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Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 10, 2013 - 12:41am PT
April 9, 2013 - Please review the plan and submit your comments by this Friday, April 19.

OPPOSE the NEW Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA) BOLT CHOPPING PLAN!

Submit Your OBJECTIONS Online here

The Access Fund's 2010 comments on this ongoing issue.

Comments are technically due by Midnight on Friday, April 12, 2013. But, The Comment Period has been informally extended for at least 7 days until April 19, 2013.

Andrew Solow
San Francisco, CA
Cell 415-722-3047


To Whom It May Concern:

SUBJECT: Objections to: Lake Mead NRA: Preliminary Alternatives for the Draft Wilderness Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement - March 2013

The RAM IT DOWN THE PUBLIC'S THROAT – NPS/LMNRA "Preliminary Alternatives for the Draft Wilderness Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement - March 2013" contains a rock climbing management plan that prohibits rock climbing.

The purpose of this plan as written is to constructively ban rock climbing in the Bridge Canyon Wilderness, aka: Christmas Tree Pass, NV and places like it.

This rock climbing management plan is virtually identical to the previous NPS/Lake Mead NRA bolt chopping plan that was withdrawn back in 2010.

The new NPS Lake Mead NRA Climbing Prohibition on page 6 of the Prelim Alts for Draft WMP & EIS (3/2013) which is entitled: Rock Climbing Management Options – reads in part:


Climbing in the Bridge Canyon Wilderness, aka: Christmas Tree Pass NV and throughout the Lake Mead NRA is functionally impossible without fixed bolts. The overwhelming majority of the existing and potential climbs are bolt protected slab climbs. So, prohibiting "intensively bolted routes" effectively prohibits rock climbing.

The term "bolt intensive routes" is a RED HERRING the use of which would enable land managers who hate rock climbing and know absolutely nothing about it to capriciously and arbitrarily determine how much leader protection is necessary to assure the safety of rock climbers.

95% of the anchors in the Bridge Canyon Wilderness are fixed bolts because there are virtually zero natural cracks or vegetation available to facilitate the use of removable rock climbing anchors.

Further, the majority of the established rock climbs in the Bridge Canyon Wilderness are so sparsely protected that the only way that the overwhelming majority of the existing rock climbs in the Bridge Canyon Wilderness could be less “intensively bolted” would be to prohibit bolts and force rock climbers to climb without leader protection risking death on every ascent.

The existing leader protection bolts in the Bridge Canyon Wilderness are from 25 feet to as much as 70 feet apart. Falling while leading some these climbs can result in leader falls over 100 feet on nearly vertical shear terrain.

There is one allegedly over-bolted cliff on the edge of the Spirit Mountain Wilderness called the Aviator Wall that could be protected by top rope. Rock climbing with top ropes on the Aviator Wall should be an approved activity. However, even IF there is a way to remove any allegedly unnecessary bolts from the Aviator Wall without damaging the rock, that should only be done by very experienced climbers so that permanent rock scarring can be prevented.

The Bridge Canyon Wilderness should be developed as a dry camping area with adequate off highway parking for approximately 15 vehicles in each of four distinct locations along Christmas Tree Pass Road with designated camp sites in at least two of those locations.

The original dirt roads from Christmas Tree Pass road to Willow Spring should be re-opened as improved walking paths so that human impact on the surrounding land can be minimized. Hiding those 100 + year old dirt roads has caused many climbers and hikers to bushwack cross country in order to reach the area around Willow Spring. As a result, instead of restricting the impact of human foot traffic to the existing dirt roads, erosion damage and scarring from pedestrian travel is now spread over a much wider area.

The so called Rock Climbing Management "Options" were obviously written by someone who hates rock climbing and rock climbers. The authors of this latest climbing prohibition and bolt chopping plan have ZERO interest in or understanding of what rock climbing is, or how to manage rock climbing as a legitimate activity, an avocation that millions of tax paying Americans enjoy on a regular and continuing basis.

If the Lake Mead NRA wants to effectively manage rock climbing as a safe legitimate activity in places like Christmas Tree Pass, NV, the agency must retain the services of a land manager who has experience managing rock climbing areas and who can work cooperatively with rock climbers. Constructively banning rock climbing is simply wrong.

Stair climber, lost, far away from Poland
Apr 10, 2013 - 12:49am PT
Why the National Rifle Association would want to chop the bolts?

Trad climber
Yosemite, ca
Apr 10, 2013 - 01:20am PT
Is it usually appropriate to copy and submit the same sample letter in situations like these? In other words, is quantity desired over quality? I have no personal experience climbing at this place, but hate to see another climbing crag be regulated into oblivion.

