Climbers like to take pride in being environmentally aware, but even small things such as climbing tape, dog poop, fruit peels and spilled chalk can pile up over time as a big mess. Ice climbers leave webbing on routes as V-threads and in the spring those V-threads accumulate in the forest or stream below.
Across Canada, access groups help facilitate cleaner crags by installing trash cans and lending tools to fix trails and trim trees near routes. In Yosemite, climbers often team up to rappel popular routes to clean human waste and decades worth of garbage from cracks and ledges.
For climbers, the word “clean” can mean different things. You can send a route clean, you can clean the route of gear or you can clean the route of plants and vegetation. In some places in Canada, new-routers go to the extreme and clean vegetation beyond what is necessary.
In Squamish, unknown climbers have poured bleach down granite walls to kill small lichen plants that are difficult to scrub off. Be mindful when removing plants off of rock. There is a fine line between environmental vandalism and route cleaning.
If you are looking to clean your local crag, a few things to keep in mind are: what tools and how much time will be needed to accomplish your goal? Are there any access issues with the crag? Are there conservation issues that you should keep in mind, such as rare plants? Is there an access group that can help with the costs?
The most simple way to keep crags clean is by packing out what you packed in. The American Access Fund has done a fantastic job at creating awareness and keeping crags clean, check them out here. Canada does not have a nation-wide access group, many places have regional organizations, such as the FQME, Ontario Alliance of Climbers, B.C. Access Society and TABVAR.