Rock Climbing

The Stonemasters: Climbing’s Cannabis-Fueled 1970s Rebellion

Rock Climbing

A group of weed-smoking outlaws made rock climbing the coolest sport of the 1970s and forever changed Yosemite Valley – and the outdoor industry.


First ascent: the first successful (and documented) completion of a climb

Chalk bag: small pouch with drawstring closure that holds climbers chalk (climbers use chalk to keep their hands dry for better grip) 

El Capitan: aka “El Cap”- a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park 

The Nose: a technical climbing route on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park 

Free climbing: climbing with ropes, but only for safety – not to help a climber reach the summit

Rock climbing is more popular than ever, with local crags overrun and new gyms opening every week (pre-pandemic). 

But today’s climbers are encountering a version of the sport vastly different than it was 50 years ago. And they can thank the Stonemasters for making climbing stylish, stoned, and cool. 

Climbing’s subdued early years.

Defined by monastic personalities and restrained climbing styles, the early decades of big wall climbing were relatively tame. 

The sport was sober and methodical, with an abundance of gear and strict rules that influenced a climber’s speed on big walls. Early legends like Warren Harding and Royal Robbins often spent weeks completing first ascents. It took 45-days for Harding to ascend the Nose of El Capitan. Robbins’ team later completed the climb in seven days. 

(While significant, Robbins and Harding’s achievements seem glacially slow compared to Stonemaster John Long’s 1975 one-day ascent of the Nose.)

Climbing didn’t’ find its cool until a band of stoned teenage outlaws took over Yosemite Valley.

Harding and Robbins’ generations seemed uptight to a group of Southern California teens, who found more inspiration from surfing, rock n roll, Bruce Lee, cannabis, and free jazz than traditional climbing.

They adopted a boundary-pushing climbing style (free climbing), smashed first ascents, and challenged the climbing status quo. And they were cool. 

The Stonemasters were outlaws clad in white painters pants with long-hair tamed by headbands. They wore thrift store shirts and had hand-sewn chalk bags dangling from their waistbands.

“The style was in how you acted, how you looked, even in the kind of sunglasses you wore. Mostly we had thrift store fashion—you’d go to the thrift store and get all that cool rayon stuff from the 60s. Then you’d go to the paint store and get a pair of white painter pants for almost nothing, and then we had a bandana. It worked out well.”—Dean Fidelman 

And the crew smoked a lot of weed. Before his death in 2014, John Long explained to an interviewer that “the drug of choice was just cheap, low-grade weed. Bongs were the ritual. We were just smoking reefers all the time.” 

Stonemaster Dean Fidelman, to the same interviewer, said, “there’d be guys with helmets, using too much protection, or climbing slowly in a very cautious manner, on easy ground. And on easy ground, we didn’t even use a rope half the time. We’d be going for it smoking dope.”In the Stonemaster camp, where competition and community were intertwined, cannabis helped friends unwind together after a day of competing on Yosemite’s big walls. 

The Stonemasters celebrated audacity, adventure, lawlessness, and style – both in their appearance and approach to climbing – and life. 

“They weren’t’ the first men to climb mountains. They were just the first to make it look this damn cool. They invented their own bare-bone, white-knuckled style of climbing, yes—taking down unprecedented multi-day ascents, and honing the art of free-soloing, climbing alone without any ropes.” -Luke Zaleski, GQ

The Stonemasters influence on today’s outdoor industry.

The Stonemasters practically invented modern climbing, and they also shaped today’s outdoor industry. New outdoor brands emulate the Stonemasters blue-collar surfer aesthetic. Their devil-may-care lifestyle is the inspiration for influencers and brands alike. 

Today’s outdoor industry thrives on its army of micro-influencers. And most of them are tracing the Stonemasters footsteps, living out of cars, and finding inspiration in cannabis and nature. 

“The millions of people who play in the air-conditioned, Lululemon palaces that today pass as rock walls have a few dozen rock-hugging hippies to thank for their daily dose of adrenaline. As well as their apparent sex appeal.”—Nathan Siegel

S'mores - Koala Krunch

Koala Krunch is the perfect post-climb indulgence.

Health-conscious climbers don’t want to consume sugary processed edibles. Koala Krunch is made from real and all-natural ingredients and packed with healthy nutrients and premium cannabis distillate. And while we don’t suggest you consume Koala Krunch before climbing, we can’t think of a better post-climb snack. 

Why not live your life like a Stonemaster? Get high. Feel free. Have fun.