Friends of Indian Creek Comments to Arches National Park Climbing and Canyoneering Management Plan

June 27, 2013

National Park Service

Attention: Planning and Compliance
Arches National Park – Climbing and Canyoneering Management Plan

2282 S. West Resource Blvd.

Moab, UT 84532

 Re:      Friends of Indian Creek Comments to Arches National Park Climbing and Canyoneering Management Plan

Arches planners:

The Friends of Indian Creek welcomes the opportunity to provide comments to the Arches National Park Climbing and Canyoneering Management Plan (CCMP). A significant number of the Friends of Indian Creek’s members climb in Arches, and we hope these scoping comments help identify reasonable and effective climbing management alternatives for the park.  The Friends of Indian Creek supports the primary objective for this plan to “provide opportunities for forms of visitor enjoyment that are uniquely suited and appropriate to the natural and cultural resources found in the park,” and we endorse Arches National Park’s (ANP) Preferred Alternative B with the suggested modifications provided herein.

 The Friends of Indian Creek

The Friends of Indian Creek, a 501(c)(3) organization, has a mission to promote responsible recreation and ensure the conservation of natural resources and primitive character in the Greater Canyonlands region. The Friends of Indian Creek works with land managers to promote responsible climbing, but also provides resources that help alleviate the impact of recreation on the region. The Friends of Indian Creek, an affiliate organization of the Access Fund, have been instrumental in assisting with climbing access and conservation issues in the larger Canyonlands region including at Indian Creek, Castleton Tower and Arches National Park.

The Friends of Indian Creek has a proud record of conservation and climbing activism regarding the many public land climbing areas found in the greater Moab area. This work includes advocacy on BLM resource management plans for the Monticello and Moab Field Offices, SITLA land sales affecting climbing in the Fisher Towers, and acquisition and stewardship projects in Castle Valley. To support our commitment to Arches National Park we have worked in partnership with the local Moab climbers who made up an “Arches Task Force” and volunteered dozens of hours to replacing old climbing anchors throughout the park and cleaning up tattered slings used on rappel stations that may be noticeable to the casual Arches visitor.[i] We also worked with the Access Fund to oppose proposed oil and gas projects that threatened the viewshed at Arches National Park (ANP).[ii] The Friends of Indian Creek also worked with the NPS following the May 2006 Delicate Arch controversy after which significant restrictions were imposed on the climbing community.[iii] At that time we reached out to our members and partners to help foster an understanding of NPS management obligations, including those specific to Arches. We met with the NPS locally in Moab, but also with NPS officials in Washington, DC to work toward a more collaborative partnership. For more about us, see https://friendsofindiancreek.wordpress.com and http://www.facebook.com/friendsofindiancreek.

I.         INTRODUCTION

Climbing in Arches National Park

Arches National Park is renown as one the most unique and historic desert climbing venues in America. Climbers go to Arches for its unique combination of scenic beauty, remarkable landscape, historic climbs, diversity and concentration of climbing routes, and unique Entrada Sandstone. More than anything, climbers are drawn to the distinctive multi-pitch desert towers scattered throughout the park that provide exhilarating summit experiences.

Climbers have been visiting Arches since the 1960s, before it was a national park, when the impressive summit of Argon Tower was first scaled. After more than 40 years since those first ascents in Arches, climbers continue to seek out the adventurous routes found throughout the park especially in the Courthouse Towers area where no less than six major desert towers are located. To a significant number of desert climbing enthusiasts, these Arches towers are on the short list of must-do climbs on the Colorado Plateau. The recreational climbing resource at Arches National Park is world-class, historic, and greatly valued by many climbers that have frequented the park for years. The Friends of Indian Creek support efforts to mitigate impacts caused by climbing, but there should also be a strong recognition in the draft CCMP that the special climbing opportunities found here represent an important park value that should be acknowledged and as a longstanding legitimate recreational activity in Arches National Park.

