Climbers Behaving Badly, or, How to Lose Access to a Climbing Area
As a climbing center, MetroRock offers a variety of programs designed to teach, train and develop climbers so they can reach their greatest potential and enjoy all the benefits of the sport. Even though we are one of the largest gyms in the area, we hope that you take the sport outside and enjoy the natural beauty that climbing offers in New England and around the world. However, when taking this step, it is important to remember that the impact of human activity on such places can be devastating. Indiscriminate use by climbers can devastate plant and creature habitats if we’re not careful. Even if your primary goal is sending the climb, the basic rules for all who venture out into the great outdoors apply to you as well.
Recently, we were notified that a group of climbers from the Boston area were spotted at Maine’s Shagg Crag behaving badly and ignoring all the local and common sense rules of camping. They built fires in a restricted zone, burned their trash and camped directly at the crag instead of at an appropriate campsite away from common areas. As representatives of the Boston climbing community, we feel it is very important to address the issue and make it clear that we don’t condone such behavior nor is it in line with the spirit of climbing and outdoors adventure that we foster. If you are one of the people involved in this incident, we hope you are properly shamed into changing your ways—your behavior ruined the experience for others and was an insult to the locals who cherish the crag.
As the sport becomes more popular, we feel it’s important to remind ourselves that climbing outdoors comes with a whole set of issues that affect preservation and courtesy that we need to address. As people who rely on these places for our chosen sport, it is up to us to help keep them as pristine and natural as possible, no matter where it is. This applies equally to the day trip to the local crag as it does to the weeklong camping and climbing trip in a remote area.
A good basic rule to follow is to leave the place looking the way it did when you arrived. An even better rule is to make it look better. This doesn’t mean polishing the rocks and shampooing the squirrels, it means packing out all your garbage plus whatever trash you find along the way. If you will be camping, research the local rules and regulations before you go and always follow the rules of low impact camping. If you are new to venturing outdoors or headed to a new crag, don’t go out there unprepared, get advice from trusted sources and be properly outfitted for the conditions. Many of the worst incidents of land abuse occur when people are mentally and logistically unprepared.
Being careful stewards of the land goes beyond preservation, it affects the willingness of landowners, both public and private to allow climbing on their property. If all climbers were slobs who abused the privilege, no one would want us on their land mucking things up. Access concerns are very real due to ownership and usage rights being violated. It’s not always the result of climbers making a mess but when that happens, we have less of an argument to make and fewer people willing to support our cause.
The most important thing is to remember that the land is not ours to abuse, we have been given the privilege to use it and like anything, if it is trashed, it will be spoiled for everyone. No one wants to set up for belay on a the remains of your lunch, early morning arrivals don’t want to find a tent at the base of a crag and a scarcely covered pile of feces and toilet paper on the side of a trail can ruin the experience for everyone. Respect the land, respect other climbers’ rights and respect yourself. There is more to the activity than the climbing and if you can’t accept that, stay in the gym.