Does the Access Fund have the guts to preserve desert routes

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Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 4, 2013 - 04:05pm PT
It was on this day 29 years ago that I befriended Armondo Menocal, long before he founded the Access Fund.

He is a great fellow, and we are still good friends. We climbed together in several states (no, not inebriation, but that too), even hitch hiking across Utah.

I saw him a few months ago and brought this up, and in theory he said the AF is in favor of closures for legitimate conservation reasons. But that usually applies to black and white issues.

The problem is; we are loving desert routes to death, podding out placements, ankle biting, rounding crack edges, rounding out footholds, cutting unsightly rope grooves, creating drag trails from haulbags on routes easily climbed in a day, leaving tat at good rap chains because people are too stupid to clip the bolts and leave the rap link open.

We can (and are inclined) to do nothing about it. It is a slow process. But I fear that following such a course will lead to a tipping point resulting in massive closures, perhaps galvanized by a tragedy resulting from "climber erosion".

Alternately we can take measures to mitigate the damage, but that ultimately means some form of access restriction, perhaps screening, even if only for education.

Does the Access Fund have the guts to advocate for restricted access to preserve soft rock routes?
If there are howls of protest from current day contributors, does the Access Fund have the wisdom to hear the howls of praise from climbers not yet born?
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 4, 2013 - 04:41pm PT
You bring up some good points and, of course, some very, very difficult issues. There is no doubt that climber user days, which have increased dramatically in the desert, are impacting the fragile environments leading to the crags and, in many cases, the climbs themselves.

What to do? Restricting access will be a difficult pill to swallow for climbers. It certainly is not unprecidented.....annual bird closures have become all too common. Bird closures, however, are seasonal, the restrictions you are talking about would be potentially permanent. Again not unprecedented.....think Anasazi petroglyphs, but these are limited and not growing in scope. Is the "slippery slope" metaphor applicable here? What are the criteria to be used? All human outdoor activities have an impact on the environment, what is too much and who makes the call?

Would it be better to try to ameliorate the damage? Obviously trails to climbing areas help with the impact leading to climbs but what about the climbs themselves?
My experience in the desert leads me to define most human use damage to desert climbs as:
rope grooves below belay/rap anchors
crack degradation on aid climbs from piton placements
wearing down and or destroying of face holds
widening of cracks from overuse.....this, by the way, gets more publicity than it deserves because of well known examples like Incredible Hand Crack and Slot Machine.

Interestingly most land managers are less concerned about these issues than they are about the destruction of vegetation on a climb and unsightly chalk and fixed anchors.

What practices can be improved to limit further damage and what degredationt are climbers likely to accept (the wearing down of hand and footholds along Potash road are an example)
Another example would be the polishing that happens with overuse on limestone climbs.

You bring up a great issue, the kind that SHOULD be the focus of forums like this. Hopefully this thread will have the longevity of some of the religious/political ones.
Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
Dec 4, 2013 - 04:43pm PT
Does the OP donate to the Access Fund?

Because they can't do anything, guts or no guts, without money.

So I hope that you have found a way to sacrifice a little bit of the ammo budget in order to support their work, especially if you expect to dictate their charter.

But nevertheless, your question raises some interesting issues. It makes sense to preserve these routes, as it does for any route.

Preserve them for what? Climbing, of course.

How do we preserve them for climbing?

By not climbing on them?

Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Dec 4, 2013 - 04:58pm PT
Alternately we can take measures to mitigate the damage, but that ultimately means some form of access restriction, perhaps screening, even if only for education.

Ron,

flesh this out a bit more. I'm not following if it is pre-requisite with a go no-go approach. Or a 'you must stand here and read this or listen to lecture before you may climb'?

Hueco Tanks has such education and guided tours. But a lot of us thought the response to climbers was overzealous regulation of a user group that was not doing most of the damage. I'm probably wrong and some boulderers were foot dabbing pictographs.

Spell out the details.
thebravecowboy

Social climber
Colorado Plateau
Dec 4, 2013 - 05:02pm PT
I am not sure what concrete steps the Access Fund would take to restrict delicate routes. I am not sure that folks would obey them. A robust outreach message on the importance of preserving both the features and the nature of established routes could be worthwhile. Not gunna pay for it though.
WML

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Dec 4, 2013 - 05:09pm PT
As others have said, clarification of what you are attempting to champion would be a good start.