There are many opportunities for new climbing and climbing experiences in Arches, many which would require few or no new fixed anchors. The Friends of Indian Creek believe that the proposed authorization process in this draft CCMP is consistent with the NPS’s recently approved DO 41 wilderness policies. However, there are a number of problems that we foresee in the New Fixed Gear Guideless and Application that are addressed below.[iv]

GENERAL COMMENTS

Many of the goals and objectives outlined by ANP in the draft CCMP are appropriate in that they fit both the management responsibilities of the NPS and needs of the climbing community. The Friends of Indian Creek agree that this CCMP should approve the development and maintenance of approach trails and routes, authorize the careful use of fixed hardware through a permit process, and monitor the effects climbing and canyoneering may have on park resources and the safety and experiences of park visitors.

The Arches CCMP evaluates three alternatives: a no-action alternative and two action alternatives. Alternative A describes the current management of rock climbing and canyoneering in the park and proposes no new changes. We don’t support this alternative because there are several positive proposals in this CCMP that would protect park resources and improve the visitor experience. For example, the current ban on all fixed anchors, which we do not support, would continue under the no action alternative. Also, as the CCMP points out, under Alternative A there “would be no delineation of access trails to the base of rock climbing routes or to and through canyoneering routes. Social trailing would continue to be a problem.”

The draft CCMP erroneously states “Although establishment of new routes is prohibited levels of climbing and canyoneering use on existing routes likely would increase over time…. Establishment of new routes would continue to be prohibited. Climbers and canyoneers would continue to use limited routes that are available.” This statement is incorrect. Under current rules[v] new routes may be established so long as climbers place no new fixed anchors in the process. Indeed, this statement contradicts a later statement outlined in Alternative A: Installation of “new fixed gear would continue to be prohibited. This would limit all climbing and canyoneering to existing routes or new routes not requiring placement of fixed anchors.”[vi] Nonetheless, while current park regulations allow new climbing routes we do not support Alternative A because the many positive elements proposed in Alternatives B and C.

The “Preferred” Alternative B proposes the management of climbing and canyoneering activities through an “adaptive” management process, initiated based upon current uses and resource conditions and then altered over time given changes in these factors. We support this approach, however we also endorse elements of Alternative C, which proposes a minimum management approach with emphasis on educational opportunities for canyoneers and climbers focusing on park resources, safety, and minimum impact use.

The Friends of Indian Creek support the following actions proposed for all alternatives “as mitigation measures to minimize the degree and/or severity of adverse effects from climbing and canyoneering activities”:

  • Travel on designated trails, slickrock, and dry washes, and free climbing or clean aid climbing, would be encouraged in the park.
  • If an existing item or fixed anchor would be judged unsafe, it may be replaced without a permit. All old holes would be filled with epoxy and topped with sand to best camouflage the un-used hole. Software left in place would be required to match the rock surface in color. Bolts, hangers and chains painted the color of the rock surface or primered brown would be required.
  • The NPS would be not responsible for the replacement or maintenance of existing hardware or software but would work cooperatively with local climbers/canyoneers and organizations to develop a systematic program for the assessment and replacement and inventory of fixed anchors for climbing and canyoneering routes.
  • Balanced Rock would be closed to climbing, as would any named arch or natural bridge.
  • The physical altering of rock from its natural position such as chiseling, breaking rocks to reinforce crevices and pockets as anchors, glue reinforcement of existing holds, and gluing of new holds, and the intentional removal or “gardening” of lichen or plants from rock would be prohibited.

The Friends of Indian Creek do not support the following actions common to all alternatives:

  • Bouldering, rock climbing, rock scrambling, and other similar activities would be prohibited in the area known as the “Arches Boulders” or “Highway 191 Boulders.” The Friends of Indian Creek support policies that allow for selective access to specific boulders in this area in a way that would allow limited bouldering access while also protecting cultural resource values. Parks such as Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site have found a way to protect world-class cultural resources while also allowing limited bouldering.[vii]
  • Slacklining and BASE-jumping would be prohibited.
  • Commercial rock climbing and canyoneering “do not require a park setting and therefore Arches National Park management determined these activities would not be authorized.” It seems unnecessary for the park to ban all commercial climbing and canyoneering activities while also permitting other guided activities within the park. Every reason for banning climbing ands canyoneering given in the CCMP could be applied to these other activities. A sensible and limited commercial permitting process could be identified and implemented (as done in nearly every other national park). Also, important public education regarding the natural environment and Leave No Trace practices is forfeited when the park bans all commercial activities.
  • Fixed ropes left in place for more than 24 hours are prohibited. Fixed ropes left in place longer than 24 hours would be considered “abandoned” property and removed. The park should consider a special-case permit for allowing ropes longer than 24 hours when there is inclement weather present and climbers check on their ropes daily.

