The New National Park Service Document on Climbing: What it Really Says
Earlier this week, on Tuesday May 13, the National Park Service released Director’s Order #41, a document on many activities in U.S. National Parks, including, in item 7.2, climbing in American National Parks.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday May 13, the National Park Service released Director’s Order #41, a document on many activities in U.S. National Parks, including, in item 7.2, climbing in American National Parks. The American Access Fund praised it for including provisions that it had long advocated. That being said, the Access Fund said it would provide more in-depth analysis in the future. At first look, American climbers are at an advantage over Canadians because the document continues to recognize climbing as a “legitimate and appropriate” activity in National Parks. The Canadian National Park Service has taken a more hostile view outside of Alberta and B.C.. On the thorny subject of types of anchors 7.2 allows that the “occasional placement” of fixed anchors “does not necessarily impair the future enjoyment of wilderness or violate the Wilderness Act.” But don’t sell your clean gear, because it also states that “bolt-intensive face climbs [are] incompatible with wilderness preservation and management,” and that “clean climbing techniques should be the norm in the wilderness,” and that “fixed anchors should be rare in wilderness.” Gluing, chipping and power drills continue to be banned in parks. Although this may reflect the granite bedrock of American climbing and raise the eyebrows of climbers who are more used to less reliable limestone where the limitation of anchors is the serious limitation of safety, most of this reflects existing policies. The Access Fund sees a victory in 7.2’s “programmatic authorizations (which allow new bolts by zone, not just case-by-case permitting for individual routes/bolts) and interim fixed anchor permitting prior to the establishment of dedicated climbing management plans.” This means that every single anchor will not have to be approved prior to placement, but each park could set a policy that affected the park generally.