June 10, 2016

5 Things to Know Before You Climb in the Alpine

Alpine
As the weather heats up, many of us will be heading into the alpine to get our climbing fix in cooler temperatures. The alpine zone, typically occurring above consistent tree line, is characterized by rocky talus slopes, dwarfed trees, and highly sensitive vegetation. The alpine environment is one of the most fragile places we climb. Shorter growing seasons, limited soil, and fragile plant life make it especially important for us to tread lightly and reduce our impact. As an increasing number of climbers are heading into the alpine, land managers have growing concerns and are paying close attention.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind before you head into the alpine on your next climbing adventure.

  1. Stashing pads and gear is illegal in most places and hurts wildlife. We get it. Alpine approaches can be arduous. If you’re projecting, hauling all that gear is a drag. But stashing gear is not worth the price we’ll all pay for access if a land manager finds it (and trust us, they are looking). It’s also not worth the hit to your wallet or the health of wildlife if hungry marmots eat it. Mountain goats, marmots, and other wild critters crave salt, and they will munch on your sweaty pad, giving them an unhealthy mix of synthetic fibers and human salt.
  2. Thin alpine soil lacks the micro-organisms needed to biodegrade human waste properly. If you don’t know how to pack out your own poop in a bag, it is time you learned. Bag systems like RESTOP or Cleanwaste WAG Bags seal up tight with virtually no stink or nasty factor. Pack out that TP as well.
  3. Plant species in the alpine will take decades to restore if trampled. Don’t pile on a bunch of extra crash pads, and be extra careful where you place your pads and gear. Limit group size to minimize your impact. When traveling off trail, stick to durable surfaces like rock or talus slopes so you aren’t crushing sensitive plants.
  4. Many alpine areas require permits. Do your research ahead of time. Many remote, backcountry areas in alpine environments have a permit system to limit the number of visitors in a particular area due to its sensitivity.
  5. Marmots, pikas, and bears all want to steal your lunch. Unless you want your favorite boulder field patrolled by hungry bears, take care to store your food so that critters can’t get into it. Hang your food, pack out trash and food waste, and use a bear canister where recommended by land managers. Improperly stored food will attract wild critters, leading to food conditioning and increases in human-wildlife encounters.

The alpine environment can be one of the most spectacular places to climb. Thanks for doing your part to take care of this sensitive environment and ensure we don’t lose access.

May 12, 2016

Deputies or Outlaws: The Future of Fixed Anchors

By Jeff Achey, Contributing editor for Climbing Magazine and Creative Director at Wolverine Publishing

Standing below a superb crag in the Nevada hills, I scoped the climb above me—a nice line of pockets, runnels, and big modern bolts…each with a pale swath of zinc streaking the blue limestone. Kinda sad. Stainless is expensive, and developers at most US crags pay for hardware out of their own pockets—a scenario that has led to tens of thousands of non-stainless anchors being placed at crags across the nation, especially in the “arid” West, where conventional wisdom has held that they are just fine. This crag was obviously loved and respected by its local developers, but typical of most newish sport crags I’ve visited there was still a hodgepodge of hardware, some stainless, some inexpensive zinc-plated.

Standing below that climb, I considered my own bolting history. Drilled angles and Star-Drives on desert towers in the 1980s. “Modern” 3/8” zinc-plated sleeve bolts (supplemented by assorted fixed pins and hardware-store funk) on my first sport climbs in the 1990s. Lots of 1/2” Rawls in the 2000s, also plated steel. Most recently, 3/8” stainless-steel wedge bolts, my go-to standard for the local crags, affordable but still not the very best. Yes, I have definitely improved my game in the 35 years I’ve been bolting, but I have to admit that over the years I’d been responsible for a daunting number of sub-standard anchors. Many of these had already been upgraded and replaced by other climbers.

It’s partly because of people like me that the Access Fund organizes its “Future of Fixed Anchors” conferences, to take on big questions like plated vs. stainless and “best practices” for equipping in general. This spring the conference, sponsored by Petzl, a company that has been extremely active in the hardware-upgrade movement, convened at the Bonnie Springs resort, a quirky, convenient venue only a few miles from Red Rocks, where the annual RR Rendezvous was going on simultaneously. It struck me as somehow appropriate that the event was held at a Wild West resort and theme park—and on April Fool’s Day.