II.        PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE B

The Friends of Indian Creek support most elements in the Preferred Alternative B of the Arches CCMP. This includes the active management and monitoring of climbing and canyoneering activities to maintain “desired resource and visitor experience conditions” as “largely undisturbed and undeveloped by human activities with natural processes predominating.” However, we suggest the following improvements to the various provisions in Alternative B pertaining to approach routes, new climbs, and the fixed gear permit application.

Climbing Practices and New Routes

The Friends of Indian Creek support the primary use of retrievable anchors (“clean climbing”), and a permit system for any new fixed gear. We believe this approach conforms to the recently issued Director’s Order #41 which provides for the authorization of fixed anchors in wilderness. Director’s Order #41 provides for programmatic authorizations of new fixed anchors, such as by zone and in a plan such as this CCMP. Arches planners should consider programmatic authorizations in the backcountry for any new routes that only require rappel anchors from summits, and case by case permits for all other anchors such as those in the front country and new proposed routes that may require a few anchors for ascent.

The FOIC agree with the proposal that specific climbing and canyoneering routes would be closed (seasonal or permanent) to address a specific resource concern such as sensitive cliff-nesting raptors. As always, the park should clearly outline the reason for such closures and keep them to the minimum area and duration necessary to protect the affected resource. We endorse the park continuing to allow new routes and the recommendation that travel to and from routes must be within dry wash systems or on rock, and we agree that “Rock climbing groups would be limited to five persons per group.” We also agree with the proposal in Alternative B that the “use of white chalk would be prohibited” and that “chalk or chalk substitutes used in the park would be required to be similar in color to the rock that is being climbed.” However, studies have shown that some colored chalk may stain the rock; given the sandy nature of the rock in Arches chalk is likely unnecessary in any case.

We support the concept that “a volunteer-based resource stewardship program could be developed in partnership with the canyoneering and climbing communities to enhance monitoring capacity and resource protection.” The Friends of Indian Creek are willing to meet with park managers to discuss specific ideas about how this program might work and how FOIC may assist; this program could be outlined in a MOU between Arches National Park and the FOIC regarding climbing-related issues (including a fixed anchor review committee, as noted below).

Fixed Gear Applications

Climbers rely on at least a minimal use of fixed anchors to safely experience the unique climbing opportunities found only at Arches. Most of the time this use is needed for descending off of summits or the top of a climb that may not lead to the top of a cliff or summit. There are many unexplored new routes and summits in Arches National Park that could provide a truly unique wilderness climbing experience, but that require a few fixed anchors.

Programmatic Authorizations

We agree that the placement of fixed anchors during new route development should not be allowed when rock features capable of accepting adequate removable protection are present, as well as the prohibition on motorized drills within wilderness boundaries. Under preferred Alternative B, the installation of new fixed gear on new and existing routes would require a special use permit. A special use permit may not be necessary in every case and the park should consider the use of programmatic authorizations—as used in other parks such as Zion—in the vast backcountry where no sensitive resource concerns are present. Where the park does consider the use a permit as necessary, the proposed New Fixed Gear Guidelines and Application provided in Appendix G of the CCMP may provide a helpful framework. However, we think there are problems with the proposed application process the park should amend.

