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USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response
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doktor_g


Dec 25, 2009, 4:02 PM
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USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response
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Dr. Grover Shipman
1436 Crescent Ave
Klamath Falls, OR
97601

Mr. Ray, Mr. Lawrence and To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for allowing a time of public comment on Williamson River Cliff Area Project. I would like to discuss my thoughts on the WRCA and suggest some alternatives to partial or complete closure. First, I’d like to begin with a brief history of rock climbing in this area and my personal experiences there. Also, I will attempt to educate those not familiar the basic styles of anchors for rock climbing. Finally, I hope to reassure you, the Federal Administrators of the land, my compliance with any and all restrictions which you place on the land.

WRCA CLIMBING HISTORY:
It is my understanding that the cliffs above Spring Creek (presently Oax Kanee Overlook, west of Hwy 97) and the Williamson River Cliffs (those along FSR 9734, east of Hwy 97) have been an area for recreational rock climbing enthusiasts since the late 1950s and early 1960s. The first written records of climbing taking place in this remote area are from local Klamath Falls climbers from the early 1970s. Notable ascents at this time include several by the Federal Court Judge, Cam Wogan currently on the bench in Klamath Falls. There, he climbed a wide, 40 foot tall crack, naming it “Cam’s Jam” – a name it still carries today. It is a test-piece for aspiring locals. He and his partners climbed and named nearly 100 routes along the cliffs on each side of Hwy 97. Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, The Boy Scouts of America and private recreationalists from all over the State and beyond come to enjoy the climbing, solitude and serene vistas of the upper Klamath Basin and forested river valleys below.

MY HISTORY WITH THE WRCA:
I first climbed here in the summer of 2003, after I moved from Arkansas. I have been rock climbing for 17 years, climbed in 15 states and 7 countries. While training on these cliffs I’ve participated in published expeditions including 30 day trip to Baffin Island, within the Arctic Circle. These cliffs have become an important part of my growth as a climber and a steward of the outdoors.

Having worked closely with the “Access Fund,” a charitable organization for climbing advocacy, I’ve attempted to sooth tensions between groups (tribes, climbers and Forest Service). Also, I’ve organized clean-ups of the area. I have spearheaded one official “Adopt-A-Crag” clean-up sponsored by the Access Fund, and several un-official clean-up days at the crag. We have removed nearly a ton of garbage from the foot of the cliff including car parts and a big-screen television. We’ve cleaned the graffiti from the cliffs. I made specific recommendations regarding the sensitive vegetation and erosion of the approach gullies on how climber impacts can be mitigated and controlled by use of marked trails and limiting parking.

Regarding the graffiti specifically, I am very disappointed that climbers have been blamed for this. Especially, considering the symbols that were used (circles and other tribal designs) and a stick figure that had a caption reading “White Man.”

In 2005, I felt that the climbing access was being threatened, and invited members of the Klamath Tribe (Mr. Skelton, whom I believe was the Public Relations representative) and Forest Service representatives to speak to local climbers regarding any issues either might have with us climbing there. I hoped that we could foster an understanding between the groups. About 20 climbers attended his presentation, where we were accused of raiding the area for arrow heads and other plunder - which I assure you, we have no interest in. He never specifically mentioned the “vision quest” sites nor showed any pictures so we might avoid them. The Forest Service personnel arrived in uniform and were invited to speak, but did not. In the months following this presentation, tensions mounted. In 2006, a friend, Sgt William Byrnes, was ticketed for placing bolts and building trails. At great expense, I hired an attorney for this case. It became evident that bolting (fixed climbing anchors), were not in any way illegal. The charge for bolting was dropped.

TYPES OF ROCK CLIMBING ANCHORS:
There are several tools available to the modern rock climber to keep him safe. Until adoption of “clean climbing” in the 1960s, rock climbing anchors almost always employed the hammer and piton (a steel spike driven into cracks). These obviously damaged the crack and rock around it. With modern materials (namely aluminum and nylon), other types of removable protection were created. These basically include aluminum chocks of various sizes that can be wedged in cracks for removal at the end of the climb and cams that are placed in parallel-sided cracks. These cams use the mechanical advantage of the lever to stay in place. These devices are also removed at the end of the climb. These are the tools of “clean climbing.”

