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Today is going to be a good day. You’re going climbing. And you want to get to the base of the climb or boulder field as quickly as possible. But taking the most direct route to your destination can severely impact the environment. Going off trail, cutting switchbacks, and scattering gear and crash pads on sensitive plant life can create major access issues.
As climbers, we have an impact on the environment around us. Soil erosion, the development of social trails, and damage to vegetation are all reported side effects of climbing activity. But you can help combat these issues. One of the most important things we can do as climbers is proactively maintain healthy approach trails and climbing areas to ensure we have access for years to come.
Follow these easy tips every time you head out to climb …
Stay on established trails. We all know this rule, but it’s an easy one to forget or overlook. Going off trail not only destroys vegetation and erodes or compacts soil, it also creates a network of social trails that drastically expands our impact on the environment.
Stay in the middle of the trail. Hike in the center of the trail even when conditions are wet. Once soil is compacted on the edges of trails, it can take decades for vegetation to come back.
Do not create cairns where they do not belong. When you are descending from a long route and you wander off the correct path, do not create your own trail by building cairns as you go. This can create severe trail braiding and frustration to others who are descending behind you.
Avoid scattering gear at crags and boulders. Confine your gear in the smallest space possible to avoid destroying vegetation and eroding or compacting soil.
Take care with crash pads. Don’t drag crash pads from boulder problem to boulder problem. Pick them up and place your pads where you need them. Avoid placing crash pads on vegetation or in areas that have been lined with rocks.
Get involved. Contact your local climbing community or land managers and let them know you are interested in helping maintain trails. Stay tuned to Access Fund e-news (www.accessfund.org/enews) to get regular updates about trail days in your area.