FFA 2 Conference

As 60-odd bolt geeks and local climbing organization reps from across the country discussed minutia, outside the theme-park staff was staging a mock hanging. A rogue outlaw argued his case, but ultimately, inevitably, received his frontier justice. He had his reasons for his misbehavior, citing other citizens’ misdeeds, his impoverished circumstances, etc., but in the end, a jury of his peers found him guilty. No one got strung up in the conference inside, but if you counted yourself as a renegade or libertarian in the equipping community, you could not miss the message that the times were a-changing.

Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson and Stewardship Director Ty Tyler gave the kick-off, starting with some good news: the scare of fixed anchors being completely banned in designated Wilderness is pretty much over. OK, not completely over, but climbing in Wilderness, along with its need for at least occasional fixed anchors, has become generally accepted by land managers at the highest levels. That said, however, in the wake of that official recognition has come more visibility and some specific rules—more and more of them. Placing bolts on public lands, Robinson noted, is a public act. With climbing now fully on the public radar, policies will come. Given that fact, Robinson stressed that climbers need to come together and set our own fixed-hardware standards. If we don’t, someone will set them for us. Soon.

What followed was a 9-5 day of presentations and discussion, with only a few short breaks, during one of which I sat on the saloon steps and viewed the mock hanging. Topics ran the gamut, from liability risks that may (or may not) face local climbing organizations that take on anchor replacement, to financing and fundraising, to hand drilling, to crag facelift organizing, to bolt-removal techniques, to success stories of partnering with land management.

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In summary, I think it’s fair to say that everyone left the conference with a deeper understanding of the challenges, both technical and political, as well a sense that fixed anchors constitute a huge issue for climbers that’s only getting bigger. Perhaps the key message was that the equipping of American crags is now very much on the radar, and the days of self-regulation are slowly but surely going the way of the buffalo. It’s up to us whether climbers become the deputies or the outlaws.  

FFA 2 Group Shot

Here are a few of my key takeaways:

  • We have two main eras of bad bolts to deal with: the 1960s/1970s hardware on “Golden Age” traditional climbs, and, more problematically, the massive amount of rusting hardware from the sport-climbing revolution of the 1990s.
  • Bolt replacement is a huge and important challenge, but getting better, longer-lasting hardware in the rock the first time is obviously the best way forward. Ian Kirk, head of the Red River Gorge Fixed Anchor Initiative in Kentucky, has pioneered a model for subsidizing stainless-steel hardware for first ascents by allowing the local climbing community to share the cost of doing it right the first time. As those of us immersed in the activity know all too well, equipping new routes is partly a public service, partly a neurotic addiction, so subsidizing first ascents can have both good and bad consequences, that must be somehow managed.
  • There is a growing cadre of bolt-replacement specialists dedicated to “the cult of the original bolt hole.” Greg German, a climber and guitar maker from Boulder, is pioneering state of the art old-bolt extraction techniques and tools. German and a few others, including Geir Hundal from Tucson, have devised custom tools and methods to extract almost any type of old bolt and re-use the hole for replacement hardware. These guys’ ingenuity, skill, and commitment to re-use was frankly quite stunning. Oversize buttonheads, 1/2-inch sleeve bolts, beefy wedge bolts, you name it—all were pulled from the test blocks by these tenacious extractors (and even some notably unskilled volunteers) with their simple yet ingenious tools. The Access Fund hopes to make some of these tools available to LCOs—keep an eye on their website for progress on this initiative, or better yet, donate to the cause.
  • The UIAA is on the brink of releasing “materials standards” that will recommend that all bolts at outdoor climbing areas should be stainless steel or better. In a nutshell, what this means is that all zinc-plated bolt installations will suddenly be out of compliance with “best practice” standards. The online forums in the US will no doubt continue to rage about the technical pros and cons of stainless vs plated, but these discussions are now pretty much beside the point. Any land management agency looking for materials standards for climbing anchors has only the UIAA document to reference. Plated-steel climbing anchors must become a thing of the past.

Access Fund has made some videos and resources from the conference available online. Check them out.

April 20, 2016

Inside Scoop: Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree_R Tyler Gross

If you’re like most climbers, you pore over guidebooks for weeks or even months when planning a climbing trip. You educate yourself on routes, descents, gear, and camping. But what about the local ethics, issues, and challenges at your destination crag? Part of being a responsible climber is knowing how to tread lightly—both socially and environmentally. In the Inside Scoop series, we connect you with local climbing access leaders at some of the country’s top climbing destinations for valuable insight into local ethics and issues.

