Spring is here! Well, technically it has been for a while, but in New England at least, it’s just starting to really feel like it. The birds are providing a beautiful, harmonious, soundtrack for the day. Flowers are starting to pop up in vibrant colors. That unsavory scent of manure is wafting through the air. Little chicks are being born, which my family has some of now.
Probably the most important aspect of spring, however, is that it is the start to a lot of awesome sports. Our primary focus is sport climbing, but lots of people are pulling out their kayaks and embracing water sports too. It feels good to be out of the gym, or if you never gave up on outdoor climbing, being able to shed some layers. Less weight helps after all. While the excitement and psych are high, it’s also important to think about protecting these areas that bring us so much joy.
Therefore, this entry will be the obligatory helping the environment and protecting access kind that tends to come out around this Earth Day month. It’s not just what this time of year represents (spring cleaning and all), but I’ve also been compelled by the unsightly amounts of trash I’ve already seen piled up around some areas that I love to walk/hike/enjoy. With all the news about climate change and the major impact it’s having on mountaineering already, it seems even more important to think of our impact. Whether it’s pollution destroying our most loved areas or out of control behavior getting us barred from them, there are many stories currently out there that show how real a potential loss of availability is. It’s likely not your fault, but we can’t control other people, we can only do our own part.
So this makes the remaining question, what is our part? That answer is actually quite easy.
- Be informed: When you are climbing outside, there are some key things to know. The obvious is what you are doing. Make sure you know how to climb safely, how to take care of and check out your equipment, and scan the route for up to date/safe bolting if you’re sport climbing. You might want to take a class if you’ve never been outside before. At the very least, check out the information and helpful videos that are out there, and find a very competent partner. If you have been outside and know it all, that’s cool, but still remember to be safe. Check and double check. With all respect to those who have lost their lives, many reports suggest climbing deaths and injuries are a result of making mistakes or failed equipment. There are times when things just happen, but most often it could have been prevented. Preventing these errors by being careful, has the obvious benefit of you being alive and in one piece. However, for the community it also helps keeps access to climbing. When things become seen as really “dangerous,” people have this tendency to just want to ban it entirely or close areas. You also want to be informed about the area you are climbing. Are there bird nesting closures? Are there times of the day when climbing is not permitted. There are some areas out there that are a bit more secretive. In this case, trying to find people who know best before going helps. If they are open areas, there are places you can find out. The access fund gives some great base level information, local climbing coalitions have information they post, guide books or sites like mountainproject.com can help you find some relevant information to the area.
- Practice leave no trace ethics. Pick up anything you bring out climbing with you. Even if it seems harmless, like fruit peels. You can bring them back and compost them in your own yard. When everyone is tossing things to the side, even small, not that big of a deal seeming things, they can pile up or cause problems. It’s better to take it all out. Plan for this in advance by bringing a place to store your trash. Prepare for needing to pee/poop/deal with tampons too. No one likes walking around and coming across human waste or used tampons. It’s gross and not good for keeping the area clean. Bring what you need to dispose of this properly. In terms of peeing, be careful about where it is. Sometimes people pee too close to rocks in areas where the rain doesn’t get to it and things get smelly. Take out all trash with you. But let’s not forget another part of this. Leave no trace also can be where you step. In Bishop, CA for instance, there are lots of signs to stay on the trail to help preserve the plant life. Be mindful of these types of things and try not to damage the area around you. Throwing pads down on a plant that needs to grow, stepping off the trail, cutting down trees that are in your way, etc. All these things could be potentially damaging. Be mindful of your area impact.
- If you see issues that aren’t related to you, try to help out. Give someone a friendly reminder of what they need to be doing. Pick up the trash yourself if it isn’t dangerous to do so. Help make sure people in your area are informed. Maybe organize events, like clean up days. We all have a part.
- Be respectful to other climbers as well. Things like blasting loud music, can be really annoying to someone trying to communicate with their climbing partner. It also can impact access if you are in an area close to homes that don’t want to hear it. As long as we respect the areas we climb and enjoy nature, and respect each other, we can help. It doesn’t have to be hard. It’s simple little things we can keep in mind that help things run smoothly.