For climbers who frequent routes in the North Cascades National Park, or other favorites like Yosemite and Joshua Tree, new proposals may change how you climb within National Parks. The National Park Service recently released revised Wilderness Stewardship policies to guide Service-wide management of park wilderness areas, including specific requirements for how parks will manage climbing activities where ropes and fixed or removable anchors are used to support an ascent or descent, including rock climbing, snow and ice climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering and caving.
In a departure from its traditionally unclear stance on climbing, the Service’s new directive explicitly defines climbing as a legitimate use and offers guidance on issues like anchor placement. Recommendations from the document include:
• "Clean climbing" techniques should be the norm in wilderness. This involves the use of temporary equipment and anchors that can be placed and removed without altering the environment (e.g. slings, cams, nuts, chocks, and stoppers).
• Placement of fixed anchors does not violate the Wilderness Act, but the replacement, removal, or installation of fixed bolts must be authorized.
• Parks with significant climbing use must develop climbing management plans. Strategies to control, or in some cases reduce, proliferation of fixed anchors in wilderness must be articulated in the plans. Climbing management planning will include public comment periods.
• Motorized drilling will remained banned.
• The establishment of bolt-intensive face climbs, such as “sport climbs,” is considered incompatible
with wilderness preservation and management due to the concentration of human activity which they support, and the types and level of impacts associated with the development of such routes.
Washington climbers should make use of the public comment period to voice any concerns or questions about the draft by March 10, 2011. The Access Fund, a leader on climbing access issues, is analyzing this issue and soliciting climber feedback via a survey found on their homepage.