After 20-plus years of working to protect climbing access, the Access Fund has seen nearly every scenario for how to lose access to our precious crags and boulder fields. Some of those situations are beyond the control of the average climber. But the majority of access issues can be averted if climbers avoid some common pitfalls.
- Disrespecting the climbing environment. When you litter, trample vegetation, leave tick marks, cut trail, improperly dispose of human waste, or stash pads, you are damaging the climbing environment. Every climbing area has a threshold, and it’s only a matter of time before unmitigated impacts cause a landowner to shut it down.
- Overcrowding. An overcrowded climbing area has a huge impact on the environment (trampled vegetation, unacceptable noise levels, etc), but it’s also a red flag to a land manager that impacts may be teetering on the line of unacceptable. If you get to a climbing area and the parking lot is jam packed, consider finding another, less crowded place to climb.
- Accidents. Whenever a climber gets hurt, a landowner gets nervous. Every landowner, both public and private, is concerned about liability on some level. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. The best way to avoid them is to be prepared, don’t take unnecessary risks, and be safe. And if you’re a beginner, don’t go outside without a mentor to teach you properly.
- Disrespecting the landowner. It doesn’t matter if you’re climbing on private land or public land, when you see a ranger or a landowner, remember that you’re on THEIR turf, and you represent the climbing community at large. A bad impression goes a long way and puts climbers in a negative light. So smile, say “thank you,” and follow their rules.
- Not respecting closures. Many climbing areas have seasonal or permanent closure areas to protect nesting raptors, cultural resources like petroglyphs and sacred sites or sensitive plant life. Respect those closures and stay away from sensitive resources, or risk losing access to the rest of the climbs.
- Bolting inappropriately. Most public and private landowners have regulations about where and how you can install bolts. For instance, it’s illegal to use a power drill in a designated wilderness area. Know the rules and ethics at the area before you bolt.
- Failing to organize. When climbers come together, we keep more climbing areas open. Access Fund relies on local climbing organizations to be the first line of defense when access issues occur. When locals form an organized group, it’s easier to partner with landowners, have political clout with town and state governments, and get resources to care for your climbing areas.