If you’re like most climbers, you pore over guidebooks for weeks or even months when planning a climbing trip. You educate yourself on routes, descents, gear, and camping. But what about the local ethics, issues, and challenges at your destination crag? Part of being a responsible climber is knowing how to tread lightly—both socially and environmentally. In this Inside Scoop series, we’ll connect you with local access leaders at some of the country's top climbing destinations for valuable insight into local ethics and issues.
Destination: INDIAN CREEK, UT
Local Expert: LISA HATHAWAY, PRESIDENT OF FRIENDS OF INDIAN CREEK
What does the access situation look like in Indian Creek?
Access remains great at Indian Creek, and for that we are incredibly fortunate. But that can always change. Climbers need to respect and adhere to the policies. I have seen entire crags closed (notably, Donnelly and Supercrack!) and reopened, so we must always be vigilant! Access is earned, not given!
Are there currently any threats to climbing access?
No, but there have been many administrative turnovers at BLM and in the Canyonlands district—any time this happens, there may be shifts in field office policy. One of the greatest challenges in advocacy is maintaining relationships with stakeholders, especially when personnel revolve. It is imperative that climbers understand this and do their best to exceed expectations in any given area, as the next land manager may not be as keen to give us liberties.
Does the Creek experience overcrowding? If so, how do you address it?
That’s a tough question. Indian Creek is vast and can accommodate large numbers of visitors, particularly if folks disperse. But the infrastructure only goes so far. Waste management (human and other), camping, and parking are the biggest concerns. Carpooling and dispersing from the most popular areas on busy days always helps. Climbers should never park along the side of the road or in front of a gate if a parking lot is full.
What’s the deal with new camping fees? Why are they necessary?
Visitation to Indian Creek has skyrocketed over the past decade, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can no longer bear the entire expense to maintain the campgrounds. Waste removal alone is a huge financial burden. If visitors don’t step up to help cover this expense, the resulting impacts will damage this delicate desert environment. The BLM has proposed a fee structure for campsites in the corridor—the effective date is still to be determined.
What’s the best way to dispose of human waste in the Creek?
Plan as best as you can to use the loos. If you have to go and there isn’t a toilet around, pack it out. Desert soil can’t biodegrade human waste. We recommend that all climbers carry a human waste disposal bag, like a RESTOP bag.
How is the relationship between climbers and the land managers?
In recent years, our relationship has been solid. We strive to keep it that way.
What are the local ethics at Indian Creek?
As I mentioned earlier, most of the policies revolve around camping, parking, and waste management. When climbers respect all of these policies, as well as any closures, and follow The Pact, all is well.
Any words of wisdom for folks visiting the Creek for the first time?
Be a self-contained unit and pack it all out! Also, don’t co-opt a route for hours. If the crag is crowded and there’s a queue, keep your party moving. If you’ve fallen or hung three times and others are waiting, be respectful and come down.
How can people support Friends of Indian Creek?
You can become a joint member of the Friends of Indian Creek and Access Fund with a single membership! Just visit www.accessfund.org/join. If you’re signed up for Access Fund emails, keep an eye on your inbox for volunteer opportunities.
Photo courtesy of Ty Tyler