Pro Rock Climber Charles Barrett Gets Life Sentence for Multiple Sexual Assaults

Charles Barrett, a 40-year-old rock climber convicted of sexual abuse, was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.

The longtime Yosemite climber had been convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact, according to a news release. All three incidents occurred at Yosemite National Park in 2016, said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.

“Barrett’s long history of sexual violence supports the imposition of a life sentence,” Talbert said in the news release. “He used his status as a prominent climber to assault women in the rock-climbing community, and when his victims began to tell, Barrett responded by lashing out publicly with threats and intimidation. This case is a testament to the courage of the victims who reported these crimes.”

Barrett committed the crimes in August 2016, when the victim was visiting Yosemite for a weekend of hiking, according to court documents. Barrett, who was living and working for a private business in the park, sexually assaulted her three times over the course of the weekend.

During the trial, three other women testified that Barrett also sexually assaulted them, Talbert said Tuesday. Those assaults were not included in the charges against Barrett because they occurred outside federal jurisdiction. However, they were allowed as additional evidence in the trial.

“It is time to put a definitive end to Barrett’s reign of terror,” one of his victims said, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point. Photo: Xiaoling Keller

A lack of remorse

It wasn’t until several years after that 2016 weekend that charges were filed against Barrett.

In 2017, he “purposely” climbed at the same gym as a victim he had assaulted in 2000, prosecutors said. That woman disclosed Barrett’s assault on her to the gym owner, which resulted in Barrett harassing and threatening her for several years. In August 2022, he was convicted for the criminal threats he made in January 2022.

That same month, federal prosecutors charged him with sexual abuse, leading to a two-year trial that ended today with life in prison for Barrett.

While in custody for this case, Barrett made hundreds of phone calls, prosecutors said. During these calls, he showed “no remorse or regret,” Talbert said in the news release. Instead, Barrett threatened to use violence and lawsuits against the victims, claiming they created a conspiracy to ruin his life.

This case was the result of an investigation by the National Park Service.

“We are grateful for the tireless work of the National Park Service investigative team and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring this case to justice,” Yosemite National Park Superintendent Cicely Muldoon said. “Today’s sentencing sends a clear message about the consequences of this criminal behavior. It makes Yosemite a safer place for the climbing community, park visitors, and our employees.”

Barrett’s sentencing comes days after The New York Times reported on accusations of sexual assault by mountaineer Nirmal Purja. The story included other notable examples of sexual misconduct in climbing — including Barrett.


This story first appeared in GearJunkie.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.