Sometimes, there is no crack into which a climber may place an anchor. In these circumstances a fixed climbing anchor might be employed. Bolts are by far the most commonly used fixed anchor. Bolts are also sometimes used at the top of a climb when there is no boulder, crack or suitable tree which might serve as a “natural anchor.” In this case, it is considered standard to place the bolts on the vertical cliff face below the top, where one might reach over the edge to place a rope for climbing. Placing them here serves as a means to conceal the bolt from a non-climber – thus, lessening the visual impact. Sometimes bolts are needed in the climb itself to keep it safe. When and where to place these are decided by the first person to climb the route from the ground-up. This means that he or she started from the ground, without the rope going through an anchor to arrest a fall. He or she is called the “Route Author” or “First Ascensionist.” This person is said to have “led” the route. When and where to place a bolt is a hotly debated issue in rock climbing circles.

In general, it is considered unethical to place a new bolt in the following circumstances:
1.) If there is an area nearby in which a piece of removable gear can be used instead.
2.) If the route had originally been “led” by the route author without the use of a bolt.
3.) If the local climbing community, land owner or regulatory body forbids it.




EDUCATION FOCUSED MANAGEMENT PLAN:
Parking: Of all private uses of public lands, motorized vehicles damage wildlife and disturb the forest more than any other.
• Appropriate limitations of parking with boulders and natural barriers. This has been done with good results.
• Consideration of additional boulders at the first climbers parking area so the “island” of vegetation in the middle of the first pull-out might not be eroded completely.

Trails: The second largest impact on the forest is likely foot traffic. Unfortunately, these cliffs are raked by wind and baked in the summer sun. This makes it very difficult for ground cover to return once it has been trampled down. Too the shifting high desert pumice has little nutrient value to offer new plant life. As a result un-marked trails will turn from narrow paths to wide irregular patches of lifeless sand. My suggestion:
• Establish a trail from all each of the three pull-outs to a cliff-top trail that runs along the “Analysis Area,” parallel to the cliff.
• Signage and rim rocks or railroad ties indicating where trails are located. The signs might read something like: “Restoration In Progress. Stay On Marked Trails” or “Klamath Tribal Spiritual Site. Please Stay on Marked Trail.”
• There are 3 main descent gullies to the base of the cliff. Foot traffic on the eastern two are causing or have the potential to cause lots of erosion. Mitigating erosion on the 3 descent gullies with marked trails, railroad-tie stairs or stone steps and reinforced with re-bar where needed.
• Trail locations should be denoted on a map at the educational kiosk (See Below).

Climbing Permitted Areas: There are options other than arbitrarily closing a cliff (or a portion of it). This entire cliff band has been used for recreation for decades. It is only for lack of education on the impacts of foot traffic and misunderstanding by the Klamath Tribes that this has become a problem. All climbing areas could be opened throughout the cliff area with trail access limited to curtail damage of wildlife areas and promote growth of vegetation. Education of climbers on what is expected is all that should be required. From the map that I was given, I saw that there was a proposed closure area. This seems arbitrary.

Although rare, some crags in the USA do have specific cliff areas that close. Mostly, these closures are seasonal to allow molting and nesting of falcons – the areas north of Medford, OR are good examples. Sometimes it is because of an obvious cultural heritage sites. Noteworthy examples include ancient petroglyph areas of Hueco Tanks, TX and Moab, UT; the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, NM; the National Monument of Mt Rushmore, SD. Too there are seasonal closures for Native American spiritual ceremonies. The most well known of these is Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. There is a several week window when climbers are requested not to climb. These closures have documented and provable reasons for their closure. Historically, climbers adhere to these closures. An arbitrary closure of cliff without cause targets a specific user group for no good reason. This is unfair. The proposal letter also indicated that you “may remove [bolts] based on input from the public.” These bolts have already been removed without our input. This was very disappointing. The letter also really didn’t give a reason for the closure with the exception of wildlife impacts. Below are lists options for limitations that I think are most reasonable.
• Unrestricted & Self-Policing: This option is viable in a vibrant and authoritative climbing community. Oddly, it works best in areas with high climbing traffic that has a long established ethic regarding climbing chalk, trails, fixed anchors and style of ascent. Yosemite National Park and Smith Rock State Park are good examples here. Placing a new bolt where a route has existed for 50 years is more likely to get you a punch in the face by a fellow climber than a ticket from a ranger. There are great social pressures on climbers to adhere to local ethics. An area in the Czech Republic allows no metal protection and you must climb bare foot! This Unrestricted Plan adheres to the general guidelines that I’ve outline above. Unfortunately, land managers (USFS) have expressed that this is now unacceptable.
• No New Fixed Anchors Without Permission: This option is limiting, but I think it is the best plan for the WRCA. My vision of this is to allow unrestricted climbing along the entire cliff and, to replace the top anchors on classic climbs that have been removed (noted above) in a way to minimalize their visual impact. Some anchors would not be replaced, especially those where natural anchor possibilities exist. This would go hand-in-glove with an educational kiosk about the area as well as a well designed trail system. Any new routes would have to go first through a Climber’s Committee. Then, if OK’d the request could be sent to the USFS with pictures and description for review of cultural and wildlife impact. If the Climbing Committee says “no” or if USFS says “no”, that means “no.”

