It’s been a while since I’ve posted. My climbing season is winding down (more like, its done) and now its my LEAST favorite time of year. November.
I despise November simply because its generally too damn cold to rock climb and yet, it hasn’t gotten cold enough to ice climb or ski yet. This morning I woke up and despite the pellet stove, it was only 59 degrees in my bedroom upstairs. I’m seriously thinking of seeing if Feathered Friends won’t make me a down snuggie. I love winter, generally, because I love playing in and on the snow & ice, but this brutal cold without the instant gratification of my beloved winter sports, just sucks.
I say all this because maybe I’m just cranky. I’m adult enough to admit it.
So when I watched the video for the Access Fund’s Commit to the Pact project today, I’ve gotta say, I think this was a waste of time and resources.
NOT because protecting climbing access isn’t important to me. It’s extremely important to me. And as I’ve demonstrated above, climbing and being outside are integral parts of my mental health care routine and are probably necessary for the physical safety of those around me. But here’s why I think this campaign misses the mark:
1.) I already do this!!!! Maybe its my trad roots, but this is how I roll whenever I climb. I pack my shit out. Literally. (I’ll never forget summiting Rainier with a FULL blue bag attached to my pack and having to carry it all the way back down to Camp Muir.) At the crag, I am often picking up other people’s trash and packing it out too. I respect designated parking signs, unlike this person…I’m not listening to loud music. I’m not climbing in a big group. I stay on the trails. I respect closures, etc. Since I already do this, what is the point in committing to some sort of pact to do the behaviors I already do? Unless my home cliff is some sort of mythical exception to the rules, this is the way my climbing friends roll too. (Though a few folks could be a little better on the packing-it-out-thang, like when I find someone else’s TP in the woods…..). So it seems silly to me to create a campaign to ask people to commit to doing the things they already do.
2.) The minority of climbers- the ones who need to hear this message and change their behavior, are not going to be impacted by this. Like the person parked next to the No Parking sign above. They don’t care about how their shitty park job might affect other people’s access. They are selfishly thinking of only their needs and desires. “I need a parking space. I can’t find one. I’ll make my own, screw the rules.” Furthermore, this type of person is not exactly open to criticism about their douchey behavior. My hubs, who is a professional guide, is forever telling me stories from the cliff that illustrate this. Like the time he asked two guys not to rappel directly off of a small tree when there was walk off/down climb option less than an 100 feet away. They defended their actions saying that because the tree already had grooves from being rapped off of before, it was OK for them to do the same. *facepalm* Or the dude in the lifted 4×4 who decided it would be a good idea to park half way in the woods simply because he could. He unnecessarily mowed over some brush and sapplings, for what??? When Hubs asked him to simply back up the truck so that it was no longer half in the woods, the owner of said truck started screaming at him that it was none of his damn business where and how he parked.
Those are just two incidents from one month this summer, but similar encounters happen routinely. And they are primarily why I don’t have a lot of hope in the success of the Commit to the Pact campaign.
The campaign features several well-known climbers like Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell and even Lynn Hill. The idea is that even for those of us who do already practice Leave No Trace and other ways of minimizing our impact, we can help the cause of maintaining access by encouraging others to ‘do the right thing’ when we see them doing the ‘wrong thing.’ But how is this supposed to work when the wrong-doers are largely not receptive to criticism and feedback that what they are doing is in fact, wrong? How do you teach a selfish person to care about how their actions potentially impact others? Particularly in climbing culture, many of the personalities drawn to climbing are independent types who eschew societal norms to a certain extent. We have a sort of ‘cowboy culture,’ so how are you going to tell that kind of person that they need to conform to a certain ethic?
Does something need to be done about this issue? Definitely. I know that I, for one, am tired of picking up other people’s garbage, seeing trees on the cliff dead or dying because someone couldn’t be bother to walk over to the rap route or shaking my head for the umpteenth time at someone’s douchey park job (Hey folks visiting the Gunks- in case you couldn’t figure it out, those little green things sticking out of the dirt serve to mark out INDIVIDUAL parking spaces, so please stop taking up TWO parking spaces, especially on the weekends!!!) In the end, I do think that campaigns like this one are better than nothing at all, especially if we as the climbing community can learn from the experience and use it to create more effective campaigns in the future. I just wish the donation I make to the Access Fund each month would have been used for something that would have a better chance of fixing the problem.
YOUR TURN! Tell me what you think of the campaign! Do you think it will work? Or is it just preaching to the choir? Do you see these same issues at your home crag as well? Got any ideas for a more effective strategy for dealing with them????
Haven’t seen the Commit to the Pact video? Watch it here.