Star Rock Climber Who Allegedly Assaulted Women Climbers For Years Receives Life Sentence

A once-celebrated rock climber was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for repeatedly raping a woman hiker in Yosemite National Park, following years of allegations of sexual assault, violent attacks, threats and harassment of other women in the rock-climbing community, prosecutors said.

Charles “Charlie” Barrett, 40, was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact against the woman, identified in court documents as “K.G.,” for the August 2016 rapes in Yosemite.

Three other women were also allowed to testify in the trial about his alleged attacks on them, which prosecutors said occurred from 2008 through 2016. He was not charged in those cases, which fell outside of federal jurisdiction, but prosecutors said they demonstrated a pattern of predatory behavior and intimidation.

Rock climber Charles Barrett, 40, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in Yosemite National Park after what prosecutors called a
Rock climber Charles Barrett, 40, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in Yosemite National Park after what prosecutors called a "long history of sexual violence." Matteo Agnoloni via Getty Images

K.G. told authorities that she met Barrett at Yosemite, where she went swimming with him and a group of climbing friends, according to court documents viewed by HuffPost. That night, he lured her to a remote area, where he pushed her to the ground, strangled her until she couldn’t breathe, and “violently raped her,” according to court documents. He assaulted her two more times over the weekend, hurting her so badly that she told investigators she was “wailing” from the pain.

She didn’t leave early that weekend because she was terrified that he would kill her, she said.

A month after the assaults, Barrett texted her, saying, “Can we be friends? I miss you.” She responded, “I find it hard to be friends with guys who rape me,” according to the documents.

Before and after she reported the assaults in 2020, Barrett harassed and stalked her, contacting her ex-boyfriend, a potential employer and others on social media, threatening to sue her for defamation, K.G. said. In multiple social media posts, he compared himself to Johnny Depp and used the hashtag “#MenToo,” according to court documents.

When he assaulted K.G., Barrett was living and working at Yosemite — which had previously banned him for three years after he was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence in 2004, threatening the officers who took him into custody and slashing the tires of a park ranger. (He later also threatened to kill the 9-year-old twin daughters of the ranger involved in the DUI stop, investigators said.)

He was charged with five felonies in connection with the incidents, which were dropped when he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor vandalism charge and served six months in prison, according to Outside Magazine and court documents viewed by HuffPost.

Between his arrest and conviction in 2006, Barrett violently attacked a veteran climber he was dating, she said. The woman, identified in court documents as “B.H.,” told Outside that one night without warning, he struck her so hard in her head with his fist that she was knocked unconscious. When she came to, she found that he had dragged her dog to the middle of a busy highway, holding it by its collar and yelling that he planned to kill himself. He eventually freed the dog and drove away.

She didn’t contact authorities until she said he attacked her again, in October 2008, after he found her gathered around a campfire with other climbers in a popular climbing area. He taunted her dog, she told Outside, and when it bit him, he started beating it. When she tried to leave with the dog, he followed her to her truck and knocked her to the ground, she said. Another climber said he found Barrett punching her repeatedly in the head as she laid unconscious. He pleaded no contest to felony domestic violence and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, court records show.

Meanwhile, Barrett’s popularity in the climbing community grew. He was praised by friends and admirers for his record-setting climbs and popular guidebooks, while the women who spoke out about his assaults and threats were shunned by the climbing community, multiple people told Outside. 

In 2016, he attacked another woman he had been dating, identified in court documents as “E.B.,” breaking into her house and sexually assaulting her after she broke up with him, authorities said. After the attack, he continued to threaten and harass her, saying he would “ruin [her] life” and do “unspeakable” things to her if she pressed charges, investigators said.

Ultimately, Barrett was charged with three counts of misdemeanor trespassing in that incident. Two charges were dropped, and he pleaded no contest to the third. He was given a two-year suspended sentence.

Another woman who testified against Barrett said he sexually assaulted her while she was sleeping in 2010. She got away, and for years afterward he threatened to kill her, harassed her on social media, and publicly and privately disparaged her. 

“Barrett’s long history of sexual violence supports the imposition of a life sentence,” U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said Tuesday. “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.”

In a statement shared with HuffPost, Barrett’s attorney, Timothy Hennessy, said that the life sentence was “excessive” and planned to appeal.

During the hearing Tuesday, the four women leaned on one another, often holding hands and wiping away tears, according to the Sacramento Bee, which said they cried in relief after the judge announced his life sentence.

In a statement to the court before Barrett’s sentencing, the Sacramento Bee reported, K.G. said, “It is time to put a definitive end to Barrett’s reign of terror.”

Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.