Destination: JOSHUA TREE, CA
Local expert: DAVE PYLMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FRIENDS OF JOSHUA TREE

What challenges does the Joshua Tree climbing community face?
Our proximity to large urban climber populations can make it difficult to keep traditional ethics in a national park environment.

How would you characterize the local ethics at Joshua Tree?
Since the 1970s, a trad ethic has prevailed at Joshua Tree, and locals have a minimalist attitude toward bolting. For example, if you can walk or scramble off a formation, don’t install rap rings or chain anchors. This is true even on popular formations throughout the park and may catch some climbers by surprise. Visitors are encouraged to embrace the adventure of climbing at Joshua Tree and respect the ethic to leave no trace.

Are there any threats to climbing access or any major access issues?
Not currently. A few years ago, some rogue climbers grid bolted and “enhanced” a crag called Underground Chasm, which sits in a designated Wilderness area within the park. There also were damaged trees and stashed gear. All of this was in violation of the park’s Wilderness climbing policies. The park service led an investigation into the violations, and for a while it looked like we could lose access. The Friends of Joshua Tree have worked for decades to establish a positive relationship with the park, and egregious Wilderness violations by a few rogue climbers almost jeopardized access to Joshua Tree Wilderness for all of us.

How is the relationship between climbers and land managers now?
Cooperation between climbers and land managers at Joshua Tree National Park is at an all-time high. We have an official memorandum of agreement that establishes a partnership with the park. We also host a regular climbers coffee with park staff, have donated a search and rescue vehicle to the park, and host the annual Climb Smart event to mitigate climber impacts. However, there are still awareness and perception gaps around regulations for Wilderness bolting, particularly from new climbers to the area.

What are the regulations for Wilderness bolting?
Fixed anchors may be replaced, anchor for anchor, in Wilderness. A permit is required to place new fixed anchors in Wilderness. All anchors in Wilderness must be placed with a hand drill. You can request a permit application by calling 760-367-5545. The Friends of Joshua Tree are currently working with the park on a new simplified permit process that will shorten the length of time from application to approval.

What’s the best way to dispose of human waste at Joshua Tree?
Use the vault toilets or pack it out in a bag system like RESTOP. Pretty simple. Desert soil does not biodegrade human waste, so it’s not appropriate to dig a cat hole.

What’s the camping situation in Joshua Tree?
The park has great camping. If you arrive midweek, you’ll usually be able to get a site, even during the peak season (October through May). If you arrive on a weekend, you’ll want a plan B—the dry lake bed north of Highway 62, Section 6, or Joshua Tree Lakes Campground are good options.

Any final words of wisdom for folks visiting Joshua Tree for the first time?
The ratings are a bit sandbagged. Stay on designated trails so that you don’t tread on cryptobiotic soils—they anchor plant life throughout the ecosystem. Look for wildlife in the early dawn and dusk hours, and don’t forget your camera!

How can people support Friends of Joshua Tree?
Many ways! Donate time, money, or both. Engage with us on social media and share content about climbing at Joshua Tree. You can connect with us at www.friendsofjosh.org.

Photo courtesy of ©R. Tyler Gross

April 05, 2016

Get to Know Public Land Agencies

As the public land heist heats up in Congress, we encourage climbers to get to know federal land management agencies and how they approach climbing management. After all, almost 60% of the peaks, crags, and boulders in this country on America’s public, federally managed lands. Each agency has a unique mission and a slightly different approach to managing climbing. All three agencies—National Park Service (NPS), US Forest Service (USFS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)—regard climbing as an appropriate activity on the condition that it does not substantially impact natural resources, cultural sites, traditional values, Wilderness character, and other users’ experiences. That said, none of these agencies have explicit, overarching, national-level guidelines for climbing management (with the exception of climbing in Wilderness). Each management area (e.g., Yosemite National Park) is responsible for developing regulations based on its staff’s interpretation of national policies, its agency’s mission, special designations, natural resource conditions, public input, and precedent.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.19.44 AMNATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Approximately 13% of climbing in America is on NPS land. The National Park Service’s mission is to preserve the parks for the enjoyment of future generations. The National Park Service is less centralized than the other federal land agencies. Each park unit acts relatively autonomously, with the park superintendent acting as the CEO. All national parks use the same planning handbook and management policy guidelines, but each park’s implementation style is unique. National parks typically celebrate climbing—visit the Grand Teton National Park visitor center to see a great climbing exhibit or attend a climber coffee at Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Obed. However, climbing can also be heavily regulated to protect natural resources or Wilderness character. Try to hand-drill a much needed rappel bolt in North Cascades National Park Wilderness and you could end up with a hefty fine (we are working hard to change this policy).