Numerical Estimates of Bolts

As a general matter, climbers who are attempting new climbs do not know if they will need new fixed anchors, and if they do where and exactly how many new fixed anchors will be necessary to climb a route safely. It makes sense that the park asks for an estimated number of new anchors (which will likely be very few), but the nature of first ascents is that exploring new terrain means that climbers don’t know if they’ll need an anchor until they see the situation up close. Most climbers do not intend to place any anchors, and strive for Leave No Trace practices. But if a climbers gets in a situation where his/her application says he/she won’t place an anchor—yet safe climbing requires an anchor—then we don’t want a policy that forces climbers into an unsafe situation. It is very unlikely that climbers will abuse the privilege of estimating the number of new anchors they’ll need, and if monitoring shows otherwise then the park could implement a stricter requirement.

Application Processing

Another important consideration is how permit applications will be processed, analyzed, and either rejected, approved, or approved with modifications. The proposed New Fixed Gear Guidelines and Application states that

Once an application is received, a field review will be conducted by qualified park staff, reviewed by park management and a determination will be made within 60 days. …A record of the field evaluation, providing the basis for approval or denial for each request, would be on file in the Special Use office. A copy would be available at the applicant request.

We are concerned whether ANP has the park staff to appropriately reject or approve new fixed gear applications. The Friends of Indian Creek have many years of experience of climbing in Arches including establishing new routes and we are concerned that the park may not have the resources to appropriately evaluate applications for new fixed gear. While natural resource-based justifications for rejecting applications—such as the presence of sensitive natural, cultural, or social resources—may serve as an appropriate basis for evaluating ne fixed gear applications, qualitative questions related to the climbing experience are more complicated. Park planners should consider establishing a fixed anchor review committee such as used elsewhere to serve as a first filter to the park related to qualitative questions of whether suggested routes are an appropriate addition to the climbing experience in Arches.

Fixed Anchor Review Committee

Fixed anchor review committee have proven success elsewhere[viii] as a helpful “pre-screening” of applications before review by park staff. If the review committee rejects a given application then the park has a useful roadmap for analysis and its review is made easier; if the review committee approves an application (with or without modification) any then park managers will know given proposal at least have the general support of the local climbing community. In both cases the workload of park staff is reduced without giving up any authority or ability to analyze applications. The Friends of Indian Creek may serve in this role or advise park managers what other active ANP climbers may appropriately serve on such a committee. This fixed anchor committee would also be consistent with the proposal in the CCMP that “a volunteer-based resource stewardship program could be developed in partnership with the canyoneering and climbing communities to enhance monitoring capacity and resource protection.” As well as the proposal in the draft Application that the “park would work with climbing and canyoneering communities to place new fixed gear or to replace existing fixed gear to minimize resource impacts.”

Application Requirements

We believe that the standards outlined in the CCMP for new anchors in proposed New Fixed Gear Guidelines and Applications are generally appropriate,[ix] and we agree with the following application requirements:

  • Photos of proposed route with [estimated] locations of fixed gear added to picture
  • Whether the route can be accessed from the top
  • Whether the route is a variation of a previous route
  • What steps have been taken to ensure this route has not already been established/updated
  • Why does this route need to be established/ updated

The FOIC also agree that following questions in the application are appropriate and should help park planners evaluate fixed anchor proposals while also forcing applicants to consider in detail the implications of their proposals to park resources and the climbing experience:

  • Is there an established trail to access this proposed route?
  • Is there an unmaintained access trail to this proposed route?
  • What will be the primary parking area for this route?
  • If there is no established parking, where will individuals park to access this route?
  • Is it within recommended wilderness?
  • Identify the climbing area where the route is located.
  • Identify specific formation within that climbing area.
  • GPS coordinate of route at the base of the climb (if possible)?
  • Where is it in relation to the routes next to it?
  • Distance from neighboring routes and names of route on either side?

However, it is unclear why the following information is needed in the New Fixed Gear Guidelines and Application (and the quality of the information may be suspect in any case):

  • The name of the proposed route—why is this important?
  • Where the climber intends to publicize this new route.
  • Estimated rating of new route.
  • The estimated number of climbers per year that will be able to climb this route—is this a concern about impacts or a question related to visitor use experiences?
  • Will most people top rope or lead this (if established as a lead climb)?—why is this important?

