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Is climbing really a Leave No Trace sport?
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By 20 kN
From Hawaii
Sep 14, 2012

I believe this is an interesting question because the name LNT is very deceiving. Although the words "leave no trace" form a clearly authoritative and black and white command, it is not physically possible to abide by them in their most literal sense if you want to climb. If you want to climb, you will leave some trace of your presence, end of story.

So what truly constitutes LNT actions? Where is the line drawn between LNT compliance and noncompliance? Is drilling a hole in the rock with a rotary hammer drill to place a bolt a violation of LNT ethics? How about breaking a hold off that is about to fall off? What about using chalk that will leave visible remnants on the rock? It seems difficult to determine LNT compliance when every action that involves choosing to climb involves leaving a trace to some degree.


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By Unassigned User
Sep 14, 2012

Srsly guys!!! Not looking to start a flame war!!


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By dannl
Sep 14, 2012

trad route with a walk-off


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By Kevin Landolt
From Fort Collins, Wyoming
Sep 14, 2012

You actually have to ask if placing a bolt is a violation of LNT? Hahahahahaha.


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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Sep 14, 2012
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lichen covered look from scrubbing a new route.

dannl wrote:
trad route with a walk-off

= eroded cliff top and trail back down to the base if more than a few people do it.


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By Unassigned User
Sep 14, 2012

Screw it! Let's quit climbing, we are killing the enviroment.


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By J Q
Sep 14, 2012
Me again!

The answer is obvious, unless you dig a dying hole and get to "it" you are still going to leave a trace.


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By Tapawingo
Sep 14, 2012

While the phrase "leave no trace" is very black and white and implies some sort of no impact practice, the seven principles outlined by the LNT organization are fairly easy to follow and put in practice as a climber. It fully recognizes that no matter what humans do there are going to be some impacts associated with our presence.

The only principle I see that could be conflicting to climbers is to avoid building structures, which some could interpret a bolted route a structure I suppose. In this case, doing our best to match the bolts to the color of the rock I guess would be the best way to follow the LNT guidelines.

Otherwise, it seems all the rest are relatively straightforward and easy guidelines to follow as a climber.


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By Princess Mia
From Vail
Sep 14, 2012
Chillin' at City of Rocks

No outdoor activity is truly LNT.


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Sep 14, 2012
Stabby

Someone rags on me about LNT and this is what goes on in my head:

LNT my ass
LNT my ass


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By 20 kN
From Hawaii
Sep 14, 2012

Kevin Landolt wrote:
You actually have to ask if placing a bolt is a violation of LNT? Hahahahahaha.

Well, when an organization like the RRGCC says "practice leave no trace ethics" in a place like the RRG, yea, I do. One of the top coalitions in the nation is telling me to LNT in a place with 10,000 bolts, so that kind of implies that bolting somehow does not apply to LNT. That kinds of hints at my original question, which is yet to be answered. How can organizations spray about LNT ethics while pounding semi-truck loads of chalk on the rock and placing thousands of bolts every month?


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By s.price
From PS,CO
Sep 14, 2012
 Morning Dew ,self portrait

El Tigre wrote:
Someone rags on me about LNT and this is what goes on in my head:

Nails It!


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By Tapawingo
Sep 14, 2012

20 kN wrote:
How can organizations spray about LNT ethics while pounding semi-truck loads of chalk on the rock and placing thousands of bolts every month?


I don't have an answer nor have I been to RRG, but I feel the LNT spraying is more oriented toward mitigating impacts that could harm the natural environment. Such as developing social trails and trampling native vegetation instead of staying on trail or packing out waste to minimize impacts on water quality.

When it comes to placing bolts and climbing on rock with chalk, yes you are changing the appearance of the rock face, but it seems that the impact of chalk in the ecological realm is minimal. I did read in the NRG Climbing Management plan that they did discover that possible negative impacts on micro flora and fauna, such as lichen, by chalk use have been found but I couldn't find any more information on the subject. It seems as though they felt it was minimal since they continue to allow chalk use.


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By matt davies
Sep 14, 2012

No, my tears have streaked the rock red


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Sep 14, 2012
Stabby

On a sub-atomic level, you cannot have an effect on your environment if you tried. And keep in mind that there are possibly infinite multi-verse versions of you occupying the same 'space' who might be pissing plutonium or beheading neighbors for stepping on a flower.


