Tree Incident and Environmental Responsibility


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Trad climber
Bay Area
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 21, 2013 - 01:16pm PT
Unfortunately the original thread appears to have disappeared. It's now on couchmaster's "people who delete threads" thread.

Why unfortunately? Because I have what I consider a constructive comment.
Yes, that thread had gone far enough in trashing, thrashing and creating its own mayhem.
I'm not going to restate the original issue nor name names.
I'm not even going to question whether the offered apology was "sincere".

However, my last post had mentioned that the climbing community should learn from this.
    There are a lot of new climbers who come straight from the gym to the outdoors, climbing at a high level. I've even climbed with a few. To some of them, the climbing environment is their first exposure to real outdoor freedom and responsibility.
    Being an Old Timer, I've specifically tried to help them out with "good citizenship" in the mountains, as well as how to set a real anchor so they don't drop us in the talus!
    I realized last night that trashing a sponsored climber's professional reputation is a serious matter. Even when it could be called justified.

So how to deal constructively with this problem?

I think the relevant sponsors should also see this as a "teaching moment". How? They could get together with the Access Fund and AAC Conservation and create a "good citizenship in the mountains" brochure. Print a large number of copies. Distribute it to climbing gyms and climbing retail shops (the few that remain). Print enough copies that people can take it home with them, not just a poster stuck in a corner wall.
And perhaps most importantly, require their sponsored climbers to post it on their home pages and Facebook pages.

topics for the brochure?
tree cutting - how old ARE these things and how long will it take for a new one to grow?
trail cutting,
route "ownership",
rock trundling (whoo boy, talk about a contentious issue)
shitt**ing in the woods,
Bolt placement ethics.
Responsibility for self: accident avoidance.
USFS and NPS regulations.
and most importantly: personal responsibility. Think thrice before altering the environment/locale.

Ideas? Comments?

oh, and of course, any $$ they donate to the Access Fund or AAC Conservation would be tax deductible.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:25pm PT
Adopt a Crag and TeamWorks

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:34pm PT
Nice idea High Traverse. Having been a part of the Outdoor Industry for many years i can say that outdoor companies all preach respect for the environment and outdoor stewardship. They also are united in trying to get young people (future long term customers) into the outdoors, doing the outdoor pursuits that they build products for. This is why these companies sponsor young climbers.
I said preach....but often words don't lead to action. Not all young climbers come with an awe and respect for the natural world....nothing natural about a climbing gym. It's the responsibility of sponsors to inform their "athletes"" about the environmental and stewardship aspect of the companies "brand." It makes no good business sense to do otherwise.

Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:37pm PT
The main reason for getting this out in the open is to educate people about rare ancient trees so it doesn't happen again. Is there something wrong with that? It turns a negative event into a positive event.
Whether he was malicious or just ignorant is irrelavent to me.The only thing that matters to me is that this sort of thing does not happen again with trees of special value such as these junipers.By hiding or minimizing this event to protect the reputations of the individual or the climbing community as a whole is a opportunity lost to bring light on the subject and prevent further (accidents) like this from happenning.


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:38pm PT
Jim, I wonder if Lama's knuckles have recovered from Red Bull's rapping of them.

It is true that the fox, in theory, has a vested interest in not over-harvesting the chicken coop.

Gold Canyon, AZ
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:42pm PT
This event should be timely, then.


Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:46pm PT
These are great, timely issues that are completely relevant.

AF has recognized these needs- in particular, years ago they started an educational program targeted at the burgeoning bouldering community. This group, in particular, matches your description most directly: young, inexperienced, where the group/social experience of climbing is a great priority....and much less connected to the environmental element of the experience. AF generated a number of materials attempting to address & educate towards this.

Even amongst new climbers who have interests other than bouldering, this need for education & connection to the environment is a great priority.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:56pm PT
Thanks for starting this thread, HT, and for taking the high road in doing so. I think the contention and bitterness this incident engendered shows how important we find the relevant issues.


Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Oct 21, 2013 - 01:58pm PT
Part of the education should be the recognition that the climber does not own the land. They are a guest and thus need to understand how to conduct themselves so that we are all welcome guests. We are just one of many groups that are guests on public lands and private lands.

Guest is a different perspective form route developer, elite climber, ....

Trad climber
Here and there
Oct 21, 2013 - 02:58pm PT
This post is like so 10 years ago! I still like it!

A letter to the High Country News in 2003:

Climbers need to police themselves

Letter - From the August 04, 2003 issue by Todd Leeds

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. Iíve 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 ó until somebody comes along and decides itís 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, ďIs there a reason why the local residents havenít done this?Ē and ďAre the profits I am receiving justifying the impacts I am creating?Ē

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

Todd Leeds
Salt Lake City, Utah
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 03:25pm PT
Sometimes, creating or maintaining access to climbs involves environmental impact.
For broader access and non-climbing access: roads, tunnels, bridges, trails, gas stations, etc.
For access to specific climbs: unofficial trails, cairns, branch pruning, tree cutting, moss removal, lichen scrubbing, dirt removal, trundling, flake peeling, bolting, slings on trees, soil erosion from traffic at the base of crags, etc. Some of these things are illegal in certain areas.

When is the quality of the climbing worth the impact?
There is no unanimous consensus.
It's a value judgement - some people are OK with heavy impact, some with light impact, some insist on no impact.

Rule #1 of 1: Hide your impacts and don't publicize them.
People do not want to know about the impacts. They just want to climb, and believe the fantasy that the climb was always clean. They don't want the guilt, they don't want to make the value judgement.
Old version: if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there, does it make a sound?
New version: if somebody does something questionable and there's no photo on twitter or vid on youtube, did it really happen?

