The Gunks, NY. The Subaru/Leave No Trace Northeast Regional Team recently had the opportunity to work closely with the Access Fund during a two-day educational summit. The main focus was presentations and discussions around how to reach climbers that are transitioning from one of the 10,000 indoor climbing gyms to the outdoor crags with educational information about minimizing impact, as well as, how to instill a wilderness ethic into some of these climbers that may benew to the out of doors.
During a presentation led by Pete Ward, he reported that he and a team of his interns calculated the rough number of climbers that hit the gyms each year and estimated that there are 7 million people going to rock climbing gyms. This does not take into account multiple visits by one user, nor is there any way to calculate what percentage of these users are heading out doors to rock climb or boulder. With that shear number of climbers using gyms across the country, it is inevitable that many of them will challenge themselves to take their skills outdoors.
If you or someone you know is transitioning from gym to crag, please share these tips on low impact practices to help preserve the quality of climbing areas and to help maintain access to the amazing crags:
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area where you plan to climb
- Be prepared for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies
- Schedule you climbs to avoid times of high use
- Bring the appropriate equipment for the route(s) you intend to climb
- Check the local regulations and ethics regarding the installation and use of fixed protection
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Always use durable roads and trails to access climbing routes
- When unpacking gear at crags, choose a durable location for your staging and belay areas
- Use existing anchors when possible
- Protect water sources by camping 200 ft away from lakes and streams
- Good campsite and bivy sites are found not made.
Dispose of Waste Properly
-Pack in it, pack it out. This includes all trash, food scraps, tape, and litter.
-Carry out all abandoned gear and webbing.
-Minimize use of chalk whenever possible. Keep chalk bags closed when not in use to avoid spills.
-If facilities are available, use them. If not, pack out human waste whenever possible.
- If allowed, deposit human waste in a cathole, dug 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 ft away from water. Cover and disguise hole when finished.
Leave What You Find
-Leave rocks, plants, and other natural objects where you find them
- Avoid developing new routes near archeological areas or critical wildlife habitat
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species
-Do not build structures, furniture or dig trenches
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Consider using a camp stove for cooking and bring a headlamp for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use the established fire ring
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand
- Do not bring firewood with you. It may be contaminated with tree killing insects or diseases. Instead buy local firewood.
- Avoid burning food scraps or trash in the campfire.
- Learn about seasonal closures and be prepared to back off a route if you disturb wildlife
- Observe wildlife from a distance
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors and exposes them to predators.
- Store your food properly
- If you bring your dog, ensure they are under control, bring a leash, and never leave them unattended.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other groups and visitors
- Larger groups should try to not monopolize popular climbing routes
- Maintain a cooperative spirit by being courteous to others along the trails and crags
- Let natures sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and music at the crags, unless necessary for communication with your climbing partner(s)
Once you have committed principles to memory, please be a role model for others to follow. Leading by example can be a very powerful tool when teaching others about Leave No Trace. If we all work together, we can make the gym to crag transition as respectful as possible!
Respect the Crag,
Kate and Tracy
Leave No Trace’s Kate Bullock and Tracy Howard are part of the 2013 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Coleman, Hi-Cone, The North Face, REI, Smartwool and Yakima.