Human Impact: Something Out of Nothing
This is the final article on the Human Impact of Climbing.
How much is it all right to change the climbing environment? Different attitudes have evolved in Europe and the United States.
In Europe, the practices of gluing, chipping, manufacturing, and cleaning got explored earlier and they found less opposition than in the United States. Why? It's hard to say. There are cultural differences. There's a different attitude about acceptable use of natural resources. But when those cultures collide, look out.
A visiting Euro at New Hampshire's Cathedral Cliff in North Conway couldn't resist the allure of a perfectly glacier-polished stretch of vertical granite. He took a chisel to it when no one was looking and manufactured a WHOLE ROUTE from nothing. To make matters worse, the obviously manufactured route is plainly visible from a tourist overlook 300 yards away. The route has all the aesthetic appeal of graffiti on a highway overpass.
Viewed through American eyes, nothing can ever be done to reverse the vandalism. Some Europeans might look at the same scene and say, "What's the big deal?"
Brazenly modifying the rock, chiseling holds, gluing holds on, bolting holds on, painting the name of the route, and the grade, and even some directions at the bottom of the route, are all common at European cliffs. To them the Americans can sound like a bunch of whiners with their concerns about protecting natural resources and climbing ethics.
Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective. When some Americans consider the 10 million cubic tons of rock that were dynamited out of the next cliff to make way for a new highway, a few minor modifications or a bit of glue to make a route climbable and pleasant seems insignificant. Ironically, we can’t climb at all on the grossest chipping job of all time, Mt. Rushmore. Does it strike you as an unethical creation?
What we have to remember as climbers is that we are not the only ones out to enjoy the rock and its surroundings. A reckless, selfish, bad-boy attitude causes trouble for all climbers, and can lead to areas being closed to climbing altogether. If we watch our behavior at the cliff, we can help ensure that this limited resource will be there for the future.