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By Wade Griffith
Sep 14, 2012
Bubba on third pitch

www.jtreelife.com/products/ice-herbal-chalk

Now we can leave the trace of spice scented chalk wherever we climb.


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By AnthonyM
Sep 14, 2012
Maroon Bells-Bell Cord Couloir

Didn't we just (finally) kill a thread about chalk.... It seems like there is one of these posts every week. I am sorry but NO. Climbing is not LNT.

Now lets talk about the ethics of chalk/climbing and what we can do such as using grey chalk or no chalk, then get Elanor/BJJ/Mitch involved, then she can give their advice on how we ought to climb, then exchange stories about people (I am guilty of this), then the topic is completely destroyed... and then we can start another thread about this same or similar subject next week.

...


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By Ed Wright
Sep 14, 2012
Magic Ed

It could be, but it's not.


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By shotwell
Sep 15, 2012

20 kN wrote:
Well, when an organization like the RRGCC says "practice leave no trace ethics" in a place like the RRG, yea, I do. One of the top coalitions in the nation is telling me to LNT in a place with 10,000 bolts, so that kind of implies that bolting somehow does not apply to LNT. That kinds of hints at my original question, which is yet to be answered. How can organizations spray about LNT ethics while pounding semi-truck loads of chalk on the rock and placing thousands of bolts every month?


Asking what was meant at the redriverclimbing.com forums would probably get you the following answer:

The LNT ethics that should be followed at the Red were primarily suggested as a means of dealing with the sickening amounts of human feces frequently found on, near, and under routes. Several bag stations have been put in place to make the Red a less disgusting place to climb.

To a lesser extent, clean up your trash, brush your ticks, and don't leave draws hanging on forest service land (where they are forbidden.)


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By Senior Hernandez
Sep 15, 2012
on the trip

20 kN wrote:
Well, when an organization like the RRGCC says "practice leave no trace ethics" in a place like the RRG, yea, I do. One of the top coalitions in the nation is telling me to LNT in a place with 10,000 bolts, so that kind of implies that bolting somehow does not apply to LNT. That kinds of hints at my original question, which is yet to be answered. How can organizations spray about LNT ethics while pounding semi-truck loads of chalk on the rock and placing thousands of bolts every month?



Just so you don't feel too special, I am sure you are leaving quite a trace when you chuff with your trad gear as well. Bolts are the least of it. If you really are concerned about leaving no trace then I suggest you consider the above suggestion of a dying hole.


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By rogerbenton
Sep 15, 2012
Whoever this guy is, he's just plain irresponsible.

leave no trace "of abuse".

humans have just as much of a right to go into and be in "natural areas" as the squirrels and the deer.

game leave game trails, we leave hiking/walk off trails, there's no abuse there.

it's the litter, trundling, landscaping, etc that should be avoided.


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By Jason Grubb
Sep 18, 2012

I've been climbing for nearly 10 years. I'm a Leave No Trace Master Educator and I'm the Education Programs Coordinator for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. I think some of you are looking at Leave No Trace through a slightly skewed lens. Leave No Trace is not black and white. It's better to think of Leave No Trace as a spectrum and it's more about finding where you, personally, lie within that range of practices. I'll use human waste as an example: On one end of the spectrum you have somebody who's only comfortable going to the bathroom in their own home, in the middle is somebody who's comfortable using a pit toilet, then you have folks who are cool pooping in a cathole and burying their toilet paper, then on the far end is the person that chooses to pack out all their solid, human waste. When thought of this way, it's easy to see how Leave No Trace isn't black and white at all and that it applies to every outdoor recreation activity - including rock climbing.

Additionally, Leave No Trace doesn't only address the tangible impacts like trash, poop, soil erosion, campfires, etc., but also the less concrete impacts, like user conflict and proper planning.

It's not about whether or not rock climbing is a Leave No Trace sport. But whether or not Leave No Trace skills and ethics can be applied to rock climbing. The answer is, YES! Every outdoor recreation activity, from backpacking to geocaching to mountain biking to hunting/fishing has impacts specific to that activity. This is where Leave No Trace comes in. The whole purpose of Leave No Trace is to educate people about the impacts they have while recreating outside, and to provide the tools to best minimize those impacts as much as possible. For example, if a particular crag is crowded and you decide to climb somewhere else, that's practicing Leave No Trace.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethic's stance on bolts/fixed gear is this: First off, check with local rules and regulations to determine whether those practices are even allowed. If they aren't, don't do it. If they are, simply default to the local customs for guidance. It's that simple. Bolts are not "against" Leave No Trace.