Application Fees and Insurance/Bond Requirements

We understand that there will initially be no fee for New Fixed Gear Guidelines and Applications, but if the park incurs costs related to application processing then ANP may institute a fee. When/if the park institutes a fee, it should clearly explain the requirement for a fee with respect to the need and justification for an appropriate application fee amount. We also understand that the insurance and bond requirements—as well as the First Amendment information—in the New Fixed Gear Guidelines and Application for ANP will be considered “not applicable.”

III.      ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS TO IMPROVE ALTERNATIVE B

The Friends of Indian Creek support the following elements in Alternative C that we believe should be incorporated into the final CCMP. Under Alternative C, minimal restrictions would be placed on canyoneering and climbing activities and management would emphasize educational efforts and would provide canyoneers and climbers with information on park resources and guidelines for ensuring safety and minimizing resource impacts. Relatively little management emphasis would be placed on law enforcement and resource monitoring, although additional use restrictions could be imposed if determined necessary to protect park resources and values. We believe that this adaptive approach would prove effective and allow the NPS to later increase management actions if needed before impacts result.

We support Alternative C’s approach where the establishment of new routes would be allowed, and the installation of new fixed gear outside of wilderness boundaries would be allowed without park approval. Installation of new fixed gear within wilderness boundaries would require park approval (as with the Preferred Alternative B and the park would establish guidelines for new fixed gear installation).

Pitons

The Friends of Indian Creek support the provisions in Alternative C where pitons would be allowed as anchors and removable gear, but that pitons should be left fixed to reduce future damage to the rock if pitons are used in the development of a new route that would be expected to receive regular traffic in the future. Given that few climbs in ANP will likely require the use of pitons (although some direct-aid “nailing” routes in ANP are famous test-pieces that we’d like to retain access to), a better approach might be to authorize these new piton placements as through the same permit process used for new fixed gear. This would allow for the occasional use of pitons but with closer monitoring of their impacts. The CCMP should consider allowing climbing on existing direct aid climbing routes that require a basic use of removable hammered pitons. Zion National Park may most closely parallel the climbing resource found at ANP (like Arches, Zion[x] features a significant front-country desert/wilderness climbing) and has standards for managing wilderness climbing including the use of fixed anchors and removable pitons for direct aid climbing.

*                      *                      *

We hope the above information helps Arches National Park identify the appropriate management plan for the Arches National Park CCMP and clarifies ways in which the Friends of Indian Creek can be of assistance. Once Arches planners have had a chance to analyze information from this draft phase of the CCMP, the park should plan for a open house timed during the climbing season (not during the summer!) to ensure more input on the draft phase of the plan. The park is much more likely to gain the insight of the public’s perspective if it held an open house or public meeting in the spring or fall seasons when there is a much higher chance of climbers to be in the Moab area.

The Friends of Indian Creek looks forward to working with the NPS and any interested parties throughout the planning process for Arches National Park. The world-class character and long climbing history of this important area underscores the need for appropriate climbing management policies at Arches. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require more information, or would like to discuss any of the points covered in this comment letter.

Sincerely,

Lisa Hathaway

Friends of Indian Creek

Cc:       The Access Fund


[i] For more information on this volunteer stewardship effort, see http://mountainproject.com/v/utah/moab_area/arches/105913581

[iv] See the National Park Service Director’s Order #41 and associated Reference Manual #41 at http://home.nps.gov/applications/npspolicy/DOrders.cfm.

[v]  Per the most recent 2012 park compendium, “No new permanent climbing hardware may be installed in any fixed location however, if an existing bolt or other hardware item is unsafe, it may be replaced. This will limit all climbing to existing routes or new routes not requiring placement of fixed anchors.” See http://www.nps.gov/arch/parkmgmt/upload/2012ArchCompendium-2.pdf.

[vi] See Draft ANP CCMP at 19.

