Minimum Impact Bouldering

Buttermilks Boulders near Bishop, California

Bouldering has become the most popular form of climbing due to the rise in popularity of indoor bouldering gyms. It’s true that bouldering makes a great core workout that is fun, will get you ripped, and for sure will contribute to your overall health. For these reasons, indoor bouldering has attracted a whole new generation of climbers to enter the sport. And that is fine.

The problems start when those masses of new climbers hit the outdoor bouldering areas and start doing all kinds of things that are harmful to the outdoor experience, simply because they don’t know any better. We see climbers kill vegetation, contribute to erosion, leave ugly tick marks and chalk on the boulders, shit all over the place, and leave trash where it doesn’t belong. Our outdoor bouldering places are fragile. These are not outdoor gyms. No one is coming to clean up after you. Here are the top things you can do to minimise the impact your bouldering has.

Leave No Trace. Pack out your trash and take a few moments to pick up other people’s litter at the end of your session. This includes cigarette butts, wads of tape, beer cans, and that spill of chalk. Anything that is not from nature doesn’t belong there.

Clean Your Chalk. Leave the boulder cleaner than you found it. Tick marks are like trash, they’re not part of the natural environment. Clean ‘em off. Make sure you brush off excess chalk, especially on steep rock. It’s not going to wash off if it’s under a natural roof! Over time excess chalk tends bleach the rock permanently.

Clean Your Shoes. Make sure your shoes are clean before every boulder attempt. Those tiny sand particles on your dirty shoes contribute to hold erosion in a big way!

Don’t Climb When The Rock Is Wet. Besides posing an obvious hazard wet rock tends to become brittle.This is especially true for sandstone. Don’t climb on wet sandstone.

Follow The Trails. Don’t make new ones. Haphazard trail building is a big source of erosion. This can over time cause boulders to become unstable, resulting in area closures for safety reasons.

Don’t Shit In The Woods. Try to take care of that business before or after your bouldering session. If you do need to take a dump in the woods, do it out of the way of trails and bouldering areas, far away from streams. Take some time to dig a hole and make sure you cover your dump with soil or rocks.

Climb In Small Groups. Big groups of people in the same spot cause way more soil compaction and erosion than small gatherings of climbers. Don’t gang up on a single boulder with dozens of people, spread out!

Don’t Kill Vegetation. Try to leave the vegetation alone. There is no such thing as “weeds” in a natural bouldering area. It’s all part of nature. There’s no reason to turn our bouldering spots into bouldering gardens. Leave things wild.

Photo by Tommy Lisbin

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