 Outer Limits was once a munge fest. There was a loose block where a bolt was placed to safely get past it. (Visible in the photo in The Vertical World of Yosemite, p.92). The flake got trundled, the bolt is now gone, and now it's widely considered a classic.
 Mr. Natural took 3 days of work to clean. Now it is one of the best one pitch crack climbs in the Valley.
 Gardening at Night is a route I cleaned in the 80s, on a tier above the Church Bowl. There is an entire pitch of munge just to reach it, and it's a grainy, dirty nothing, that starts nowhere and ends nowhere. Probably not worth the impact, and the moss is probably growing back vigorously....

Of course, when doing a new route or maintaining an existing route, you still have to ask yourself if the quality is worth the impact.
There is no easy answer.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 03:33pm PT
guidebook ... profits
is an oxymoron. :-)

Social climber
Oct 21, 2013 - 03:46pm PT
I think we could all use being a better steward for our favorite areas. Those that were the most vehement in the last thread, how many hours did they themselves volunteer at local crags? I don't nearly enough, I can say honestly. It's always a good conversation to have, especially when it comes to educating the younger crowd.

I know we like to think ourselves old school, elitist 'trad dads' but the crowd that learned to climb in the gym (like me!) can turn the corner if there are positive examples and education.

Last night I went to the happies by moonlight (Awesome!!!) and constantly walked by piss puddles right on the trail. WTF? I totally pee in the woods, all the time, but I think there's a difference between going behind a bush or boulder and letting go right in the middle of the trail. Something I hadn't noticed before but I guess when you only climb before 8am or after 7pm you don't see the crowds just their feces...

Big Wall climber
Oct 21, 2013 - 05:15pm PT
Credit: pyro
Credit: pyro
was up on the prow a while ago and the top-out sucked cuzz everybody uses a tree to haul. just put some bolts in and let the tree live!
can't help it when the world's best rock climbing area promotes tree hauling.

Trad climber
Oct 21, 2013 - 05:19pm PT
What's up with this group?

Trad climber
Las Vegas
Oct 21, 2013 - 05:34pm PT

My the 'Witch hunt' continue.

If we catch them in action, and throw them into water and they float...
Do we get to crucify, burn at the stake or at least 'tar and feather' them ?

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
Oct 21, 2013 - 05:40pm PT

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

Yeah, I agree with Clint. Profits, from a guidebook? What planet is that guy from?

Social climber
Oct 21, 2013 - 05:50pm PT
Education in the climbing community is not a well paid endeavor. Guide books don't make profits, access groups are underfunded and so on. Money is made in making & selling gear - so perhaps its there the pressure could be applied.

I did some drawings for the Friends of Indian Creek spelling out "what to do", "what not to do" while camping, hiking & climbing at IC. They were illustrations of rats being good guys and being bad guys. I've heard they were well-received.

I find that using humour or illustrations, you get your point across in a more salient manner.

So if any of you gear manufacturers out there wanna hire me to do a brochure on mountain ethics & manners, I"d be more than pleased to have some fun with this very serious subject.

Cheers, Tami

Pees on beard to seek mates.
Oct 21, 2013 - 06:24pm PT
Hey all,

Since the original thread was mine and, ultimately, it was about taking responsibility... I just wanted to let you know that I was the one who deleted it. I deleted it because I received a very heartfelt email from a close friend of Ethan's who showed a lot of concern for the negative attention that has come his way over this matter. Ethan wasn't involved in the tree incident and I wanted to get rid of a thread that had a title that implied there might be a connection. However, I'm all for a thread about environmental responsibility. Carry on in those regards.


Sport climber
Vacaville, CA
Oct 21, 2013 - 06:29pm PT
I just laughed at the irony and supposed self importance of climbers related to this thread / discussion. Don't get me wrong, I am not condoning the actions previously discussed, nor am I saying that taking steps to help educate new climbers on environmental responsibility is not a good idea. The context of this thought was while I was reading the other thread on my couch while taking a break from working on my laptop when, no joke, a commercial for the "AXMAN - I CUT DOWN EVERYTHING IN SITE!!!" extreme logging TV show came on. No joke, it was crazy ironic.

Hyper vigilance of such a small percent of the overall population (<<<1%) is kind of like asking me to be more mindful of my monthly budget to prevent any further global economic meltdown. Not asking everyone, but just asking me.

I am not endorsing being apathetic to this issue, just that I think the battle we are facing on this topic is way bigger than most people realize. What I think is more alarming than the unfortunate and misguided act of a few people is the desensitization of the general public to the real value of the outdoors and nature as a whole. Want to see a tree beyond your yard/sub-burb? Make sure you spend $50 on a Action Pass if you want to pull your car over in an national forest. Want to see a National Park? Sock out $50+ for you and your family. Hell the county opened a local OPEN SPACE, aka a field, and slapped a mandatory $15 DAY USE fee on parking the middle of nowhere with a portapotty. $15 to look at a field???? Unfortunately this area is near a low economical / social class part of the town which only guarantees that NONE OF THEM will actually experience what the place has to offer.

When going outside to a Park or Forest is more expensive then taking your family to see a movie, what do you think people will do? When TV glorifies chopping down trees at the fastest rate possible as "cool", what do you think the perspective of the next generation will be?

The fact that some climbers make it out of the gym is a good thing, not something that we need to scorn them about. My guess that fewer and fewer will even bother in the future. I am sure you are thinking, "cool less people impacting my local area.." WRONG. It means less people to actually fight to keep access to local areas at all.

Self Policing climbers on environmental responsibility is a good idea and I am sure will save a few trees that are around the cliffs we climb at. Meanwhile, we as a society will continue to deforest everything in sight and think its cool.
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