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By JoeMuggli
From Waite Park, MN
Sep 9, 2011
Good Day!
My name is joseph muggli, I'm a senior at St Johns university and am currently writing my thesis. I need your help and input on a couple of different topics. My thesis is regarding the sustainability of climbing, and different views regarding this issue. My question for all of you is this "how do you practice Leave No Trace climbing? and if you do at all, how so?" also "what discipline whether its Trad, bouldering,sport, alpine, adventure, or slab climbing, do you think is the most sustainable/minimal impact?" I appreciate your time and effort and I hope to read some great input! Have a good one, and Climb on!
-Joe

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By Bill Ballace
From Pullman,WA
Sep 9, 2011
Well before you even start spouting dribble about the sustainability of "clean climbing" you are going to have to leave the car at home and walk or bike to your favorite destination. I wont even listen to the leave no trace trad ground up dribble unless they either walked or biked to the crag. As far as I am concerned, the biggest impact we have results from driving all over the place to get to the crag, as a result there are very few climbers practicing leave no trace climbing.

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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Sep 9, 2011
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
You have a reading assignment:

mountainproject.com/v/why-are-...

Report back after you have read all comments in that thread.

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By Evan1984
Sep 9, 2011
Bill Ballace wrote:
As far as I am concerned, the biggest impact we have results from driving all over the place to get to the crag, as a result there are very few climbers practicing leave no trace climbing.



This is so true and just what I was going to say.

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By Brice Harris
Sep 9, 2011
LNT is an ideal, its not always going to be that there are no traces left, and as climbers we can't also be deep ecologists. We want to make use of, in an appropriate way, the resource we have and then take care of that in a way that allows future generations the same.

With that said I think the best way to be in line with LNT is to leave as little physical impact as possible. Understanding the area is crucial to finding out what should be done. Some areas need larger trails to accommodate more climbers/hikers. IE - the highway into glacier basin in RMNP vs a bushwack in southern new mexico.

The way I see it, ground up on lead bolting, and placing of natural pro is the way to go for most areas. That doesn't mean all areas (most overhanging limestone crags), but I think when possible this is the way to do it.

I'm ok if things can't get climbed for a long time because of that ethic. The idea that I make a route up something in whatever way I can to go up leaving permanent marks through something that in the future someone else could send without doesn't sit well with my ethic.

As far as day to day lnt, I pick up trash when I see it, I pack in and out everything, except poop, which I put in correctly dug cat holes.

I'd say ground up style, whatever it may be, is minimal impact.

Driving will always be the downfall of sustainable sports. Though we do carpool.

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By Brice Harris
Sep 9, 2011
So you just throw the baby out with the bathwater because we can't be perfect? That's a bit rash.

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By Toby Butterfield
From Portland, OR
Sep 9, 2011
Fear and Loathing.
Better start figuring out a way to assess the environmental impact of creating all that fancy metal gear. We climbers are still consumers, no doubt about it--although at least our shit tends to last a good long while.

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By mission
Sep 9, 2011
Ways in which climbing impacts the environment, in order of magnitude:

Driving
Cliff-base erosion
Approach/descent trail erosion
------big gap-----
Cleaning vegetation from routes
Non-erosion usage impacts (ie litter, disruption of animals)
------big gap-----
Wear-and-tear of natural anchors such as trees
Chalk (aesthetics only)
Fixed gear such as permadraws or chains on the first pitch of routes (aesthetics only)
Bolts on the first pitch of routes (aesthetics only)


There is basically no way to reduce the significant impacts of climbing short of reducing climbing. There is an argument for using rappel anchors in order to avoid the erosion caused by walk-offs (seriously, go do a popular Yosemite route without rappel anchors), but there is also an argument that eliminating walk-offs would make these routes even more popular. (My counter-argument is that the rock can actually take the abuse, unlike steep hillsides, and that it is hard to see how the popularity of constant traffic routes can increase.)