Trad climber
Apr 10, 2013 - 01:29am PT
i'm pretty sure the National Rifle Association has zero to do with this

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 10, 2013 - 01:44am PT
Lake Mead NRA = Lake Mead National Recreation Area
(if your question was serious).

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 10, 2013 - 02:35am PT
I get fairly mixed feelings over unfortunate circumstances like this. Jorge and Joanne took me to Christmas Tree Pass on one of my trips down there. It's definitely sparsely bolted and, while not my thing, really stout routes. I didn't realize at the time they were in a designated Wilderness Area which brings up a lot of conflict for me as I support no bolting in wilderness areas.

Given it was designated a Wilderness Area in 2002 I would say maybe some sort of grandfathering compromise could be workout for the existing routes though I can also see the problems managing that for the NRA.

It's a tough one as it is in a wilderness area, but there isn't going to be climbing there without the bolts.

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2013 - 03:29am PT
The sample letter was only supposed to be a starting point, to make it easier for people to draft and submit their own personalized comments. Just submitting multiple copies of the exact same template without modification would not be helpful.

For those of you who are younger than I am, we did a lot of climbing at Christmas Tree Pass between 1977 and 1980. And, a few other people started climbing at CTP in about 1975. Not sure if any technical climbing was done at CTP before 1975.

Most of the most obvious lines on the readily accessible major formations at CTP had been done by 1980, long before CTP was designated a Wilderness Area. But, if you can handle the terrain and the approaches, there are dozens of excellent multi-pitch routes left to do.

Also, from my point of view, the "Wilderness Area" designation is being abused by land managers to limit human activity so that the Government can limit the cost of supervising that activity.

However, I agree that letting everyone drill thousands of bolt holes with a lithium battery operated roto hammer every six feet on every crag in the world is a bad idea. So, some regulation is in order.

Not too long ago, some stupid teenagers defaced petroglyphs at CTP that are several thousand years old. Not sure if they got caught. But, it's that kind of behavior that gets the land managers pissed off. And, those most egregious examples of misbehavior are the impetuous behind the bureauocratic penchant for regulation.

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Apr 10, 2013 - 08:45am PT
However, I agree that letting everyone drill thousands of bolt holes with a lithium battery operated roto hammer every six feet on every crag in the world is a bad idea. So, some regulation is in order.

It is a pretty safe bet that won't happen at the Pass.

One issue is that the park service didn't tell anyone it was a wilderness area. When we started replacing Andrew Solo and Dick Richardson's 1/4"ers with some beefier stuff, we did not know of the wilderness designation. That was our mistake, of course. We never had need to consult a map, there's no ranger presence out there, so we missed that.

If you like slab climbing, there are some very stiff climbs out there. At least when you do finally get to the rare bolt, it's a new one now.

Anyway, get your comments in, the park service does listen.

Social climber
Oakland, CA
Apr 10, 2013 - 11:16am PT
Thanks for the info, letter sent.
steve shea

Apr 10, 2013 - 11:27am PT
Where is Christmas Pass? I used to climb down there a long time ago south of Searchlight, anywhere near there?
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Apr 10, 2013 - 11:28am PT
Fun area. Bunch of friction routes that wouldn't see any action sans bolt protection...

Dali Dome, MC1 at Christmas Tree Pass
Dali Dome, MC1 at Christmas Tree Pass
Credit: Brian in SLC

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Apr 10, 2013 - 12:15pm PT
So the stewards of Lake Mead NRA, a lake created by a GIANT FU@#$^NG Dam, which flooded the natural area and disrupts entire ecosystems, are worried about the "impact" of bolts?

LOLOLOL!!1111. That's a good one.
Dave Kos

Social climber
Apr 10, 2013 - 12:27pm PT
Probably a decision made by some manager on the GS pay scale.


Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Apr 10, 2013 - 12:29pm PT

LOL!!! @ this comeback...

"Probably a decision made by some manager on the GS pay scale."...

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 10, 2013 - 01:34pm PT
Andrew- Is this still being driven by the regional manager in a personal way?

By all means follow the comment pathway allowed but...

It would be more effective to start barraging his office with email directly so what is his name again?

He will eventually have to answer to people in the House and Senate like Mark Udall as to why he has chosen to openly discriminate against climbers as a legitimate user group.

I have said this before but the best way to deal with this entire situation is to bring pressure directly at the root of the problem which is one or a small group of prejudiced individuals.

As soon as one single bolt is removed using taxpayers money, then we as a community move to have the superintendent replaced. Simple as that.

Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Apr 10, 2013 - 01:37pm PT

"As soon as one single bolt is removed using taxpayers money, then we as a community move to have the superintendent replaced."...

I am TOTALLY ignorant in this area...

Has the above ever been done successfully by the climbing community???...


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Apr 10, 2013 - 01:48pm PT
I didn't realize at the time they were in a designated Wilderness Area which brings up a lot of conflict for me as I support no bolting in wilderness areas.

