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Access, Stewardship, Permission, and Regulations for Climbers.
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Dec 10, 2008, 3:06 PM
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Access, Stewardship, Permission, and Regulations for Climbers.
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Hey there folks!

Access to climbing areas nation-wide and world-wide should always be on the front of every climber’s mind. Often, we take for granted the hard work and dedication that was done in order to secure access to these important resources to our lives. In many cases, the process of securing public access to the cliffs and crags that we love has been a long and arduous journey for one or several individuals and the actions of one or a few can quickly ruin that access to a resource – be it the crag itself or the corridor that the access trail leads through.

For the purpose of this post I was going to type up a few key points, but instead I will point you to what the Access Fund has up on their pages. (This isn’t a pitch for the Access Fund, but a way to point you towards ensuring you are – as a climber – being a steward to the areas you frequent.) Many climbing areas are on private land and securing access and maintaining access is an involved process.

Climbing on Private Land (clicky!)

“TheAccessFund” wrote:
For a climber wanting to climb on private property, it is important to have a good understanding of the laws of the state in which the climbing is located. Most states require all recreational users to have permission from the landowner, or its lessee or agent before climbing on private property regardless of whether the land is posted or not. By definition, trespassing includes traveling to an area where you intend to climb. It is every climber's responsibility to know who owns the land on which he or she wants to climb, what access may be available to the crag, and whether there are any land use restrictions that may apply there.

What this means is that it should be your responsibility as a climber accessing these lands to contact the landowner or their agent to verify and ensure that climbing is allowed on their land(s). If it is somewhere off-beat and rural, sometimes the landowner/agent hasn't considered the use of rock outcroppings for recreation; and it is then that you can work with them to foster a relationship for climbers.

Climbing on Public Land (clicky!)

Climbing on public lands presents other opportunities for climbing. Each has their own set of regulations pertaining to climbers.

The following are links to the main federal agencies web sites. For more information regarding rules and regulations pertaining to access, please navigate to your regional park or area.
Local lands include:
    State, County, and City parks.
    City and county lands.
    Regional Parks.

For information regarding public state and local resources please visit your state or city’s websites or contact them directly. Following the recommendations of the Access Fund; contacting your local climbing organization; and being an informed steward/user to the area(s) you frequent will maintain access to these areas we love.

“TheAccessFund” wrote:
Rock climbing is a legitimate and longstanding use of our nation's public lands. Rock climbing, ice climbing, bouldering and mountaineering are practiced in many places on our nation's diverse public lands. Throughout our National Park System, as administered by the National Park Service, climbing is considered a "welcomed and historical use." In national parks like Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Rocky Mountain climbing has been a popular pursuit for more than half a century. Climbing is also a welcomed and historical use on other agency lands including hundreds of sites managed by the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Army Corp of Engineers. At the state and regional level, climbing is equally popular. State parks in New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and California, to name but a few, offer a variety of rock climbing opportunities. County and city parks also provide climbing opportunities.

Don’t take for granted the passed word about the acceptance to climb in a given area. Dig around a bit and see if your resource is open for climbing. Help out with your local organizations.

(This post was edited by epoch on Dec 19, 2008, 1:56 PM)


Jan 24, 2009, 8:39 AM
Post #2 of 4 (15222 views)

Registered: Feb 13, 2004
Posts: 92

Re: [epoch] Access, Stewardship, Permission, and Regulations for Climbers. [In reply to]
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I appreciate your idealism but things are usually not that simple on private or public lands.

I think you make good points except that the starting point of a new climbing area has rarely started with a climber asking for permission. I supose in a very populated area it would be prudent. But, in my experience initial route development begins under the radar.

In the case of Public Lands such as Nat'l Forests. Climbers should remain cautious until they can identify advocates within the agencies.
Climbing unseen is often the best policy.

I do agree that the Access Fund has and continues to play an important national role. Most climbers will never know how much goes on in the background even at their own local crag that the Access Fund has had some influence on. I've seen enough of the background noise even in my remote neck of the woods to suggest that yearly contributions to the Access Fund are a responsibilty of every climber.