When climbing: try not to litter, pick up other people's litter, stick to established trails(!), use the bathroom responsibly, brush your chalk if the rock is not already hopelessly chalked.

When developing: create trails in an intelligent manner(!), reinforce cliff bases(!), consider the erosion impact of rappel/walk-off descents.


I would rate the impact of sport, trad and bouldering as roughly equal. Alpine and adventure climbing are the highest impact, but the amount of climbers is much lower.

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By Brice Harris
Sep 9, 2011
johnL wrote:
I fail to see the difference environmentally of ground up death routes and grid bolted cliffs. To say one has a lower real impact than another is simply projecting your personal bias of climbing style as a solution. Carpool to the crag when possible and practice low impact living in your day to day life. That said, it'll never come close to offsetting the gas and airplane fuel I rip through so many times a year to climb.


I was directing that towards the LNT part of his post. Environmental there isn't much change.

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By Phil Lauffen
From The Bubble
Sep 9, 2011
RMNP skiing. Photo by Nodin de Saillan
johnL wrote:
I fail to see the difference environmentally of ground up death routes and grid bolted cliffs. To say one has a lower real impact than another is simply projecting your personal bias of climbing style as a solution. Carpool to the crag when possible and practice low impact living in your day to day life. That said, it'll never come close to offsetting the gas and airplane fuel I rip through so many times a year to climb.


+1. Climbers are incredibly high carbon producers. We drive too much. I read a climbing mag article that suggested climbers quit taking long road trips every weekend, and stick to their local crags more often. I agree with this completely.

Another problem that I need to change in my habits and that others may need to examine is throwing shoes away as soon as they need a resole. Riding your bike to your local resoler is a thousand times better than ordering a new pair of kicks as soon as you get a rounded edge. I try to get the maximum amount of usage out of my gear.

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By germsauce
Sep 9, 2011
Hippos kill people
#1 thing we can do to lessen our impact as climbers is to climb locally.

I live in Boulder and it's amazing with the amount of climbing we have within 1 hour, how many climbers are driving 3-7 per weekends to climb routes (I have to say place like The Creek and Tensleep are amazingly awesome, and hard to resist).

That being said, i'm making a commitment to climbing locally this fall, Eldo, Boulder Canyon and CCC.

I wrote an (admittedly) fluff-piece for Climbing Magazine (Phil, probably the article to which you refer) about 3 years ago about being a more environmentally conscious climber. It's all about projecting locally, rather than driving 4 hours to do a bunch of easy onsights... get in that mentality if you want to reduce your impact.

other than that, buy less new stuff. But hey, (travel being the same), climbing's probably better than golfing , boating, or playing whackamole with baby seals!

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By Brice Harris
Sep 9, 2011
Phil Lauffen wrote:
+1. Climbers are incredibly high carbon producers. We drive too much. I read a climbing mag article that suggested climbers quit taking long road trips every weekend, and stick to their local crags more often. I agree with this completely. Another problem that I need to change in my habits and that others may need to examine is throwing shoes away as soon as they need a resole. Riding your bike to your local resoler is a thousand times better than ordering a new pair of kicks as soon as you get a rounded edge. I try to get the maximum amount of usage out of my gear.



Wait people actually throw away shoes? I've been working on a pair of katanas for 4 years now. They age well. Resoled probably 4 times? Had two other pairs of shoes in between but gave one pair to a friend and still use the other. I love resolers.

EDIT: The last month has been super eco climbing for me since i've been laid out on the bed with a broken ankle (not from a death route). I haven't even driven yet!

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By Phil Lauffen
From The Bubble
Sep 9, 2011
RMNP skiing. Photo by Nodin de Saillan
Brice Harris wrote:
EDIT: The last month has been super eco climbing for me since i've been laid out on the bed with a broken ankle (not from a death route). I haven't even driven yet!


Thats the real solution. Quit climbing.