Here's a brief, bulleted list from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics' Rock Climbing reference card:

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area where you plan to climb.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies.
  • Schedule your climbing to avoid times of high use.
  • If you are climbing with a group, communicate your expectations.
  • Bring the appropriate equipment for the route(s) you intend to climb.
  • Acquire the necessary technical skills including first aid knowledge.
  • Check local regulations and ethics regarding the installation and use of fixed protection.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Always use durable roads and trails to access climbing routes.
  • When unpacking gear at crags, choose a durable location for your staging and belay areas.
  • Use existing anchors when available.
  • Protect water sources by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good camp and bivy sites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.

Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your camping and climbing areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, tape and litter.
  • Carry out abandoned or forgotten gear and webbing.
  • Minimize the use of chalk when possible. Keep chalk bags closed when not in use to minimize spills.
  • Consider packing out solid human waste using an approved method.
  • If allowed, deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.

Leave What You Find
  • Preserve the past: observe, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid developing new routes near archeological or historical sites, or critical wildlife habitat.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Consider using a lightweight stove for cooking and bring a headlamp for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife
  • Learn about seasonal route closures and be prepared to back off a route if you disturb wildlife.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach wildlife.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • If bringing dogs to crags, ensure they’re under control or consider leaving them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors
  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Larger groups should try not to monopolize popular climbing routes, especially during times of high use.
  • Maintain a cooperative spirit by being courteous to other users on the trail and at crags.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises unless necessary for communicating with your climbing partner(s).

© Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
For more information on Leave No Trace, visit www.LNT.org or call 1.800.332.4100


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By Mark Lewis
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Sep 18, 2012

Leave no trace is a misnomer - by our mere existence we leave 'traces'. Impossible to avoid, ridiculous to pretend we can LNT.


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Sep 18, 2012

fwiw, the RRGCC has no stance on bolts in the Red, nor chalk to my knowledge. They, like most climbers, do not consider bolts to be a keystone of LNT. In fact, the RRGCC considers bolts, permadraws, etc all abandoned equipment and gives no warranty on any of those things that are found on their land.

Sure, I suppose you can get into the nitty gritty and strict literal sense of LNT and drag bolts into it, but it wont get you anywhere but confused. Keep those issues separate in your head.

as far as I'm concerned, LNT has always meant 'be as good as you can be to the environment you are in'- whether that means staying on trail, using waste bags, as little chalk as possible, etc, etc.

No one expects humans to have no impact or truly leave no trace. We can, however, keep areas like the Red open and accessible by being actively good to the environment we are in and paying attention to the rules of that environment (i.e, the desert and the forest dont have the same rules).

I think that, in the context of a LCO (local climbing organization), we recognize that climbers make an impact on the land as a user group- be it through bolting, chalk use, crowds, etc, etc. So, in an effort to minimize that negative impact and create good relations with land managers, we try to encourage our members and other climbers to be good to the environment so as to keep our impact to a minimum.

Most land managers will tell you its not the bolt that is the problem- its the people that the bolt brings that become the problem. Educate the people to lessen their impact, and that problem gets reduced, creating a sustainable solution for land managers and climbers alike.


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By Derek Doucet
Sep 18, 2012

There is no such thing as "LNT" in the age of global supply chains, and certainly not where climbing is concerned. If only our impacts really were limited to grid bolting and chipped holds!

We drive to the crag in our cars burning fossil fuels, flake out our petroleum based ropes, put on our petroleum based rain gear when the weather closes in, and eat our agri-business lunch waiting for the sun to come back out. Along the way we log into MP from our smart phones loaded with rare metals mined at appalling human and environmental cost. I'm not judging, and am just as guilty as anyone. But any discussion of climbing as an LNT activity is astonishingly myopic and delusional. Bolts and broken holds are about as insignificant as it gets placed in a more realistic context.

Sent from my iPhone (yes, I'm a hypocrit)


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By J Q
Sep 19, 2012
Me again!

So, if this topic isn't a good way to chastise sport climbers, than what is the point?


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