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?