Educational Kiosk: My vision for this is simple. The classic brown USFS kiosk placed in such a way where vandals will unlikely damage it, and such that it will not impact the scenic beauty of the cliff. The kiosk might highlight the following:
• Geography
• Geology
• Wildlife (Flora and Fauna)
• Klamath Tribal Culture and History
• Rock Climbing opportunities
• Trail Map
• Updates (Fire warnings, restrictions etc)

IN CONCLUSION:
This area is important for several reasons. It has an ability to provide a significant economic boost to the area as an attraction for Collier Park and the North Basin Area. The geography, a basaltic, south-facing cliff that over-looks a unique desert riparian ecosystem (the Spring and Williamson River confluence), can provide a substantial opportunity for education. It is my understanding that this is a spiritually significant site of the Klamath Natives. Providing a place to explain their beliefs and how to respect their place of worship is crucial to the success of any regulation. Finally, this plan can provide a point of cultural contact between three communities that have the love of land and nature in common: Klamath Tribes, the USFS and rock climbers.

It is my hope that we can keep the entire crag open to climbers, natives and other recreationalists. I wish to leave a legacy of cooperation and good stewardship to the climbers that come after me. Too I hope to be a respectful emissary of the rock climbing community. To demonstrate my willingness to do so, I am prepared to make a substantial donation of time, labor and money to this project to ensure continued access to this area. I will work with the USFS and with the Tribal Leadership as a liaison for the educational kiosk. I will attempt to educate and reassure the USFS and Tribal Leadership on the positive contributions of rock climbing. I will host free climbing clinics at the crag and will disseminate cultural and wildlife educational information to my fellow climbers. I will assist with manual labor and attempt to muster volunteers for trail work and educational content. I pledge at least $1000.00 of my personal money towards the management plan that I have outlined above or its equivalent.


With Respect,


Dr. Grover Shipman MD









DISCLOSURES:
I have no financial interest nor do I stand to gain financially in the exploitation of the land, wildlife or Klamath cultural resources. My interest is purely educational and recreational. I am a member of the American Alpine Club and the Access Fund – both are not-for-profit climbing organizations.





Cc: The Access Fund
www.rockclimbing.com (FORUMS)


petsfed


Dec 25, 2009, 4:38 PM
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Re: [doktor_g] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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A good example of approval boards for bolting are the ones governing Eldorado Canyon State Park and Boulder Mountain Parks, both near Boulder, CO.

You'll pardon my curiosity, but is there any justification for the Native American input here? Is there historical precedent to back up the notion that this is sacred or otherwise special ground? If not, all you have to do is sue. Or rather, threaten to sue. The USFS has no interest in dealing with a first amendment case it can't win.

Documenting the good work you guys have done is probably the most important move you can make, so keep up with that.

Good luck!


doktor_g


Dec 25, 2009, 6:39 PM
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Re: [petsfed] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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Thanks for your response. I've considered a lawsuit, but I think that would be more expensive and non-productive. The Klamath Tribal history in this area is one of distrust, ethnic purging and misinformation. They were one of the last NA hold-outs to white settlers (late 19th century). As a result, they see us with the same distrust they'd see a redneck with a case of Bud Light and a Stars and Bars flag.

Grover


petsfed


Dec 25, 2009, 7:01 PM
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Re: [doktor_g] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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doktor_g wrote:
Thanks for your response. I've considered a lawsuit, but I think that would be more expensive and non-productive. The Klamath Tribal history in this area is one of distrust, ethnic purging and misinformation. They were one of the last NA hold-outs to white settlers (late 19th century). As a result, they see us with the same distrust they'd see a redneck with a case of Bud Light and a Stars and Bars flag.