[viii] See the Action Committee for Eldorado process used at Eldorado State Park in Colorado: http://aceeldo.org/fhrc/

[ix] The FOIC support the following CCMP proposed guidelines for establishing new routes with fixed gear, the placement of fixed gear on established routes, and required fixed gear for installation:

  • It is of utmost importance that new fixed gear be of high quality and the installers be experienced and skilled in setting safety but ensure the safety of future ascensionist.
  • It is always preferable to use the old bolt-hole rather than adding a new scar. Only in a worst-case scenario should a new hole be added.
  • Every effort should be made to remove unsafe gear.
  • New fixed protection anchors are only authorized to replace existing anchors deemed unsafe, in the

development of new climbing routes, and only in sections of the route that have no rock features adequate for the placement of removable anchors.

  • Hardware for new and replacement anchors are to be modern climbing specific hardware of a length adequate for rock conditions at the installation site. ¼-inch bolts are highly discouraged. Homemade hardware is prohibited. For best practices on bolting, see http://www.climbingmanagement.org/issues/fixed-anchors
  • Climbing specific hangers are also recommended.
  • Chains are recommended to replace the use of nylon webbing when rap hangers cannot mitigate rope grooving and should be kept at a minimal length to avoid visual impacts.
  • Fixed anchor placement for the purpose of authorized fixed rappel stations shall be kept to a minimum and shall not exceed three individual placements.
  • Bolts, hangers and chains painted the color of the rock surface or primered brown would be required before installation.
  • The use of webbing and accessory cord shall not be allowed in the construction of new authorized fixed rappel stations.
  • New, bolt-intensive climbing routes (e.g., sport climbs, bolt ladders) are not appropriate in the park and would not be approved.

[x] Zion National Park’s recent 2007 Backcountry Management Plan provides:

… direction for management of natural and cultural resources within the context of wilderness and backcountry management policies, with primary focus on visitor use and impacts to wilderness values and resources and administrative actions to mitigate associated impacts. This plan treats any proposed or recommended wilderness the same as officially designated wilderness, based on NPS Management Policies 2006 (6.3.1).[x]

Zion’s BMP (90% of which was recommended wilderness at the time of the plan and became designated wilderness in 2009) authorizes limited climbing closures (“kept to the minimum area and duration necessary”) to address resource concerns, and allows fixed anchors so long as they don’t detract from the general visitor’s experience:

Specific climbing routes will be closed (seasonal or permanent) to address a specific resource concern. Examples include nesting species, hanging gardens, or archeological sites. Closures will be kept to the minimum area and duration necessary to protect the affected resource.

…..

Climbers will be encouraged to use rock climbing protection, slings, and other equipment that blend with the natural surroundings. If anchors detract from the aesthetics of the cliff faces of ZION and thus general visitor’s experience, additional management actions will be taken. The use of chalk is allowed, however climbers will be encouraged to be sensitive to this issue. It is also the responsibility of climbers to ensure that their ropes are not left on walls for long periods of time. If problems persist, management actions could include requiring the use of natural colored anchor material, closing area, and/or the creation of a climbing management plan.

….

Bolts should be considered the tool of last resort by visitors who are creating anchors. As mentioned above climbers, canyoneers, and others creating anchors will be encouraged to use natural colored anchor material (slings and hangers). The park will continue to monitor bolting in the backcountry.[x]

By adopting a policy for climbing and fixed anchors similar to Zion’s BMP, the Arches CCMP can conserve important park resources while also identifying management scenarios that limit over-broad climbing restrictions, and thus restore many of the unparallel experiences enjoyed by Arches climbers up to May 2006.

[1] For more information on this volunteer stewardship effort, see http://mountainproject.com/v/utah/moab_area/arches/105913581

[1]  See http://www.accessfund.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=tmL5KhNWLrH&b=5001177&ct=6794293

[1] http://www.accessfund.org/atf/cf/{1F5726D5-6646-4050-AA6E-C275DF6CA8E3}/UT__Arches%20Rule_21_10.19.2006.pdf

[1] See the National Park Service Director’s Order #41 and associated Reference Manual #41 at http://home.nps.gov/applications/npspolicy/DOrders.cfm.

