Rock Climbing is exploding in popularity and with this ever-expanding user group, comes the inherent problems of threatened access and educating new users in socially accepted behaviors.
Black Diamond, in their partnership with the Access Fund, put it very nicely in describing their belief that "...in order to ensure the future of climbing access in America, we must inspire climbers to embrace responsible habits and behaviors that will keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment."
As a community, we all recognize that the rapid expansion of our sport needs to be addressed in order to ensure the sustainability of our pursuit. You’d be hard pressed to find someone to argue otherwise.
The problem becomes a question of how to educate new climbers in these responsible habits and behaviors. Certainly, going out to the crag and yelling at everyone how to behave is not a successful strategy. So, how do we educate these new climbers effectively? Black Diamond and the Access Fund are doing it through "exclusive, multi-day events, including climbing clinics, presentations, stewardship projects and parties." But, as a normal person with a job(s), those methods of education are far outside of my means and scope. And, to be perfectly selfish, I am far more concerned with protecting access to local areas that I call home; than protecting some area I’ve only seen in magazines. So then, how do I, as a individual person, help to educate my local community of upcoming climbers?
As the Head Coach of the Sierra Climbing Team, I find myself thinking about that question a lot. After all, it is my responsibility to teach them not only how to climb, but how to be good stewards of our community. My worst fear is that these kids turn out to be that classic idiot that makes the "Unbelayvable" news feed. The method of education that I keep returning to is, as Gandhi so eloquently put it; "be the change you want to see in the world."
So, in that spirit, we rallied the climbing team kids and their parents to do our very own crag clean up day at a local boulder. This boulder has a long history as a local crag.
Unfortunately, due to its proximity to the town, this once pristine circuit has become a party spot for wannabe taggers and people who apparently really enjoy breaking beer bottles.
But, thanks to the help of Sierra Climbing Team climbers, their selfless parents, a few hauling skills, and some serious trickery with generators, pumps, and a pressure washer; we staged a full force crag clean up and graffiti removal.
To remove the paint we used and amazing product to remove the paint called "Elephant Snot," which is biodegradable and as non-caustic a product as we could find. In case you were wondering, it looks exactly like one might imagine elephant snot to look. We simply scrubbed it on and sprayed it off. I can’t explain the addictive satisfaction of watching the paint wash off to reveal the stone below and yet still leave the lichen.
All and all the boulder took 3 passes to get everything off and the difference is staggering. Along with the graffiti removal, we also picked up a bunch of trash and about 5lbs of broken glass.
After we finished the clean up there was only one thing left to do; CLIMB! After all, what better way to instill a love for an activity than to do it. And as you can see from the photos, everyone gets so much joy out of off-width climbing...
Everyone had such a good time and felt so much satisfaction from cleaning up this one little crag, that the question begged: "What’s next?" The kids were visibly excited to have taken responsibility over an area and make a positive impact.
I am convinced that through modeling behavior and taking the time to educate others, we can greatly impact our local community. We all are capable of making a positive impact in our communities. You don’t have to rely on an organization or big event to do something. Responsible habits and the simple act of picking up someone else’s trash is enough to positively impact our areas and community.