Conserving the Outdoors
Climbing is becoming increasingly more mainstream. This is the result of many factors, but the growing prevalence of rock climbing gyms has certainly made the sport more accessible to the average American. Many new climbers learn in the gym and eventually take their new-found skill to the outdoors. This is fantastic, America needs more physically active people that appreciate the outdoors. However, appreciating the outdoors is something that every climber needs to make a point of as they leave the gym and start climbing outside.
The outdoors is not a gym. The ecosystem we climb in was created by nature, and can easily be destroyed by man. It’s important that every climber recognizes how fragile the environment is. A handful of careless outdoorsman are capable of causing extraordinary damage, especially in desert ecosystems like that found in Southern Nevada.
Don’t be the careless climber, unwittingly destroying the environment. It’s imperative that you (and every climber) adopts a “Leave No Trace” policy for themselves and their adventuring party before leaving the gym and heading outside.
Here are a few tips for you to follow every time you go hiking, climbing, or participate in any other outdoor activity:
Stay on Trails and Hard Surfaces
Sometimes climbing will bring you to rather remote places and force you off the trail, it’s part of the fun. But generally all popular routes and crags have well-established trails leading to them. Use the path to get to your climbing destination. If everybody blazes their own path to a route a considerable amount of damage is going to be caused to the surrounding soil and plant life.
In a desert environment normally hard-packed soil that has been disturbed by foot traffic will wash away during flash floods, drastically increasing erosion. Additionally leaving the trail might cause unexpected damage to animal life. For example desert toads lay their eggs in the sand of riverbeds to hatch during spring and summer rainstorms. If you leave the trail to wander about a dry river bed, there is a chance you are destroying many these eggs and disrupting a micro-ecosystem.
Most have heard of the “pack it in, pack it out” principle. Obviously this applies to man-made objects and items of obvious litter (cups, bottles, plastic bags, etc.), but this rule applies to organic items as well.
Let’s take an apple core or orange peel for example, these are organic materials that are going to eventually decompose, so it’s okay to toss them in a bush right? Wrong. In arid deserts, like the one Red Rock exists in, organic items take an exceptionally long time to decompose. This is due to very little water being present in the environment. So those orange peels you threw into a bush last year are probably still there, dried out and decorating the path for all to see.
More importantly, you must think ahead regarding human waste. This unfortunately must be mentioned as it can be a real problem at many crags especially in desert climbing areas due to the fact that human waste does not break down quickly in the desert. Prepare to bring bags to pack out your waste or use the many available Restop 2 Bag Dispensers that the SNCC recently placed at many major crags to help with the issue.
Plan ahead on packing these items out, have a bag within your pack to store trash that you generate. If you’ve got the room, there’s no harm in picking up someone else’s trash as well.
Don’t Interact With Wildlife
There is a variety of animal life you might happen upon in the Red Rock area. It’s cool to look at, but you really shouldn’t touch it. Interacting with animal life by capturing, touching, or feeding can have unexpected and generally negative consequences for that animal. It can also cost you in the way of hefty fines from the rangers.
- Don’t pick up a desert tortoise, it can cause them to lose their entire supply of internally stored water.
- Don’t feed the chipmunks, human food is not healthy for them and they easily domesticate.
- Don’t touch the toads, the bacteria on our human hands can cause massive health issues for them.
- Don’t go near the burrows or bighorn sheep, they easily domesticate and can also seriously harm you.
Don’t let your dog run wild
If you’re not keeping track of your dog, then you probably aren’t keeping track of their feces (which you should be picking up). Additionally there is no telling what your animal might be digging up or getting into. Plus there is a good chance your pooch is getting in the way of other climbers if you’re at a popular crag.
Everybody loves a good dog just keep it on a leash (which is a law here in Clark County), keep it under control, and clean up after it.
Use Common Sense
Everybody has seen the cliché carvings in rock. Don’t be that guy. Nobody cares that “Sally was here.” Nobody wants to see “J+E” with a heart around it. Nobody cares what year it is. Carving into rock is a surefire way to speed up erosion, as well as detract from the overall outdoor experience for future climbers.
There are a number of other examples we could include in this “common sense” category, but we’ll leave it up to you to brainstorm. You know if you’re blatantly causing damage to the environment, use some common sense and just don’t it.
As you leave the gym and head into the outside world, remember that you have a responsibility to care for the environment. Hikers and climbers next weekend/month/year/decade/millennia should be able to enjoy the same scenery that we enjoy today. Always use your best judgement, and always remember you share in the responsibility of conserving the outdoors.