[1]  Per the most recent 2012 park compendium, “No new permanent climbing hardware may be installed in any fixed location however, if an existing bolt or other hardware item is unsafe, it may be replaced. This will limit all climbing to existing routes or new routes not requiring placement of fixed anchors.” See http://www.nps.gov/arch/parkmgmt/upload/2012ArchCompendium-2.pdf.

[1] See Draft ANP CCMP at 19.

[1] See http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/hueco-tanks and http://www.huecotanks.com/directionsWlogo.html for information.

[1] See the Action Committee for Eldorado process used at Eldorado State Park in Colorado: http://aceeldo.org/fhrc/

[1] The FOIC support the following CCMP proposed guidelines for establishing new routes with fixed gear, the placement of fixed gear on established routes, and required fixed gear for installation:

  • It is of utmost importance that new fixed gear be of high quality and the installers be experienced and skilled in setting safety but ensure the safety of future ascensionist.
  • It is always preferable to use the old bolt-hole rather than adding a new scar. Only in a worst-case scenario should a new hole be added.
  • Every effort should be made to remove unsafe gear.
  • New fixed protection anchors are only authorized to replace existing anchors deemed unsafe, in the

development of new climbing routes, and only in sections of the route that have no rock features adequate for the placement of removable anchors.

  • Hardware for new and replacement anchors are to be modern climbing specific hardware of a length adequate for rock conditions at the installation site. ¼-inch bolts are highly discouraged. Homemade hardware is prohibited. For best practices on bolting, see http://www.climbingmanagement.org/issues/fixed-anchors
  • Climbing specific hangers are also recommended.
  • Chains are recommended to replace the use of nylon webbing when rap hangers cannot mitigate rope grooving and should be kept at a minimal length to avoid visual impacts.
  • Fixed anchor placement for the purpose of authorized fixed rappel stations shall be kept to a minimum and shall not exceed three individual placements.
  • Bolts, hangers and chains painted the color of the rock surface or primered brown would be required before installation.
  • The use of webbing and accessory cord shall not be allowed in the construction of new authorized fixed rappel stations.
  • New, bolt-intensive climbing routes (e.g., sport climbs, bolt ladders) are not appropriate in the park and would not be approved.

[1] Zion National Park’s recent 2007 Backcountry Management Plan provides:

… direction for management of natural and cultural resources within the context of wilderness and backcountry management policies, with primary focus on visitor use and impacts to wilderness values and resources and administrative actions to mitigate associated impacts. This plan treats any proposed or recommended wilderness the same as officially designated wilderness, based on NPS Management Policies 2006 (6.3.1).[1]

Zion’s BMP (90% of which was recommended wilderness at the time of the plan and became designated wilderness in 2009) authorizes limited climbing closures (“kept to the minimum area and duration necessary”) to address resource concerns, and allows fixed anchors so long as they don’t detract from the general visitor’s experience:

Specific climbing routes will be closed (seasonal or permanent) to address a specific resource concern. Examples include nesting species, hanging gardens, or archeological sites. Closures will be kept to the minimum area and duration necessary to protect the affected resource.

…..

Climbers will be encouraged to use rock climbing protection, slings, and other equipment that blend with the natural surroundings. If anchors detract from the aesthetics of the cliff faces of ZION and thus general visitor’s experience, additional management actions will be taken. The use of chalk is allowed, however climbers will be encouraged to be sensitive to this issue. It is also the responsibility of climbers to ensure that their ropes are not left on walls for long periods of time. If problems persist, management actions could include requiring the use of natural colored anchor material, closing area, and/or the creation of a climbing management plan.

….

Bolts should be considered the tool of last resort by visitors who are creating anchors. As mentioned above climbers, canyoneers, and others creating anchors will be encouraged to use natural colored anchor material (slings and hangers). The park will continue to monitor bolting in the backcountry.[1]

By adopting a policy for climbing and fixed anchors similar to Zion’s BMP, the Arches CCMP can conserve important park resources while also identifying management scenarios that limit over-broad climbing restrictions, and thus restore many of the unparallel experiences enjoyed by Arches climbers up to May 2006.

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