I'm on the 3rd resole for a pair of TC pros right now, but there's a hole in the top of the shoe that I've been attempting to repair without success with barge glue and rubber shavings. Its really messed up the stiffness of the shoe, so I'm thinking I'm going to have to get a new pair... :(

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By james-va
Sep 9, 2011
Hi, Joe -- interesting thesis topic.

I'd just add that for perspective, climbers are probably more sensitive to their environmental impact than most groups. I'm not sure you'd see this same degree of self-flagellation among boaters or snowmobilers, for instance, and I'm just speaking candidly with full awareness that some of those folks are incredibly environmentally conscious, and some climbers aren't.

To answer your questions:

1. I always pack out at least one piece of trash that isn't mine.
2. Gym climbing has the lowest impact. Sure, it's in a building, but gyms are located in population centers. That minimizes aggregate miles driven.

It's really all about the petroleum. The other issues are primarily aesthetic issues, vs. sustainability issues.

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By Phil Lauffen
From The Bubble
Sep 9, 2011
RMNP skiing. Photo by Nodin de Saillan
Every purchase you make has an inherent amount of petroleum(are we british?) attached to it. Ideally everyone would manufacture their own equipment by hand with resources collected from the back of their bike. That's impractical so the next best solution is carefully assessing the need of a purchase before you make it.

This careful foresight does no good things to the GDP, but I've never understood why the GDP needs to increase anyways...

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By bergbryce
From Tracy, CA
Sep 9, 2011
The injured guy who is staying at home and doing no climbing hit the nail on the head. He is the only one keeping climbing "sustainable".

Climbing is a RECREATIONAL pursuit. We do it because we like to and have the ability (time/gear/money) to do so. Anytime you start looking at activities done by choice, the "sustainability" argument goes out the window.

Seems every businesses goal the past few years, how to exist on nothing. Got news for ya, it can't. Thank the dinosaurs.

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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Sep 9, 2011
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "...
Phil Lauffen wrote:
This careful foresight does no good things to the GDP, but I've never understood why the GDP needs to increase anyways...

To keep the Ponzi scheme going and to make a debt "decrease" even when it grows.

As for the OT:
LNT is not the same as sustainable. I think the OP has to clarify what he intends to mean by "sustainable."
A good trail that is "sustainable" is far from LNT, by way of example - but rather it is built well.
In climbing a LNT anchor may be rapping off a tree directly once, but a fat pair of 1/2" bolts with chain are more sustainable.

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By Woodchuck ATC
Sep 9, 2011
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
Evan Horvath aka Evan1984 wrote:
This is so true and just what I was going to say.


But from another point of view,,,so many times I see a car loaded with bikes...tell me how that makes sense. I drive to my climbs, then park the car and go climb several days worth with no car use. Why would you drive miles away just to ride the road bike on pavement there instead of at home or as tramsportation to an area? Seems counter productive to me. That kind of bike use doesn't gain any green' points at all.

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By dorseyec
Sep 9, 2011
Woodchuck ATC wrote:
But from another point of view,,,so many times I see a car loaded with bikes...tell me how that makes sense. I drive to my climbs, then park the car and go climb several days worth with no car use. Why would you drive miles away just to ride the road bike on pavement there instead of at home or as tramsportation to an area? Seems counter productive to me. That kind of bike use doesn't gain any green' points at all.


Because some people enjoy road biking. Traveling to new places and riding new roads is fun to them, just like you and rock climbing . I assume you like to try new routes in new areas of the country? I am sure they are riding the bikes at home for fun and transportation but I see nothing wrong with traveling to bike, although in my opinion they should be mtn biking.

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By mtoensing
From Boulder
Sep 9, 2011
Props to my home state show
Sustainable!!! Ha, one of the "buzz words" during the last green revolution. Sustainable climbing would require only naked solo climbing without chalk/shoes/gear/etc. which isn't feasible at all. In my observation, climbers impact land less than other recreational users but still create large impacts (AKA transportation of invasive plants along trails and cliffs, disturbing wildlife, etc.). As long as people accept the fact that they are making an impact but understand how they are making an impact, then they can work on knowing how to minimize their impact. It is really up to the individual at this point but I think people are knowledgeable to make the right decisions.