Healyje brings up an important point. What is appropriate land use in designated wilderness? I personally rebel when I see a wilderness use policy that has uniform prohibitions at this level of detail. The Sierra Nevada high country has a plethora of boltless technical climbing, so I could justify a "no-bolt" policy there. It has certainly been my personal philosophy there.

Christmas Tree Pass, in contrast, is an area where no bolts implies no roped climbing. I rather doubt that Congress intended to remove climbing from the area when it passed the legislation designating it as wilderness. Perhaps those with the ear of a Representative (AAC? Access Fund?) might need to do a bit of lobbying there.

In the meantime, I am writing my letter. Thanks for providing some incentive.


Edit: I tried a slightly different approach in my comments, by contrasting Pinnacles, which also had to deal with fixed anchors:

I have a concern with the current draft Wilderness Management Plan for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (the "Plan"). If the proposal to ban fixed anchors for rock climbing includes removal of existing anchors, the effect of the Plan is to prohibit roped climbing. I seriously doubt that such a result comports with Congressional intent in setting aside the area as wilderness.

Specifically, the existing climbing in the Christmas Tree Pass area consists almost entirely of bolt-protected slab climbing. The bolts are relatively few and far between, and the leads are quite committing as a result. From a safety standpoint, there would be virtually no justifiable climbing there without bolt protection. Bolts are, by their nature, fixed anchors, so banning fixed anchors bans bolts by definition.

Bolts are small, and have no visual impact on the area when viewed from any distance. They are visible only up close, and then it often takes a keep eye to spot them, particularly when they are spaced as far apart as those at the Christmas Tree Pass area.

For this reason, I strongly urge you to reconsider and reject any blanket ban on fixed anchors. Other climbing areas relying on bolts for the bulk of protection, such as Pinnacles National Monument in California, have dealt with bolting issues by requiring that all bolts be placed by hand on the lead. If bolt hangers are too visible, the NPS can always require that any hangers be of a color that would camouflage their existence. Such restrictions reasonably protect both climbing and the wilderness nature of the area. A blanket ban on fixed anchors, in contrast, places the area off-limits to climbers, with no concomitant benefit to the public.

Thank you for your consideration of this issue.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Apr 10, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
Just an idea, but Christmas tree areas -being a significant Native American area, along with several species of wildlife including big horn sheep and some other rare mammals may be influencing factors in this.

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Apr 10, 2013 - 02:18pm PT
Land managers are required by law to respond to the issue raised during the comment period. 1 million letters saying the exact same thing are pretty much useless and a waste of tax payers money (someone has to read them all to confirm they say the same thing). All legitimate modifications, alternatives, and improvements will need to be addressed by the agency. Saying the same thing in 1 trillion letters will definitely be less effective than your own insightful comments.

There are some environmental groups (I won't say who) that make it a practice to submit HUGE documents during comment periods. Often the first couple pages are relevant, then there is stuff from 10 year old projects that have nothing to do with the proposal (equipment/techniques that are no longer used), then a few relevant comments, then more crap, then relevant, etc. YOUR tax money pays for agency employees to sift through the bullshit and extract the (hidden) relevant comments... they have to, it is the law. If they miss it, there may be consequences.

I wish they would stop that practice. I like the environment and would love to support them... but that is a bullshit tactic.

Sec. 1503.4 Response to comments.

(a) An agency preparing a final environmental impact statement shall assess and consider comments both individually and collectively, and shall respond by one or more of the means listed below, stating its response in the final statement. Possible responses are to:

Modify alternatives including the proposed action.

Develop and evaluate alternatives not previously given serious consideration by the agency.

Supplement, improve, or modify its analyses.

Make factual corrections.

Explain why the comments do not warrant further agency response, citing the sources, authorities, or reasons which support the agency's position and, if appropriate, indicate those circumstances which would trigger agency reappraisal or further response.

Flagstaff/Thousand Oaks
Apr 10, 2013 - 02:56pm PT
I was on a field trip for a petrology class not too long ago to the area. As a true rock nerd both academically and as a climber, I was droooooling at the beautiful formations.
Christmas Tree Pass, March 2013
Christmas Tree Pass, March 2013
Credit: spenchur

The native american history here is something to behold.
Grapevine Canyon, Christmas Tree Pass, March 2013. According to a frie...
Grapevine Canyon, Christmas Tree Pass, March 2013. According to a friend, this means "a religious hunt" or something to that extent.
Credit: spenchur

A place of mass tribal trade, a natural spring brought them from long distances.
Grapevine Canyon, Christmas Tree Pass, April 2013
Grapevine Canyon, Christmas Tree Pass, April 2013
Credit: spenchur
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