“Houston, we have a problem. Climbing is rad and a lot of people love to do it. That doesn’t sound like a problem, but the fact is that climbing has gone from a near fringe activity, growing slowly from the 1800’s into the mid 1900’s when it first started to take off, to now being an Olympic sport.
A visit to any popular crag on any given weekend it proof of the exploding popularity of climbing where routes are frequently occupied across large portions of the wall, social trails lead to everywhere, and the bases of climbs and landings of boulders are beginning to erode.
Sadly, this all has environmental impacts and presents a potential for unsafe conditions. And we haven’t even touched on the poop issue yet…
It’s not only the bases of the crags and boulder fields that are seeing impacts. Our walls are also struggling.” – Micheal Fitzgerald
What is The Climber’s Pact?
The Access Fund has created The Climber’s Pact: 13 responsible and sensible commitments that climbers pledge to abide by in efforts to protect our climbing lands.
The 13 Promises of The Climber’s Pact:
Be considerate of other users.
Just because you find climbing to loud viking metal to be the best way to spend a weekend outdoors, doesn’t means everyone else at the crag will too. Now I’m all for loud viking metal, but there’s a time and place (also, headphones). Many climbers thrive by listening to nothing but the sounds of their breath and the ambient sounds of wildlife.
Park and camp in designated areas.
Keep in mind, good campsites are found, not made.
Scout out areas that look like they’ve had a tent already placed there before.
Typically, this looks like a flat area that has been cleared of rocks, branches, and other things that will potentially poke your back while you’re trying to sleep.
Dispose of human waste properly.
Ladies, if you’re not familiar with how to pee in the wild, you gonna learn today.
Also, be sure to always put a poop kit in your backpack when you head to the crag.
You never know when nature is gonna call.
To ensure long term sustainability for our crags and public lands, packing out all toilet paper is a necessary practice so we can enjoy our wild spaces for generations to come.
Stay on trails whenever possible.
I know, shortcuts can be tempting. But walking off trail hurts the microsoil and vegetation, which is an integral part of the ecosystem.
Place gear and pads on durable surfaces.
When you finally get to the crag, do your best not to spread your gear, clothing, food, and other items all over the place— aka setting up a “yard sale”.
Not only is it inconsiderate towards other climbers at the crag, but you increase the risk of spreading micro trash all over the area, dropping food that wildlife can end up eating (that’s not good for them), and damaging the surrounding vegetation.
Land managers will often track high traffic areas by taking periodic photographs.
If there once was a small tree or bush near a bouldering spot or the base area of a climb, and by the end of the season it’s no longer there (or the entire staging area has been pushed back ten feet), it’s likely that they will be in favor of denying access to climbers who are unintentionally degrading the land.
Respect wildlife, sensitive plants, soils, and cultural resources.
Respect the wildlife, wildflowers, and all native inhabitants of the land. This is their home and we are lucky enough to play in it.
Without protecting our climbing grounds, we don’t have a place to climb outdoors. There are a few loved ones in my life that only climb outdoors because the wilderness experience is an integral and foundational piece of their love for climbing.
Clean up chalk and tick marks.
Cleaning up chalk helps preserve the aesthetic of wilderness. And in the name of not leaving a trace, clean up your mess. 😉
Minimize group size and noise.
As a safety concern, it’s important that climbers and their belayers can hear one another for essential communication.
Pack out all trash, crash pads, and gear.
If you’re not already familiar with the Leave No Trace 7 Principles, check them out here.
Learn the local ethics for the places you climb.
Show respect by following the local ethics.
Respect regulations and closures.
- Closure to climbing access is a possibility in every climbing area if problems aren’t addressed.
- Popular climbing destinations are at the highest risk of access closure.
Use, install, and replace bolts and fixed anchors responsibly.
Using, installing, and replacing bolts + fixed anchors responsibly is imperative to reducing risks associated with climbing for yourself, your friends, and the climbing community at large. It only takes one misused, neglected, or improperly installed bolt for things to take a turn for the worse very quickly.
Be an upstander, not a bystander.
Silence can imply consent and approval.
Reach out to your fellow climber when climbing practices are being done in an albeit unintentional, but harmful way. We need to talk to each other in order to protect this sport, this community, and these beloved lands.
Why do climbing ethics matter?
Our climbing grounds are suffering and we can’t deny it. Human influx on rock climbing areas have impacted the environment hard.
So much so that in some areas, climbing access has been completely denied by land managers not liking how their land has been treated and transformed over time as a popular climbing destination.
“In the 1980’s, the sport climbing bolt love revolution really kicked off. Since then, tens of thousands of sport routes have been established in the US alone.
Unfortunately, a decent number of those routes were established with low quality or now antiquated hardware. Despite this, record numbers of climbers are getting out to these areas each weekend, unaware of the potential danger just beneath the surface.
It’s becoming more and more clear each year that this rapid growth in climbing is greatly outpacing our ability to maintain these areas. Clearly, the impacts are starting to show to both climbers and land managers.” – Micheal Fitzgerald
Basically, don’t be like Jerry!
These are just a few reasons why it’s so important to stand for these agreements and to uphold our fellow climbers to the same standards.
Let’s Stand Up For Climbing Ethics Together
Whether you’re climbing internationally or in your home country, let’s promise to always show respect to the land and those around us by upholding the 13 promises of The Climber’s Pact.
Real talk: I am not perfect nor will I ever be. I have made my fair share of ignorant mistakes. My intention is to always increase my awareness, be honest about where and how I can improve, and lessen my impact.
I invite you to join this low-impact-protect-the-outdoors-let’s-save-the-world-and-eat-all-the-veggie-tacos-to-celebrate journey with me. Now let’s get sendyyyyy.
Sign The Climber’s Pact
What do you think of the Climbers Pact? Do you find all the requested commitments to be fair? Do you find something to be unreasonable? What has been your experience at your local crags? I’m super curious and would love to hear your thoughts below. ♥