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By nbrown
From western NC
Sep 9, 2011
Top of Shortoff with the Bonsai
Sustainability is nothing more than an illusion. The second law of thermodynamics dictates this. There will be impact somewhere, and in some form, regardless. It's simply a matter of ones preference as to how the "damage" is manifested.

But I digress... in the publics eye, which is a big deal with land managers, the less climber impact (crap hanging from the wall) the better off we will be with access.

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By Alan Nagel
Sep 9, 2011
On Cube Point, Tetons
There should be mention of ReStop/wag-bags. Not half so awkward or intimidating to use as we're likely to start off assuming. Very efficient/ecologically sound, especially in dry mountain conditions where poop can last a very long time.

They are encouraged in the Tetons, for example, and the Climbers' Ranch provides them as a voluntary choice.

How many other mountain parks are providing them?

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By Scott Ebner
Sep 9, 2011
AZ
I understand my carbon foot print. The challenge for living a lifestyle that is inline with how our/my (American culture) is set up means I need transportation. I have chosen a place (Prescott, AZ) where it is possible for me to limit my use of a car to get to the areas I regularly climb. Our energy crisis is a topic for another thesis.

I think it's fair to say that the sport has a high carbon footprint, but that doesn't mean you can't follow LNT while out there. Granite Mountain Wilderness has one of the highest environmental ethics of any wilderness. We have banned any new bolting, except in the case of replacing old home made bolts. These bolts have attracted lightning causing deterioration and scaring of the rock.

As LNT suggest I leave things the way I found them. If a climb has loose rock I consider that a factor of the grade and leave them where they lay. For me it's all about the ethics of the area and how the FA was done. If they did not pre-place gear or clean the route then why should I.

Another problem in the SW is gassing cracks to rid them of rattlers. This has a large effect on the micro ecosystems that exist in those areas.

I would look into feedback loops and consider the ecosystem of the immediate climbing area. Prescott College teachers might be able to help you on this subject. Many of them can attest to the ecological history of our climbing areas and how they've changed due to climber influence.

Good luck and don't get discouraged.

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By Carl Sherven
Sep 9, 2011
Scott Ebner wrote:
.....We have banned any new bolting, except in the case of replacing old home made bolts. These bolts have attracted lightning causing deterioration and scaring of the rock......


Literally, lightning strikes? I'm not trying to be a dick here, but I work with electrical systems, and this seems pretty wild to me. Granted I don't study lightning, so this might be really basic to someone who does. Does a bolt somehow act as a lightning rod, even though it's only a couple inches from the face, surrounded by other features, located on a vertical face, and only goes a few inches into the rock? Can you send me to an article about it, or even a picture of the damage? I'm interested to read about this.

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By daway
From Seattle, WA
Sep 10, 2011
james-va wrote:
Hi, Joe -- interesting thesis topic. I'd just add that for perspective, climbers are probably more sensitive to their environmental impact than most groups. I'm not sure you'd see this same degree of self-flagellation among boaters or snowmobilers, for instance, and I'm just speaking candidly with full awareness that some of those folks are incredibly environmentally conscious, and some climbers aren't.


And herein lies the most paradoxical aspect of climbing and other outdoor pursuits. Mountain biking and hiking opened my eyes to the beauty of the outdoors, and climbing was just the next natural progression for me. It is my appreciation of the great outdoors raised by these sports that inspired me to try to live as environmentally conscious as possible.

My main point is that although it is easy to see and measure the negative environmental impact of these outdoor pursuits, it is almost impossible to measure the positive impact they have had by making people more environmentally conscious.

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By Kirk Miller
From Golden, CO
Sep 10, 2011
Bugaboos, 1978 Photo by Ken Trout
Worthy of note, routes that top out often lead to erosion on summit areas as well as additional erosion in descent trails. Routes that end in anchors limit erosion to the base of the routes.

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