Back in the day when I visited RMNP to explore the alpine bouldering there was to be done there, I distinctly remember seeing some pads around the boulders that curiously didn’t seem to have any owners. There were only a handful of people bouldering in the Park on a given day back then so it was pretty easy to tell that these pads must have been stashed there by someone. The real dead giveaway was the fact that one of the pads was one of those over-sized voodoo pads that you would have to be insane to hike in with on a regular basis.
It made sense on some level though as many of the problems had ridiculously poor landings and more pads were sometimes needed than could be carried by a small group of climbers. However, I remember some of the locals telling us at the time that the rangers didn’t like seeing people with pads all over the Bear Lake parking lot but somehow I didn’t think they would prefer to have them simply left underneath the boulders. As you will see below, out of sight is not out of mind when it comes to stashed pads.
Fast forward to 2007. RMNP has basically become THE summer bouldering destination. Locals start digging out problems in April and climbing continues until the snow returns in September/October. Crowds, litter and “refuse” are just a small part of the environmental impact that is continually increasing the visibility of climber’s activities to Park officials:
I am an employee at Rocky Mountain National Park as well as a climber. I recently attended a NPS staff meeting on the topic of what to do about the rising popularity of bouldering in Chaos Canyon. Many aspects were discussed such as, the abundance of chalk (spills, tickmarks, and just plain use of chalk), new social trails between boulders, trampling of vegetation, and the leaving of trash and refuse. Many park officials are considering closing the area if too much of this persists. The alpine/subalpine settings and fragile ecosystems are drastically being disturbed and it takes a long time for anything to restore itself. I am posting this message so people will understand that bouldering in Chaos Canyon is becoming an environmental issue and may force the NPS to take management actions.
While I haven’t read a great deal about any efforts to lessen the impact of climbers with respect to chalk, too many trails, vegetation trampling or trash, there has been an increased motivation to curb the problem of people stashing pads both in RMNP and other areas like Mt. Evans. Besides being lazy and in direct confict with Park regulations, stashing pads at the boulders for weeks on end also has unintended environmental consequences:
So this is something that everyone should be able to agree on right? Apparently that hasn’t been the case. Here Naomi Guy lays the smack down on pad stashers:
Pack it out, thats all I have to say. I used to Boulder regularly in Chaos Canyon 6 years ago, I remember seeing a pad. People are just plain lazy. These boulderers are fit enough to hike up several times a week & write all about it on their blogs. I went up 2 years ago & couldn’t believe the trash & many new trails, severe erosion & stashed pads. In 2005 2 friends of mine tried to organise a ‘Clean Up’ of rotten pads from RMNP. They recieved so much slander & anonymous threats they wondered why even try to do some thing positive. Quite sad really. Most pad stashers are kids who need educating. Most boulderers think it is wrong to stash pads. I’m just wondering how long before they ban bouldering in the park, or wilderness areas like Mt Evans.
Now the Access Fund has gotten involved and they have organized a couple of clean-up days:
With the help of the Access Fund and several other people in the community, we have organized two stashed pad removal days. The Mt. Evans clean up will be on 8/25 and we will meet at the Echo Lake parking lot at 10:30 am. The Park clean up will be on 9/8 and we will meet at the Bear Lake parking lot at 10:30 am. Both events are being registered as Adopt A Crag events. There will be more logistics to work out since there are several areas at each place that have stashed pads.
Hopefully this situation can turn into a positive in that it can demonstrate a commitment on the part of climbers to keep these pristine alpine bouldering areas clean and accessible for years to come.
If you feel like arguing about it some more you can always head over to FrontRangeBouldering.com’s message board.