Grover

Thanks for clarifying. My point is that "historical tribal right" is a very shaky precedent, and if we let it persist without putting the burden of proof on the people claiming it, we're going to see an awful lot of closures simply out of some hazy psuedo-historical justification. I understand the distrust, but getting lumped in with the jackasses who are disposing of their trash, tagging, and otherwise misusing the land is bad news. And I'll bet money that even after it is clear that it isn't climbers doing the damage (and by your comments on the graffiti, I get the impression that you feel the culprit is a bit closer to home), they'll not change their opinion.

I'm still all kinds of sore over losing Cave Rock, and the tribe there had pretty solid historical justification for suing (although the USFS had to get really creative so as to not make the closure a 1st amendment thing, even though everybody knows that it is), and I think the precedent it sets is really not in the best interests of open space as a whole.


anarkhos


Mar 26, 2010, 11:57 AM
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Re: [petsfed] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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Ha, open space? The USFS is outright hostile to the idea. They're more interested in erecting locked gates and "water bars" (tank traps) than pretending this land is in any way public. Ask any one of them about it and they'll complain about lack of funding.

How about we just yank ALL their funding?


gmggg


Mar 26, 2010, 1:02 PM
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Re: [anarkhos] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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Then who would the lumber companies talk to?Frown


bandycoot


Mar 26, 2010, 1:15 PM
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Re: [doktor_g] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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doktor_g wrote:
Thanks for your response. I've considered a lawsuit, but I think that would be more expensive and non-productive. The Klamath Tribal history in this area is one of distrust, ethnic purging and misinformation. They were one of the last NA hold-outs to white settlers (late 19th century). As a result, they see us with the same distrust they'd see a redneck with a case of Bud Light and a Stars and Bars flag.

Grover

As far as I understand it, the USFS has either closed or kept it closed due to the thread of lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity. They want to work with the climbers, but are afraid of the threatened lawsuit and are proceeding cautiously. Have you actually contacted or worked with Friends of Williamson Rock or the Allied Climbers of San Diego? As far as I know, they are making progress toward getting this resource open.

While working for the Allied Climbers of San Diego I've come to learn that most of these mainstream environmental groups (including Sierra Club) have no desire work with other interest groups. They are lead by environmental fundamentalists/extremists and obstruct any view but their own. The Sierra Club has taken an extremely clear anti-climber position in San Diego county, and probably other areas as well. I doubt that I'll ever join another environmental organization after seeing ACSD struggle so hard against them and their spread of misinformation and slandering.

Josh


bandycoot


Mar 26, 2010, 1:17 PM
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Re: [anarkhos] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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anarkhos wrote:
Ha, open space? The USFS is outright hostile to the idea. They're more interested in erecting locked gates and "water bars" (tank traps) than pretending this land is in any way public. Ask any one of them about it and they'll complain about lack of funding.

How about we just yank ALL their funding?

Being from Oregon I'm sure you're well aware of the details of this access issue and the willingness of the USFS to work with climbers on this issue, aren't you?

Josh


anarkhos


Mar 26, 2010, 1:22 PM
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gmggg wrote:
Then who would the lumber companies talk to?Frown

...when they need tax payer monies to build and maintain their roads? You mean they may have to do it themselves? Oh noes!


anarkhos


Mar 26, 2010, 1:26 PM
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Re: [bandycoot] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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bandycoot wrote:
Being from Oregon I'm sure you're well aware of the details of this access issue and the willingness of the USFS to work with climbers on this issue, aren't you?

Josh

I can only speak from personal experience, and given that the less said the more diplomatic. Suffice it to say, I don't ask permission to use public land.

PS: Coming from California I take it you know the difference between Williamson Cliffs and Williamson River crag. I'm sure you do; just making sure.


bandycoot


Mar 26, 2010, 1:43 PM
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Haha, maybe it is a different area than I'm thinking about. If so, my bad. I just saw that the OP had "California" under his name and the Williamson I'm thinking of is the only one I know of that is closed and run by USFS in the Angeles Crest NF. I didn't read the entire letter, I must admit, but skimmed it. Still, while we're having MASSIVE problems with the USFS in San Diego, they seem to be willing to work with climbers in the case of the Williamson I'm thinking of.