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.21.23 AMUNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE

The USFS manages the most climbing, approximately 34%, of any land management agency. The USFS tries to balance the health, diversity, and productivity of its forests with recreation opportunities. The USFS acknowledges the economic and social benefits of outdoor recreation activities like climbing. While there are nearly 10,000 climbing sites on USFS land, only two national forests have standalone climbing management plans. This speaks to the agency’s relatively hands-off approach to climbing management. However, when necessary, the USFS can be quick to restrict climbing access and fixed anchors. For example, the USFS is the only agency to have banned fixed anchors in all its Wilderness areas—although, the ban only lasted a few months before pressure from climbers resulted in a reversal. There are many well-developed climbing areas in national forests that are not known to USFS district managers. Given the increasing popularity of climbing, Access Fund expects a marked increase in USFS climbing regulations and restrictions in the upcoming years as many national forests become aware of climbing areas and revise their forest management plans. Access Fund is involved in these revision processes to shape the future of USFS climbing management.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 10.21.11 AMBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

The Bureau of Land Management manages approximately 10% of America’s climbing. The BLM has a multiple-use mission and manages its 245 million acres for resource extraction, livestock grazing, recreation, and timber harvesting. The agency manages some of its vast expanses of remote land in the western U.S. for both developed and dispersed forms of recreation. For the most part, climbing is loosely regulated on BLM land, with the exception of designated Wilderness areas and Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs). Oddly, fixed anchors are generally allowed in Wilderness areas (some require authorization) but essentially prohibited in Wilderness Study Areas, which are areas being considered for a Wilderness designation.

All three land agencies generally manage climbing in designated Wilderness areas with tighter regulations in order to adhere to the Wilderness Act mandates for solitude, primitive recreation, and non-motorized tools. While these guidelines differ across the agencies, motorized drills and bolt-intensive climbing are generally prohibited in federally designated Wilderness areas.

March 30, 2016

THIS LAND IS OUR LAND: Climbing on Public Lands

Almost 60% of the peaks, crags, and boulders in this country are on America’s public, federally managed lands. These public lands are our birthright and are a cornerstone of the uniquely American climbing experience.

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Access Fund is deeply engaged in the legislative and administrative processes that determine our ability to access and climb on public lands. And right now a battle is underway in Congress over whether the federal government should continue to manage these lands for the public or hand them over to state governments, which could sell them to private entities. The federal government safeguards, manages, and protects our iconic landscapes for future generations. And while federal land agencies (U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management) are far from perfect when it comes to managing recreation and conserving natural resources, they steward our lands through public process. Twenty-five years of experience has shown us that climbers experience much greater uncertainty when attempting to maintain climbing access on land that is not federally managed.

Take a look at some of our most iconic climbing areas on federally managed public lands. While the debate in Congress is currently focused on public lands in the western United States, any federal land transfer legislation could set a dangerous precedent across the nation. Visit  www.protectourpubliclands.org for information on states that are considering federal land transfer legislation.

We also encourage climbers to get to know our public land agencies.

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*This list does not represent all special regulations for climbing in these areas. Always check online for a full list of climbing-related regulations or consult the local land manager.

Photo: Red Rocks, NV | © Merrick Ales

March 24, 2016

Let's Talk About Poop

Everybody does it. Whether you’re cragging, hanging off the side of a big wall, or making your way across a glacier, poop happens. But did you know that the improper disposal of human waste is becoming a growing problem at our climbing areas...and it can threaten access. Land managers don’t look kindly on human feces coming in contact (direct or indirect) with drinking water, other recreationalists, or wildlife. Not to mention the transmission of disease-causing pathogens from human waste. Gross, right? Here are some tips to help you take care of business responsibly.

Poop-Full

March 14, 2016

What National Monuments Mean for Climbing

It is difficult to imagine the American climbing scene minus National Monuments. Teddy Roosevelt established Devils Tower in 1906, and since then, several iconic climbing areas such as Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Pinnacles, Joshua Tree, and Gates of the Arctic have been protected as presidential National Monuments. (Some of these areas have since been re-designated as National Parks by Congress.) President Barack Obama has created or expanded 22 National Monuments during his term—the most of any president, with over 2 million acres of public land protected.

