02/13/2008

North Cascades National Park Agrees to Allow New Climbing Routes in the Skagit River Gorge, WA

2/14/2008

Since 2003, the Access Fund has worked with climbing activists in Washington State to respond to concerns of the North Cascades National Park regarding climbing and bouldering impacts in the Skagit River Gorge near Newhalem, Washington. These areas host high quality sport climbing and extensive bouldering www.misha.org/Climbing/Newhalem/Map1.html. Unfortunately, much of the bouldering requires extensive cleaning of moss and lichen.

In 2003 climbers and park officials agreed to a moratorium on the development of new climbing routes and bouldering problems pending the establishment of a climbing management plan (CMP). The CMP could authorize new route development after environmental and cultural resource surveys are completed. Since 2003, climbers have fulfilled their end of the bargain, but the National Park Service was unable, for a variety of reasons, to complete a new CMP that allowed new route development. For more background, see www.accessfund.org/pdf/RossLake-NRA_12-03.pdf.

In September 2007, climbers met with North Cascades National Parks new Superintendent and Chief Ranger to discuss the ongoing new route ban. The parties agreed to a compromise that would allow new climbing routes on cliffs that already experienced climbing traffic prior to 2003, while the balance of the Skagit River Gorge could be reopened following the completion of an ongoing general management planning process for the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.

This climbing access success is a result of the dogged activism of the Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) and the National Park Services flexibility towards balancing recreation and resource protection.

For more information on whats open and whats not, stay tuned to the WCC website: www.washingtonclimbers.org/Climbing/.