Climbing outside is great, huh? The fresh air, the feel of REAL ROCK and the chance to break in that brand new rack of draws your mom got you for Christmas! Sometimes the climbing community as a whole can take our access to outside climbing areas for granted, though. We're climbing on big rocks that have been in place for centuries — seems like a no-brainer that we should be allowed to do that, right? I mean, rocks are free?!!!?? But behind every accessible climbing area, there is a local or national organization fighting to maintain its access and upkeep. According to the Access Fund, one in five climbing areas in the U.S. is threatened by an access issue. So today's post is all about access! Since we realize you guys can't spend every day climbing in our gyms and will want to venture outside, here are some tips to keep your impact low while climbing outside - a great way to keep our climbing areas open to climbers today, and in the future.
- Carpool - Reduce overcrowding in the parking lot by cramming as many of y'all in a car as possible! Be safe about this, obviously - everyone needs a seatbelt and putting a crash pad on top of your Nissan Sentra might not work out.
- Educate yourself - Learn the rules and regulations of the area you are traveling to. Some areas, like Reimer's Ranch in Austin, have fairly simple entry. Other areas, like Hueco Tanks, have very restricted access, and takes weeks or months of planning before a visit. Know before you go - is the area still open to climbers? Is there a day fee? Are certain areas closed? Do you need to request access? Do you need a guide? Can you bring your dog?
- Stick to the trail - Now is not the time for wanderlust! Don't wander off the beaten path - this increases the damage from foot traffic to the surrounding wilderness.
- Keep your stuff together - Once you've reached the climbing area, don't yard sale your gear from one end of the crag to the other. Keep it together, and out of the vegetation. If you're going to hang a hammock, make sure the tree you've chosen to hang from can sustain you, so you don't become an accidental lumberjack who now has to lay in the dirt.
- Keep it down - Especially in areas that are private property, or nearby residences, it is important to keep the noise levels down. If you're screaming and hollering on your sick proj while Most Def is bumping on your bluetooth speakers, chances are the local community might get annoyed, and not so welcoming of the presence of climbers. Have respect for the climbers and non-climbers alike that you are sharing the area with - keep your volume down, and if you must play music, ask permission from your fellow crag-goers first.
- Pack your trash out - If you packed it in, you're packing it out! Don't leave trash! Ever! Even those little bitty strips of tape that fall off when you're mid-crush — find that shizz and take it out with you. Bonus points to those who pack out other people's trash — inevitably not everyone is as woke AF as you, and some folks may leave trash. Be a bro / broette and pack their trash out with you.
- Don't create human land mines - AKA use designated toilet facilities! No one likes seeing human waste at the crag! Eww!
- Keep chalk use to a minimum - Most areas in the United States are ok with the use of chalk, but let's not take advantage of that by LeBron James-ing your chalk everywhere. Keep your chalkbag closed when not in use, and try to minimize spills.
Try to use existing anchors when available - If no such anchors exist, try to avoid anchoring off a tree. If that becomes necessary, avoid causing undue damage to the tree's bark by building your anchor using a sling, instead of running the rope straight off the tree.
Be on critter watch - We share all climbing areas with a variety of neato wildlife. Don't piss off these critters. Many of them make their homes in / on the rock. If you're climbing, and come across a most likely pissed-off critter, leave them be and find a way to bypass them. Could you imagine if some giant, chalk-up hand shoved itself into your home while you were napping? One way ticket to Traumatown, so be conscious of wildlife as you are climbing.
This is not the time for souvenirs - Unless it's trash, don't take anything from the climbing area. It might be tempting to take a rock home for the memz, but if everyone that visits takes a rock, then that will contribute greatly to the erosion of the surrounding area.
Local and National climbing access resources
Get involved by donating to, or joining these organizations!
The Access Fund: A national organization dedicated to preserving climbing access in the United States. Recently notable for securing access to the Motherlode at the Red River Gorge, and helping to secure access to Bears Ears Nationals Monument in Utah.
Leave No Trace: A national organization educates people on outdoor ethics and how to help preserve our country's public lands.
The American Alpine Club: A national organization that is a strong advocate for climbing access and they do a lot for the preservation and upkeep of climbing areas.
National Park Service: Many climbing areas are located on National Park land. It's thanks to these guys that we still have access to climb at those areas.
Central Texas Mountaineers: A local advocacy group for land access and climbing area maintenance. They host the annual Limestoner competition, and played a big role in acquiring Reminer's Ranch in Austin.
Friends of Enchanted Rock: An Oklahoman coalition to maintain access and preserve the Enchanted Rock State National Area in Oklahoma, home to some awesome pink granite!
Arkansas Climbers Coalition: An Arkansas coalition that partners with Leave No Trace to preserve and maintain the climbing areas in Arkansas, like Sam's Throne, and Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and host a variety of outdoor competitions throughout the year.
Climbers of Hueco Tanks: Hueco Tanks is home to some of the best bouldering in the country, but also has very strict access rules. This organization helps facilitate the fragile relationship between the National Park and the climbers, and works with the park to ensure its delicate ecosystem is maintained while allowing climbers access.
Ok, those are just a few of the organizations you can get involved with to aid climbing access in the U.S! I hope this post was enlightening, gave you a better appreciation for climbing outside, as well as encouraged you to get involved!