Climbers

Sean McCoy

Shouts of “on belay” and the jingling of climbing gear were replaced with the scratching of pens at the Vertical Endeavors climbing gym in St. Paul on Saturday night.
About 40 climbers embarked on a letter-writing campaign to stop federal legislation that would outlaw in national wilderness areas what opponents of the legislation call a critical piece of climbing gear. About five University students took part in the campaign.
On June 1, the U.S. Forest Service issued a ban on any materials left behind by climbers such as nylon webbing, nuts, pitons and bolts in all national forest wilderness areas, even in case of emergency. The Forest Service wants to outlaw fixed anchors because they damage rock and are often brightly colored.
“Misuse is always going to cause a problem,” said chemistry graduate student Patton Fast. “We need a way to manage fixed anchors.” He said a ban on fixed anchors would limit liability of the Forest Service if an anchor was to fail.
Climbers use this equipment to attach ropes to the rock. The ban was postponed for one year on Aug. 14 due to the opposition of groups such as the American Alpine Club, the Access Fun and the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America.
According to Kyle Tranby, a manager at Midwest Mountaineering and an experienced climber, fixed anchors are necessary to get down from many summits.
“A lot of mountains would be impossible to get down” without the gear, Tranby said. “When you have to get off the mountain you have to leave some sort of fixed anchor behind — anything from a piece of webbing tied to a tree or a nut or bolt left behind to attach a rope to.”
“I’m here because I’ve been climbing for about six years,” said Theresa Bipes, a University freshman. “Not being able to do that safely would really detract from the experience.”
“When you climb, it teaches you to be concerned about the environment,” she added. “I think it’s hypocritical to say climbing damages rock and then they build a highway right through it.”