Devils Tower copy
However, presidential National Monuments can be controversial and somewhat tricky for recreational access. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the President of the United States the executive authority to proclaim a National Monument, a tool that is often used when Congressional gridlock prevents federal lands from being protected and conserved. In the late 1800s, early conservationists recognized that America’s historic and cultural treasures were being stolen by looters and needed to be protected. The Antiquities Act was easily passed by Congress and signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 in order to protect "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" as National Monuments.

Over the past century, many legislators (both state and federal) have criticized a President who chooses to proclaim a National Monument, on the basis that the designation may lack local support, prohibit mining and grazing, and weaken local economies. Despite criticisms, the Antiquities Act has been used by 16 presidents (both Democrat and Republican) to proclaim nearly 150 National Monuments, some of which have since changed designation or been abolished.

The Access Fund believes that climbing, and other forms of low-impact recreation, are appropriate ways for the public to experience National Monuments. But, it is important for climbers to understand what this designation means for climbing access. As President Obama wraps up his second term, we have seen, and expect to see more, new National Monument designations that could impact climbing. While Access Fund often supports the conservation goals of National Monument designations, we must acknowledge that National Monuments are created to protect antiquities, not climbing. In general, we prefer that Congress protect these areas through legislation, instead of the President using the Antiquities Act. Legislation is not bound by the confines of the Antiquities Act and can more easily protect recreation values. And since a law is passed after a majority of legislators agree, there is typically more support for legislated protection than for an executive order.

However, the Antiquities Act is an important conservation tool that we support. National Monument designations can be executed in a way that protect both antiquities and climbing, and the Access Fund policy team is working hard to ensure that the President understands the locations and values of climbing resources before making decisions. We have a much better chance of protecting climbing access if these recreational opportunities are acknowledged in the President’s National Monument proclamations. Having this acknowledgment is essential to ensuring that land management agencies develop plans that appropriately protect climbing opportunities, and it paves the way for our seat at the table when these plans are being developed.

December 08, 2015

Top 10 Climbing Access Victories of 2015

We often get asked "what do I get for my annual membership?" It's a great question and one that we love answering. While there are a few fun perks of membership (like discounts), the true benefit of membership is open and conserved climbing areas. 

The Access Fund is proud to put over 80 cents of every membership dollar directly toward keeping climbing areas open and conserved through six core programs: climbing policy & advocacy, land acquisition & protection, stewardship & conservation, risk management & landowner support, local support & mobilization, and education

Here are just a handful of victories that we're proud to announce this year, in partnership with local climbing organizations and partners across the nation.  

2015 Top 10 Climbing Access Victories (1)

Your support makes this work possible! Please consider joining, renewing, or making an additional gift today. Thanks to our partners at Sea to Summit we are happy to offer a FREE Ultra-Sil Day Pack to the first 100 people to join, renew, or make a gift over $35 this week! Enter Promo Code SEA100 at checkout.

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Dive Deeper

  1. Access preserved at 229 climbing areas across the nation. See the full list!
  2. $10,000 awarded for bolt replacement through our new Anchor Replacement Fund, in collaboration with the American Alpine Club.
  3. 765 Acres of climbing acquired for long-term protection.
  4. Donner Summit Saved!
  5. ROCK Project leads climber education movement, engaging thousands of climbers in multi-day events in San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, New York City, Seattle, and Atlanta. 
  6. Access to The Homestead secured.
  7. Conservation Team stewards 33 climbing areas across 24 states, engaging 1,050 volunteers along the way.
  8. 32,535 volunteer hours caring for climbing areas through the Adopt a Crag program.
  9. 163 hours advocating for climbers’ interests in Washington, DC.
  10. Access Fund named first-ever accredited land trust for climbing areas

 

December 02, 2015

6 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU CLIMB IN THE DESERT

20150511-CVB-26Indian Creek. Hueco Tanks. Joshua Tree. Red Rocks. Joe’s Valley. The desert environment is home to iconic climbing destinations. Characterized by little precipitation and sparse populations, the stark landscape of the desert is uniquely fragile and full of life. As such, the desert environment demands some specific minimum- impact practices to protect its sensitive and historically significant terrain.

As you are planning your next desert adventure to climb splitter cracks and towers or wrestle beautifully shaped and colored boulders, keep these six things in mind.