Josh


anarkhos


Mar 26, 2010, 2:33 PM
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Re: [bandycoot] USFS Closure of The Williamson River, My Response [In reply to]
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Lest I be accused of thread-jacking or ranting, let me place the focus back on crag access...

First, I'd like to thank the good Dr. for trying to resolve this issue openly and amicably. However, this is public i.e. government land, and despite what many dye-in-the-wool types think public servants are supposed to act, here is my take on how things actually do in the real world:

This is all about politics, not fairness or reason or sanity. The bigger mob will get all the beans. As it stands now, whomever is pressing the case on behalf of the Klamath tribes can go back to 'his people' and claim total victory over the 'white man'. If you don't think those are the terms that will resonate within the tribe's local politics, you're too naïve to read further. For the record other than a few Bushmen in Africa, we're all mutts and race is bullshit...

Anyway, the excuses for closing the area are wholly besides the point. Truth, justice, or even a scandal like a taped recording of some chieftain saying "Spirit rocks, and they BELIEVED IT!" have no relevance here. The only thing that matters is the rock climbing community here is miniscule and powerless, and the people in charge of the land are governed by bureaucrats thousands of miles away who are only interested in political correctness and keeping agitators placated. I guarantee they see all of us as Coors-drinking shotgun-wielding rednecks and baking cakes for native american orphans won't change that.

The bottom line is there are only three ways I can fathom success on the side of freedom, justice, and huckleberry pie:

1) The good Dr. forgets about using his pledged $1000 for trails, and instead uses it to bribe someone who can get the case dropped. Sure, that means no money for trails, but I don't recall ever being paid to maintain one up until now.

2) We somehow get the USFW to suggest that the area be closed to everyone, including people with red skin. This will get us on the side of the Klamath tribes. Pitting the major (or should I can only) players against each other is the only way a tiny tribe of climbsmen can prevent their own manifest destiny.

3) Hire a lawyer; preferably a native american in good standing.

Anyway, i hope I'm wrong, but I highly suspect kid gloves will net nothing. The fact that none of this is being discussed in open should tell you everything you need to know.

Good luck!


anarkhos


Mar 26, 2010, 2:41 PM
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PS: Those pressing the issue do not belong to the same community as the climbers. I'm not saying they don't go to the same churches or bake sales or little league games, I'm saying they don't even live under the same jurisdiction and this is seen as an US vs THEM issue within the tribes. Every little piece of land is being fought over ferociously and since we don't use the same bowling lanes there is no interest in being civil. I'm not saying that's right or wrong or that I know of a good solution, but that's how it is.

This would be a different issue if, for example, the land were owned my Warehouser or the Nature Conservancy or a local business or even the local city. However, this land is owned by the Federal government, so it may as well be owned my Russia.

(Hell, I bet even Russia would be easier to negotiate with!)


doktor_g


Apr 6, 2010, 6:13 PM
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Anarkhos

I like it that you call me the "good doctor." Be glad you haven't been my patient. Most folks cringe when they see me, fearing for their very lives.

BUT... Your eloquent summary of the likely "behind-the-scenes" jockeying is probably close to the mark. As the ranger district has seen, I take of the kid gloves when I have to (hiring a lawyer). I've already fought them to a draw in pre-proceeding motions once which is in no small part why climbing is still allowed there, unlike the Sprague River cliffs near Bly.
So, I would rather "donate" money to the feds or the tribes than to use it for fighting in federal / municipal court. I have better things to do, like drinking beer and lamenting why I can't climb harder than 5.9.
Ultimately, I've found that the level-headed argument in favor of preservation and reverance for the land goes a long way with the Rangers. Too, the lack of trust of the Klamath/Modocs tribes is not entirely unfounded. Unfortunately, the brass-tacks issues about where & why something is or is not "sacred" seems a bit unsubstantiated. To us, climbers, the whole cliff is "sacred," and we can give concrete reasons and objective evidence.
Hopefully my work with them will pay off and we'll be able to retrobolt the areas they chopped and keep climbing there mostly unfettered. We will pull some ecological/anthropological sanity into their management plan, and with luck have the blessings of the Tribal leadership.

If it doesn't go our way though, I just don't know if I have the energy/money to fight them again.

G


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