Climbing: Is it right?

  Dear HCN,


Regarding Armando Menocal's question about whether or not a bolt or rappel sling should be considered an "installation" under the 1964 Wilderness Act - these words being the key phrase for the Forest Service ban on bolts - my answer is clearly yes (HCN, 8/17/98). You are drilling a hole, inserting a piece of metal (not highly biodegradable), and leaving it behind. I know when the telephone company comes to "install" a phone jack, it's not much larger than your bolt (and a little more expensive).


It's probable that the real issue most public agencies are struggling with is the proliferation of people and the means and methods used to access the land. There are more of us and we are continually finding more ways to go farther and faster. Bolts make it easier for people to access areas that before had few visitors. Does this mean more impacts to birds, lichen, moss and flora? Probably. The problem is that in most cases, on a site-specific basis, neither side can prove "scientifically" if there are, or are not, impacts. I would put the burden of proof on the party requesting the new climbing route or a new trail or new four-wheel drive route: Prove there are no impacts.


Of the golden eagle nests in Boulder County, Colo., which have documented nesting records back to the turn of the century (eight nests), we know we have lost one due to climbing activity, and a second is having problems. Other nests have nearby climbing routes, but due to climbing closures, appear to be doing OK. Overall, the climbing community has been good in respecting the seasonal closures. What I reflect on is that it took non-climbers to point out the problem and the need for seasonal closures.


Shouldn't climbers, being great outdoors people, be able to recognize their surroundings, and what impact they are having? If climbers don't know the impacts, and if there are not other people around to monitor the situation, how does anyone know the impacts to eagles, let alone other raptors, wildlife, moss or lichen? Again, I put the burden of proof on the proponent of the new climbing route.


I think it's time for all recreationists, climbers included, to stop pushing for their legal rights, and start asking the question: "Is it right?"





Cliff Miller


Nederland, Colorado


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