I know this topic is dear to many in the conservation and climbing preservation circles. However, as climbing becomes more popular, we, as climbers need to be more careful in how we treat our precious resources. As a colleague recently reminded us, the crags are not a park. The crags are frequently on private property, or in a town or state park or forest without express acknowledgement that climbing is allowed.
As someone who spends 250 days a year at the crags, or in the bigger mountains, I have a few suggestions on what you can do to protect the resource for years to come.
I propose these CRAG ETHICS:
- Volume Control. Yesterday, at a Connecticut crag, a climbing party was audibly very loud. This crag is above a housing development, and the cliff is a sounding board. The neighbors don’t want to hear you. Trust me. Your best solution is to be quiet, leave the bluetooth speakers at home, and only be loud when using your belay commands. The bottom line is that loud behavior is distracting and disruptive. In fact it was overwhelming. Loud behavior also can create unsafe situations and make for uncomfortable situations for some climbers. I’m not saying don’t talk and laugh, but at some point, we need to be more aware. Climbing is social and fun but we need to enjoy our friends responsibly.
- Crag dogs. 2 days in a row, I have seen well-behaved dogs. Sweet! But……normally, dogs digs holes, knock over their water bowl, and barks uncontrollably while you are up on the cliff. I also don’t want to be cornered or snarled at by your pet. I like dogs, I grew up with them, but they scare some people. Plus, I have yet to see a crag that doesn’t have broken glass at the bottom, and this poses a significant risk to rover.
- Hanging Top Ropes & Hogging routes. When you and your friends finish climbing a route, especially a 3 star climb that others wish to do, consider moving your top ropes. The crags are currently available for us to share and use, and on busy days you can bet that other are hoping to do these climbs too. Please don’t bring every rope you own and set them up. This is also hogging. Too, some climbers want to lead and leaving TRs unattended for hours on end is not helpful. Do your climb, and move on to another. Treating the crag like an outdoor gym is bad for everyone.
- Hammocks. Please, your hammock is in the way. Actually, it’s in everyone’s way. You shouldn’t be belaying from it either. Stance and positioning is vital to belaying. If you need a nap, the cliff isn’t the best place for it. Hammocks are better suited to backyards. Your backpack will be lighter too. Please leave your hammock at home.
- Anchoring & Edge Security. I am the pot calling the kettle black here. However, please consider attaching yourself to a rope while you do your top rope rigging. I have been caught telling people that they only get to fall off from the top a cliff once in their lifetime. Please use care. Death and injury get climbing areas closed. If you don’t already know how to build sound climbing anchors or how to protect yourself at the edge, seek qualified instruction and hire an AMGA Certified Guide or Instructor to help you out. Clubs and social groups aren’t giving you the best tools or skills.
- Durability. Think deeply about what you are anchoring to. Some trees will be more durable than the soft and protected pitch pines. Please do not pull rappel ropes around trees. Please do not walk around the bases of trees. Soil compaction is a serious problem. Also, build gear anchors when available. It saves the trees and is just as strong. Utilize fixed protection when and where available. Stand and travel on durable surfaces. Get your packs out of the trail.
- Drones. on 3 occasions in the past year I have had drones ‘stalk’ me while I was climbing. Once on Dracula, once on Carey Corner, and once on Black Lung/Refuse. Listen, you don’t have my permission to take my picture, and the noise is annoying. If your drone crashes into me while I’m clinging on by my fingernails, the gloves are going to come off. Too, cliffs are known nesting areas for endangered raptors. You’re harassing wildlife. Remember, Ragged Mountain has a regulation regarding aircraft, and they’re not allowed. While I’ve thrown snowballs at drones during the winter, I’d rather treat them like clay pigeons. PULL!
- Trash. Pack out your butts, and for heavens sake, you wads of tape. Don’t forget your Red Bull cans.
- Join and Support Your local Access Fund Affiliate and LCO. These are the groups keeping your climbing areas open and are doing damage control.
Bottom Line: Be an Upstander, not and Bystander.