Jan 24, 2009, 1:51 PM
Post #3 of 4 (15201 views)

Registered: Dec 16, 2002
Posts: 17398

Re: [iching] Access, Stewardship, Permission, and Regulations for Climbers. [In reply to]
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CounterPoint: The title says it all. Considering how mainstream climbing has become the OP are words to live by.

Ironically my boss, of all people, holds the following statement to close to heart...

"Sometimes its better to ask for forgiveness than permission."

Its not so much climbing on public or private land sans permission is the biggest deal in the world. Its not.

No, a climber or a small two girl team could go in and send a crag or a cliff, without bothering to tell anyone or ask for anything, and no one else would likely be the wiser.

Its when they come back - then it starts to get sticky. And they keep coming back. They tell their friends and their friends start coming back too.

Suddenly the place is spoken about on the internet. Some dude feels it appropriate to open up a 'free' online guide for the place.

And virtually overnight, access is an issue.

It is a self-indulging and self-fulfilling prophecy - permission, rules and regulations for climbers. Again, that mainstream thing.

The problem continues to persist and likely will - at a crossroads of purpose.

The explorers are out there, I assure you. Mostly they are quiet and under the radar and will stay that way. Chances are good that you won't be learning about what they find - anywhere. Chances are good they are not going to tell you about these places at all.

Because if they do? Access WILL BE an issue.

Setting aside a certain petulance (I want MORE CLIMBS WAH!!!111) this is exactly as it should be.

Its a self-fulfilling prophecy - these online guides, these online rules, these groups, these clubs and organizations. All part of mainstreaming a sport that was once the province of the Marginals.

As legions of new climbers march out of the gyms, properly introcinated in Rule Following, from the very inception of their careers (where you have to PAY... to follow the rules, or they clip your wings and kick you out) - following the Line will become easier and easier. So will paying for access, btw...

It used to be? Climbing was all about breaking the rules. First, just to take it up you had to spite family and friends, and seek out dirty hippies who knew how to score (gear).

You had to sneak out climbing because if they knew what you were up to permisson would have been DENIED.

Tis better to ask for forgivenness....

if I sound like I have mixed feeling about all these rules and permissions and special interest groups, I'm sorry. I don't have mixed feelings at all - I pretty much don't like them.


That's one man's opinion. If your first thought of climbing is 'what will the group think' we aren't even in the same solar system, motivation wise.

But for the mainstream, (and I go mainstream PLENTY, btw)... the OP is words to live by. Just don't try to apply mainstream rules to marginals and their marginal activities. They aren't going to play.



(This post was edited by dingus on Jan 24, 2009, 1:56 PM)


Dec 9, 2014, 11:49 AM
Post #4 of 4 (11727 views)

Registered: Nov 27, 2002
Posts: 659

Re: [dingus] Access, Stewardship, Permission, and Regulations for Climbers. [In reply to]
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And that attitude, right there, dingus, is why there is almost no private land access in this part of WV... those small, two-person teams were not asd crafty as people who live below the cliffs, people who hunt for a living and are pretty good at tracking changes and critters on their own land.

If you or the government don't own it, STAY THE HELL OFF OF IT.

Your precious Access Fund is NOT going to bail you out... they have other problems and bigger goals, and if yours is not a "scene" crag, it will never qualify for serious attention or effort from Boulder or your regional coordinators and affiliates.

Throughout this part of the Panhandle of WV, our access issues come directly from peole who thought they were crafty enough to sneak onto a mountaineer's land without him or her knowing.

Their presumption has cost the rest of us access to some truly stellar crags, and some of the worst offenders have been AF members and admins.

THAT is the face of the Access Fund in the Eastern Panhandle, and in a lot more places than they or anyone else want to admit.

And as far as donating to them being a "responsibility", when they demonstrate an understanding of that word, and its inseparable link to their "rights", I'll happily donate on a regular basis.

Not holding my breath, though.

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