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National Park Service Releases New Wilderness Policy on Climbing Fixed Anchors

After years of anticipation and direct advocacy by the Access Fund, the National Park Service has released an updated draft of its wilderness management policies in order to provide accountability, consistency, and continuity in its wilderness stewardship program. The update covers a wide range of topics including the long-waited-for provisions specific to climbing fixed anchors. Iconic climbing areas in the U.S.—including as Yosemite, Zion, Black Canyon, and Rocky Mountain national parks—would be governed by this new policy.

The proposed policy acknowledges that climbing is a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness and that each park with significant wilderness climbing activities must prepare a climbing management plan. However, the policy calls for climbing to be restricted or prohibited if unacceptable impacts to wilderness resources or character occur.

This proposed policy recognizes that the occasional placement of a fixed anchor for belay, rappel, or protection purposes does not necessarily impair wilderness, but it requires prior authorization for the placement of new fixed anchors (replacements or removals may also require park approval). The requirements and process for authorization are to be laid out in each park’s climbing management plan.

The practical outcome of this proposed policy is that climbers would need a permit or some other authorization prior to the hand-placement of new bolts in any national park wilderness area. Most parks currently require no such prior-approval. The public will have 60 days to comment on this proposed policy revision. The Access Fund is currently analyzing the policy and working on an advocacy strategy. Stay tuned to Access Fund E-news for our position statement and an action alert for climber comments.

Date: 1/11/2011

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Anonymous @ 1/11/2011 6:54:59 PM 
Hand placing bolts is painful, time consuming and tedious enough so as to limit impact by itself. This is overly protective meddlesome bureaucratic BS.
Anonymous @ 1/12/2011 8:55:29 AM 
Classic land management -- find a largely unenforceable policy for an irrelevant issue. 99% of all climber traffic is on established trade routes. The 1% that put up new routes will now be burdened, when they should be thanked.
Anonymous @ 1/12/2011 2:56:28 PM 
The NPS does it again.
Anonymous @ 1/13/2011 11:31:22 AM 
Why doesn't the Access Fund have a position already concerning bolting permits in the wilderness? Seems like a giant pain in the ass. Agree that the hand drilling req. kept things from getting out of hand.
Anonymous @ 1/13/2011 12:09:38 PM 
the link to the plan and where we (the public) can submit our comments would be nice.
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 7:58:10 AM 
AF Policy Director Jason Keith here. We do have a position statement regarding fixed anchors in wilderness on our website at:
Home > What We Do > Climbing management policy > Where we stand > Fixed Anchors
See also various comment letters at:
Home > What We Do > Climbing management policy > National and Local Policy > Position statements
The draft policy can be found at:
The Access Fund will be drafting formal comments and sending those out to the climbing community in an action alert to make it easy for individual climbers to also comment. The comment deadline is March 10 -- look for our action alert by mid-February.
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 8:00:14 AM 
Amazing that opinions in the climbing community have shifted so much. Some of the most important early climbers were also early and strong proponents of wilderness and land conservation. Certainly hand drilling will limit impact but think about impact over hundreds of years not just your next project. Think of how many bolts have been placed in the last 40 years. The growth in climber numbers and the desire to seek out new routes makes it reasonable that in high use locations like NP wilderness some type of management is needed. Now lets just hope the FS makes it a reasonable, easy to understand and simple process to get a bolting permit.
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 8:22:04 AM 
"climbers would need a permit or some other authorization prior to the hand-placement of new bolts in any national park wilderness area"

This is the major downside of the whole thing. It makes sense that bolts should be placed conservatively, hand drilled and utilizing the original ethic of the area. Bolts should not be placed at will wherever it's convenient!! HOWEVER, applying for a permit will only involve a bunch of NPS bureaucratic BS, and postpone the process while everyone from interpretive staff to vegetation crews weigh in on whether or not this "damage" to the wilderness should be accepted. Most NPS staff, including the Resources folks that will likely be approving these permits, don't have a clue about climbing... let alone what bolt placement is doing in a climbing area.
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 8:39:38 AM 
I think hand drilling will deter "first ascents" of pure sport climbs ,which usually takes place on crags within easy walking distance of parking areas.However on more wilderness crags the impact of bolts is well out of sight not only of the general public ,but is often difficult to spot even when a climber is looking for them.Also the noise of hand drilling a bolt can take up to 20 mins ,where a bolt gun takes but a few seconds..I think if a survey was taken VERY few climbers are involved in first ascents of what we now call Trad/Sport climbs, that involve the occasional use of bolts on multi pitch climbs for belays and odd blank sections.
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 8:58:17 AM 
Wow, the AF supports this? At least it sounds that way from my newsletter I just received. If thats Who is supposed to pay for this new policy? Will climbers receiving the permits end up having to pay a fee to fund whose ever job this will become? What if a feature falls off and you need to drill to get past but didn't obtain a permit? Will you be ticketed if caught? Reading the draft, leaves so much open for interpretation. This is not a good move and I hope that many climbers will realize that we are setting ourselves up to potentially get totally screwed over.
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 9:23:04 AM 
You can see trails in the wilderness using satellite imagery, but I've never managed to spot a fixed anchor. What has greater impact?
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 9:24:18 AM 
i hope the AF does not support such a stupid idea. Replacing anchors is a painful, and hard job to do, and help everyone. Why would you need a permit for that?stupid bureaucrats!!!
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 9:37:08 AM 
The modern standard is to put in bolts as needed, and this will is balanced in the parks by the arduousness of making such placements. This is scary: "...climbing to be restricted or prohibited if unacceptable impacts to wilderness resources or character occur."
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 9:43:47 AM 
Appalled by this. Typical NPS over regulation of wilderness will just result in an increase in user fees, an increase in LEO presence, ultimately a decrease in the freedom that wilderness is to preserve.
This is what happens when climbers/climbing communities are not able to establish a universal ethic on bolting.
Now a desk jockey will decide, after receiving a report from some punk kid with dreams of the NSA, if the bolts placed up on such-and-such in blah-blah canyon are necessary.
How long until someone is tasered for non-compliance with the bolting ban?
Can anyone answer this:
I am just curious exactly how documented the problem with bolting is.
Is there a record of violations that have lead to the needed extra legislation and thus the resulting extra executive presence to enforce it?
I believe the
Anonymous @ 1/14/2011 9:44:12 AM 
I believe the park service passes legislation like this under pretense that it preserving wilderness, when in actuality it is preserving their right to employee law enforcement to ensure compliance.
the more laws you pass the more cops you need to enforce them.
laugh my ass off when i see the little back country piggies hiking with their b-proof vest, gun belt w/taser, giant 6,000+cu inch pack with the ipod solar charger on top.
their presence is just as uneeded, unwanted and contradictory to the theme of wilderness as bolt in a cliff.
That being said, i have never placed a bolt in my life, nor will i ever defile the rock in such a way as to leave a permanent mark of my passage. The only exception I would make would be in the matter of life vs death. This is my personal goal/rule/guideline and I do not wish to force MY beliefs onto some one else.
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