  1. Cryptobiotic soil, or living biological crust, can be destroyed with a single step. This dark, crumbly looking soil is a living crust that plays an important ecological role in many desert environments by drawing nutrients into the soil while protecting it from erosion by wind and rain. Stay on established trails and durable, low-impact corridors to avoid crushing this delicate crust, which can take decades to regenerate.
  2. Desert soil lacks the microorganisms to biodegrade human waste. Use facilities where available or pack out your poop. We recommend the RESTOP bag, which is easy to use and seals the stink.
  3. The desert is home to sites of cultural and historical significance. Look, but don’t touch. Not only does the Archaeological Resources Protection Act make it a federal crime to steal or destroy artifacts, but the oils on our fingers, the chalk on our hands, and the rubber on our shoes can ruin these resources. Access Fund works with land management agencies to ensure a balanced approach to protecting culturally significant resources, such as petroglyphs and Native American sacred sites, and maintaining climbing access. Respect all closures.
  4. Climbing on wet sandstone can forever alter the rock and cause gear placements to fail. Always wait 24–48 hours after a rain to climb on sandstone to avoid damaging the rock and risking weak gear placements.
  5. Plant communities are highly sensitive and stressed. Searing heat, low water, and high winds regularly abuse desert plants. Pay careful attention to gear sprawl, pad placement, and off-trail travel to avoid additional challenges for these special plants.
  6. Horsehair brushes are best for cleaning chalk and debris from sandstone. Use one to avoid damaging the porous rock surface. 

Photo courtesy of ©Whit Richardson

 

November 23, 2015

INSIDE SCOOP: INDIAN CREEK

INSIDE SCOOP

If you’re like most climbers, you pore over guidebooks for weeks or even months when planning a climbing trip. You educate yourself on routes, descents, gear, and camping. But what about the local ethics, issues, and challenges at your destination crag? Part of being a responsible climber is knowing how to tread lightly—both socially and environmentally. In this Inside Scoop series, we’ll connect you with local access leaders at some of the country's top climbing destinations for valuable insight into local ethics and issues. 

Destination: INDIAN CREEK, UT
Local Expert: LISA HATHAWAY, PRESIDENT OF FRIENDS OF INDIAN CREEK

What does the access situation look like in Indian Creek?

Access remains great at Indian Creek, and for that we are incredibly fortunate. But that can always change. Climbers need to respect and adhere to the policies. I have seen entire crags closed (notably, Donnelly and Supercrack!) and reopened, so we must always be vigilant! Access is earned, not given!

Are there currently any threats to climbing access?

No, but there have been many administrative turnovers at BLM and in the Canyonlands district—any time this happens, there may be shifts in field office policy. One of the greatest challenges in advocacy is maintaining relationships with stakeholders, especially when personnel revolve. It is imperative that climbers understand this and do their best to exceed expectations in any given area, as the next land manager may not be as keen to give us liberties.

Does the Creek experience overcrowding? If so, how do you address it?

That’s a tough question. Indian Creek is vast and can accommodate large numbers of visitors, particularly if folks disperse. But the infrastructure only goes so far. Waste management (human and other), camping, and parking are the biggest concerns. Carpooling and dispersing from the most popular areas on busy days always helps. Climbers should never park along the side of the road or in front of a gate if a parking lot is full.

What’s the deal with new camping fees? Why are they necessary?

Visitation to Indian Creek has skyrocketed over the past decade, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can no longer bear the entire expense to maintain the campgrounds. Waste removal alone is a huge financial burden. If visitors don’t step up to help cover this expense, the resulting impacts will damage this delicate desert environment. The BLM has proposed a fee structure for campsites in the corridor—the effective date is still to be determined.

What’s the best way to dispose of human waste in the Creek?

Plan as best as you can to use the loos. If you have to go and there isn’t a toilet around, pack it out. Desert soil can’t biodegrade human waste. We recommend that all climbers carry a human waste disposal bag, like a RESTOP bag.

How is the relationship between climbers and the land managers?

In recent years, our relationship has been solid. We strive to keep it that way.

What are the local ethics at Indian Creek?

As I mentioned earlier, most of the policies revolve around camping, parking, and waste management. When climbers respect all of these policies, as well as any closures, and follow The Pact, all is well.

Any words of wisdom for folks visiting the Creek for the first time?

Be a self-contained unit and pack it all out! Also, don’t co-opt a route for hours. If the crag is crowded and there’s a queue, keep your party moving. If you’ve fallen or hung three times and others are waiting, be respectful and come down.

How can people support Friends of Indian Creek?

You can become a joint member of the Friends of Indian Creek and Access Fund with a single membership! Just visit www.accessfund.org/join. If you’re signed up for Access Fund emails, keep an eye on your inbox for volunteer opportunities. 

Photo courtesy of Ty Tyler