Monday, April 6, 2009

One Tree Missing?

While climbing in the forest this weekend I went up to the Thighmaster area and found that the tree separating Mosquito Incubator and the slab to its left had been pulled out by its roots and thrown about 3-4 meters away from the boulder. After surveying the damage, I stood over the tree for about ten minutes and thought to myself 'this tree was not in the way of the climb and it is not endangering the safety of other so why would someone go out of their way to pull it out of the ground?  
Now I am not delusional about the state of the tree in question. The tree itself was dead and had surely been though a lot. However, its roots remained planted in the ground and it was still standing freely in the air like many of the other trees that nobody notices in the forest. The situation itself, although not catastrophic, begs the question of this: What is our responsibility, as climbers, to leave the least amount of impact in the forest as we can? and where do we draw the line on our own actions that make an impact on the natural state of the forest that are simply not necessary?  
As a climber who regularly climbs in the forest, I am no doubt a hypocrite on this issue. I have cleaned the moss off boulders. I have trampled through the forest on unmarked trails. I have even thrown my pad down on small vegetation.  However, after putting this issue to thought, I have become much more aware of the impact the last couple of years has had on the forest. The trails are looking worn, root systems that were once buried under dirt are now exposed, and the forest generally looks like it has been through a lot.  So where does it stop?
I am of the opinion that, as climbers, we should minimize our impact as best we can while continuing to climb in the forest.  This means sticking to the main trails, stepping on rock over the roots of trees, and leaving the forest to progress as naturally as possible.  I believe that if a tree interferes with a specific line, then the line should be kept closed until that tree is no longer standing.  If a tree dies, but continues to stand, then it should be left to fall naturally unless it is endangering the safety of the trails.  
Bottom line is that the forest is a public space.  The decisions that we make in the forest affect others and if a decision is to be made to change the natural state of the forest, at the very least it is important to know what others think. So what is the public opinion out there?  What is the general consensus on making an impact on the forest?  Is it okay to knock down free standing trees that are dead or dying? Should boulders be kept closed because of pre-existing trees? What about the removal of rocks from specific lines? What about built up landings?  All of these issues have come about at one time or another so here it is.  Where do you stand?  


  1. Quite a bit of impact going on today up there as they're filming a TV series in the Grand Wall Boulders. They had a huge space ship thing built up next to easy in an easy chair. It appears that minimizing impact is not the first priority of the park.

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  3. Where do I stand in the boulders on impact? I know that the debate on this can be endless so I'll say this.

    I won't remove a live tree to climb something. It seems too invasive. I won't clean off the whole boulder to climb it if I feel I can just do a small strip to get to the top. I don't like stairs in the boulders when a small rock scramble can be done. I don't like gravel on trails when I feel it wasn't there originally. That said I understand the reason behind that thinking. If we put gravel on the trail people are more likely to stay on a trail. I just don't like how it looks and I don't like stairs in a rock climbing area. I feel it can go too far and next there will be paved trails and wheelchair ramps, with benches and picnic tables. I don't want to see the vegetation trampled so I think staying on the trails are important I just think smaller impact would be nice.

  4. l33tClimerGuy1969April 11, 2009 at 1:37 PM

    "If a tree dies, but continues to stand, then it should be left to fall naturally unless it is endangering the safety of the trails."

    If that dead tree is in the way of a rad boulder problem there is no reason to leave it standing. And a dead tree decomposing on the forest floor does more for a coastal rain forest ecosystem than one left vertical, anyway.

  5. l33tClimerGuy1969, The dead tree standing is used by different wildlife for different reasons than a dead tree lying on the ground.

    Tim, We have a lot of impact and minimizing it is a great idea. There is no question about that. However, before jumping off The Chief agonizing over impact issues, put our impact in perspective: look what one night of logging across the road on the Malamute can do.

    I certainly don't think we should be knocking down dead trees if they are minding their own business. I've never cut down a tree to make a problem. Cleaning the moss off a junk problem that won't ever be climbed is a waste (but fortunately the Squamish climate will reclaim reasonably quickly.) Building landings up is silly when there are so many crash pads around to fill holes.

    So what are we actually going to do to keep our climbing environment intact? We could apply for a grant to get loads of mulch and cover up those exposed root systems. That is what I'd like to do the most. (I didn't like the gravel invasion on the path a few years ago either.)

    [Switzerland has nice rocks.]