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Climbers need to police themselves

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Thanks for showing both sides of the climbing-impact issue (HCN, 7/7/03: Invasion of the rock jocks). I am a 41-year-old who has been climbing for over 25 years. I’ve done both bolt-free traditional and bolted sport-route first ascents. As much as I would like to deny it, climbers do impact the environment in many adverse ways.

Years ago, there was a general progression that many people followed when they started climbing: In general, people were already enjoying outdoor pursuits, such as hiking and camping, before they started climbing. The love and respect of the outdoor environment was already there. Nowadays, many climbers have had absolutely no outdoor experience before taking that step from the climbing gym to the great outdoors. Many of these people have no concept that they are impacting fragile ecosystems every time they trample a plant, drop a cigarette butt or leave some used toilet paper along an approach trail.

We need to do a better job of policing and educating ourselves and others. Climbing gyms and guide services need to be proactive with this education.

I would also like to applaud HCN for bringing up the guidebook and marketing standpoint. Many fragile areas remain relatively undisturbed for years — until somebody comes along and decides it’s time to promote for a profit. In essence, authors of articles and guides provide the impetus for large-scale impacts for a small personal profit and perhaps some notoriety.

This needs to stop. When nonlocal climbers write guidebooks or articles, they need to step back and ask themselves, “Is there a reason why the local residents haven’t done this?” and “Are the profits I am receiving justifying the impacts I am creating?”

Perhaps guidebook and article authors should start donating profits to mitigate some of their impacts.

Todd Leeds
Salt Lake City, Utah
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