I think that education of visiting climbers to the desert is one of the most crucial things that can be done. Climbers who are accustomed to granite and don't think twice about climbing wet rock, pounding pins, or hauling often do so out of ignorance, not a lack of regard for 'the rules.' However, there is also a segment out there that will do all of the above and not give a shet.

How to convey these things? Most modern desert guidebooks have indicated that things like climbing after rain or snow should be avoided or that hauling should be avoided when at all possible.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 4, 2013 - 05:12pm PT
Americans, especially American climbers, don't cotton to self-policing, in
case you haven't noticed. I doubt that more than a few even use condoms. I'm
surprised there isn't a bolt ladder alongside Super Crack by now. It is
gonna have to be Big Brother with some serious tooling to get people to sit
up and fly right but my money is on closures sooner than later.
Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
Dec 4, 2013 - 06:04pm PT
Americans, especially American climbers, don't cotton to self-policing, in case you haven't noticed.


Maybe true, but we're still a helluva lot better than the Euros, or anybody else, for that matter.

How many South American climbers do you think even know what a poop tube is?

But back on topic:

Although the goal of preserving these routes is worthwhile, there's just no practical way to do it.

The premise of the OP is that these routes have a finite lifespan - they can only handle some fixed number of ascents before they are effectively "gone." So it comes down to a basic question of economics: how do we allocate the consumption of these remaining ascents?

The status-quo is first-come-first served and no limits to how many any individual can take. Yup, this means that the current generation gets precedence and that future generations may get nothing.

But I don't see any practical way to enforce any other method of allocation.

It's a bummer, perhaps, but nuthin's gonna change.

It's not a question of the intestinal fortitude of the Access Fund, or even the climbing community. It's just a pragmatic reality.




The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Dec 4, 2013 - 07:47pm PT
Start a permit / quota system...
CClarke

climber
La Paz, Bolivia
Dec 4, 2013 - 07:57pm PT
I think you should put this question in the First World Problems thread.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Dec 4, 2013 - 08:14pm PT
Start a permit / quota system...

No... no way

Ron, just because some climbs get some rope gulleys formed and haul bag rubbing ...

it's not really to much "destruction" when you look at dirt roads and everything else that goes on in our world.

The worst thing is to let the gov do some "wilderness mgmt" deal ... like the Grand Canyon permit system. 10-15 year wait.... what BS

crunch

Social climber
CO
Dec 4, 2013 - 11:15pm PT
Ron is mostly talking about Zion. Indian Creek also has similar issues.

Which are: Extreme popularity and fragile rock that wears away from repeated placing of cams/fists.

Solutions?

The Grand Canyon trip is BS, but not because of the permit system. It's because people are content to wait a decade. Whey don't they go somewhere else instead?

Even worse is the Everest model, with heaving crowds of punters dragged up the mountain like cattle. Or sheep.

Why is Everest so popular when there are hundreds of other mountains nearby that offer a vastly richer experience?

Why is the Grand Canyon trip so popular? Where's the adventure in following everyone else? The same rapids, the same beaches, same old same old. Great scenery but stale experience.

People don't use their imagination, they just go where they are told to go. Where their friends have already gone. Where the few guidebooks spell out the routes and ratings. It's easier that way. They want safety, a predictable, good experience.

The Colorado Plateau is vast. Hundreds of miles of cliffs. Thousands, probably. If people spread out from the same old same old places (usually roadside) there'd be no problem and sustainable climbing for centuries to come.

couchmaster

climber
pdx
Dec 5, 2013 - 06:39am PT


I don't see this as even a tiny environmental issue. Put all of climbers negative environmental impact things, in total worldwide, next to a single open pit mine project (of which there are many) and it looks even more like a pimple on a nats ass. It's not even worthy of "microgivashits.


So, I give it a less than 1 "meh" on the 1-10 "mehmeter".


meh

donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 5, 2013 - 06:59am PT
Crunch....you've been around long enough to know that climbers, as a group, are very susceptible to the "herd instinct." They just are NOT going to spread out across all of that glorious wingate on the Colorado Plateau.

The problem is obvious.......the solution not so.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Dec 5, 2013 - 08:49am PT
Over and over I see reasons NOT to brag about new areas, NOT to report new routes, NOT to encourage climbers to visit these places.

Who brought all those climbers to the desert to begin with? Who helped plant the see of desire for desert towers?

The single most powerful impact would be to stop publishing new route info - anywhere. No hand drawn topos, nothing.

First rule of fight club.

But FA ego is the cause of this erosion, make no mistake about it. And I do not place myself above the fray, I've done it too.

