Executive Director of Restore Hetch Hetchy.

“We are proud to have worked with these extraordinary filmmakers and climbers to help raise awareness of our mission to relocate the reservoir outside Yosemite and restore Hetch Hetchy Valley to its natural splendor, and of our vision of returning this glorious place to the people as a new kind of national park, an inspiration for restoration across the globe, with shared stewardship, an improved visitor experience and protection of its natural and cultural heritage.”

For information on tickets to view the Mountainfilm screening of Finding Hetch Hetchy: The Hidden Yosemite, click here

For more information on Restore Hetch Hetchy, go to

For more information about how the American public’s access to Hetch Hetchy has been limited, click here for a copy of ‘Keeping Promises: Providing Public Access to Hetch Hetchy Valley, Yosemite National Park”

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