Ultimate foothill job

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

A former New York City businessman left the corporate world seven years ago to create his dream job in the Sierra Nevada.

John DeGrazio moved to Sonora in 2003 and started Y Explore Yosemite Adventures, offering professionally guided hikes and tours of various destinations in Yosemite National Park.

"I'm trying to create the ultimate job for myself here in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada," said DeGrazio. "I wanted to utilize my skills in an area that interested me a lot more than finance."

DeGrazio came up with Y Explore during a trip to Yosemite in 2003 when he hiked to the top of Half Dome for the first time.

The trip came around the time when digital photography was becoming recognized as the new norm, DeGrazio said, and so he came up with the idea for an adventure company guiding people to picturesque sites in Yosemite.

He and his staff of local naturalists and survivalists now guide groups on backpacking trips, day hikes, photography workshops and nature tours in and around the park.

His company has now served nearly 5,000 clients from around the world, including China, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

"I love the fact I'm able to help people achieve a goal," DeGrazio said. "When I hear their feedback it really makes me proud of what I do and brings me true joy."

A favorite of DeGrazio's is the hike up Half Dome, which was what started it all for him. He has since hiked the cable trail 99 times and decided to do something special for his 100th trek up the iconic formation last Saturday.

DeGrazio set out around 1:30 p.m. with friend Gabriel Mange, a photographer and experienced rock climber, to climb the Snake Dike route of Half Dome for the first time.

"It's a much greater challenge, but a much greater reward as well," DeGrazio said of the route.

For an additional challenge, they started late so that they could reach the summit at sunset and descend in the dark, DeGrazio said. But despite this most recent accomplishment, DeGrazio said his company won't be offering rock climbing trips anytime soon.

"I wanted my 100th to be a unique experience and a challenge different than the one I've had in the past," he said. "For the most part, I did it just for the uniqueness of it and to be able to say I actually climbed Half Dome."

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4530.

The Union Democrat
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