DMT
crunch

Social climber
CO
Dec 5, 2013 - 09:11am PT
Crunch....you've been around long enough to know that climbers, as a group, are very susceptible to the "herd instinct." They just are NOT going to spread out across all of that glorious wingate on the Colorado Plateau.

The problem is obvious.......the solution not so.

Well, my point was that the most obvious solution/strategy is to restrict numbers of climbers on the worst affected climbs. By fees, permits, or similar.

But there's an alternative, which is to educate, persuade and provide incentives for climbers to want to do other climbs, less popular, less well known, equally fun.

Reality is the best strategy is an all-of-the-above one:

Place subtle restrictions/disincentives to ease pressure on the most popular climbs--like a mandatory Heuco Tanks style education video on clean, low impact climbing, before one's Zion classic climb attempt.

Plus ban on climbing during and after rain/snowstorms.

This thread here:

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/And-they-say-Zion-tends-to-be-climbed-clean/t12202n.html

Show an appalling level of ignorance and laziness by some of us. We can and must do better. Good thing all the trash was found by a climber, not a hiker or ranger.

But what about Indian Creek, where Supercrack and Incredible Hand Crack are on their way to being ugly offwidths full of blood stains, black scuffmarks. I remember the thrill of climbing a freakishly perfect and pristine Supercrack back around 1985. Today, I'd far prefer to find an equally pristine, if not so perfect crack elsewhere than ascend the mess that is Supercrack today.

So, some positive reinforcement to encourage climbers to go visit other, less well known areas--Capitol Reef for instance, or the Henry Mountains, with its excellent granite--is a good idea.

Hey Ron, you got any photos of the ongoing damage to the worst affected Zion cracks?

jammer

climber
Dec 5, 2013 - 09:32am PT
topo cred...
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 5, 2013 - 09:43am PT
Just spitballing here, a little "future saga";


It is the year 2089, and climber John Doe is visiting Zion for the first time. He sees the rocks, knows the history and wants to climb.

Option A

John Does goes to the visitor center and asks about climbing. He is told that due to the fragility of the rock and the cumulative effect of past use/abuse and a history of tragedies precipitated by anchor failure from worn out podded placements, that Zion has now been closed to technical rock climbing.

Period.



Option B

John Doe has been waiting years for a lottery slot to be one of the few persons allowed to attempt Touchstone this year. He has already submitted a resume to the climbing manager and been screened before paying to enter the lottery, but even so he has to pay an orientation fee and attend an impact mitigation talk.

He then buys the highly detailed topo that was updated by the previous party listing every single fixed anchor, and there are many in the first 70m just to reduce podding, and he is expected to make certain they remain.

He and his partner climb the route.
They are then required to update the topo, and make comments on route condition.

After a decade of working within this system to repeat routes John Doe's skill is recognized.

His status is now upgraded and he can now apply for the lottery for putting UP a NEW route.

When he is awarded a permit he submits his new route proposal to the climbing manager.

The CM gives him the go ahead, and John Doe puts up his bond, and then proceeds to put up a totally bitchin dick wrenching mega classic.

He submits his topo detailing every fixed anchor. His anchor fees are assessed and deducted from his bond which is then returned. (fees for bolts including the cost of the bolt are still less than the fee for placing a pin since a bolt placement requires no further impact. This discourages scarring but still allows for constructive scarring).

John Doe's route becomes so popular and sought after that people paying their topo royalties credits to him for it obviates the need for him to pay any more fees to climb in Zion.

He is now a made man.






OK, neither option is very desirable.



But Option A less so.
The user formerly known as stzzo

climber
Sneaking up behind you
Dec 5, 2013 - 09:50am PT
Why is the Grand Canyon trip so popular? Where's the adventure in following everyone else? The same rapids, the same beaches, same old same old. Great scenery but stale experience.

Not stale to the people who have never been there.

Same rapids, same beaches, same old same old? What other desert rivers have rapids of the same magnitude combined with scenery of the same magnitude combined with trip length of the same magnitude?

Everest, I can understand you point. Many mountains nearby are pretty damn close in one measure of "magnitude" (height). Everest is probably so popular because it's so much more accessible to the common person (not the summit, of course -- just the trip).
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 5, 2013 - 09:53am PT
History, and the inevitable march of bureaucracy, will show the rightness
of Toker's Plan B. Hopefully somebody will come up with a morning-after
pill for Plan B.
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