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Peterskill Tree Anchors Protocol

Original Post
J Cor · · New York, New York · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 180

Climbing at Peterskill today a ranger informed me that ropes should not be tied around trees without some sort of item between the rope and the tree to protect the bark. I assume he meant like a backpack or a towel ect. though he did not specify. Though I have not been to Peterskill frequently in the past 2 years I did used to go there quite frequently 3 to 4 years ago and have never heard this before nor seen anyone else do it. Someone I was with has taken a class in the past at Peterskill from a guide service specifically on how to set up top rope anchors with static line and this was news to him as well. I've never seen the various guide services who work there use any sort of "bark protection" between the rope and the tree. I only mention the guide services as I assume they would be most familiar with the park's desires. As I mention though it's been some time since I've climbed there regularly though.

Has the standard on how you are supposed to use the trees changed?

Some points of clarity:
- This was static line the ranger was referring to, it was not rope rigged for a rappel or being pulled in a sawing like action around the tree.
- The tree in question was 100% not a pitch pine. I mentioned to the ranger that my understanding was the pitch pines were off limits but tying directly around another tree was fine. He actually stated that it was okay to use a pitch pine provided there was some padding between the rope and the tree. This was surprising to me as numerous sources says the pitch pines are off limits.
- The rope was not girth hitched, wrapped multiple times around tree or constricting the tree in anyways (other than where it would statically bear on the tree on the back).

Anyone know what the deal is? Though not a stickler I try to familiarize myself with local ethic, ect. and this was all surprising to me. I've never tied off to a pitch pine or rappelled off a tree directly when it can be avoided. Though the conversation was cordial the ranger seemed slightly ticked off as if the "bark protection" he was asking for was common practice.

RichBeBe · · New York City, NY · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 0

I was there two years ago and while waiting for a friend to climb something I was up top and a guide was teaching top rope anchors and he said and demonstrated to the clients using broken branches as a "padding" between the trees. Seemed like it kept the rope off the bark, but didn't require anything extra. 

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,785

Tree protection "policy" at PK has always been vague and Ranger-specific to a certain degree.  Page 18 of the PK guidebook discusses this and attempts to clarify the situation.  Your experience suggests that we're not quite there yet.  Excerpt from that part of the guidebook, direct from the Peterskill Park Manager: "We want to avoid damage to trees used as anchors, which we can do by using wider webbing, padding the tree, etc." Insisting on padding a non-pitch pine tree is unprecedented IME.

JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 969
J Cor · · New York, New York · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 180

Thanks all! I will use this dead broken branch padding method on all trees the next time I happen to climb there. It's easy enough to do though my experience before this incident mirrors Mikes (who I'm sure has spent far more days there than me).

The ranger did mention they had recently "lost a tree" so perhaps they have changed enforcement or policy in response to that. It could also have just been happenstance. 

Agreed the information is now on the PK mountain project page. I don't think it was there in 2012 which was the last time I seriously read though the general page. Though I have the Gunks App for PK I would not have though to read though the information section which also discusses this as I thought I was familiar with the area's policies. 

Given Mike's comment above, the absence of any discussion of this in my friends class (circa 2012) and the response of the other parties around us at the time I think it's fair to say they haven't always been asking for this and a majority of people who climb there don't know about it. Clearly if it's important to the park and will effect access it should be done. Hopefully some will read this string and now know. It would be nice if they could have a flyer or something at the gate but I suppose that is too much to ask.

june m · · elmore ,vt · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 43

Most of the rest of the world  has discovered that bolted anchors save  trees.  The biggest   problem for trees is people  compressing   the soil around their roots.  Additional erosion Is caused  by people walking to the top  of cliffs  and back down

Mark Berenblum · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 105

I was climbing on Kling-On (in the Enterprise Wall area) two weeks ago and we were approached by a ranger who essentially said the same thing to us... He mentioned seeing another group in the area anchoring off unpadded trees, and reminded us that we are required to use padding between the rope and any tree. I also expressed confusion about the local ethics and stated that I'd thought the rule was "no anchoring off the pitch pines but everything else is cool" and he said it's fine to anchor off of any tree as long as it's padded. I thought that sounded strange given what I'd previously heard, but assume he knew best. He was a super nice guy, but seemed upset that others were not abiding by the rules (we were rigged off the bolts, so weren't in violation of the rule). He did check our climbing passes, so don't sneak in unless you're prepared for a confrontation (but, actually, just pay the $10. it goes to a good cause).

Chuck Parks · · Atlanta, GA · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 2,111

Never been to Peterskill before, so maybe this wouldn't work for some reason. Could you put up a kiosk at the trailhead with some signage outlining the climbing rules, special trees, etc.? Seems like the sort of thing the local climbing advocacy group could volunteer to build and install for the park, promoting good will and such.Then everyone would be on the same page.

darkergreen · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 20

The dwarf pitch pines at Minnewaska are quite rare.  Pitch pines are not.  Climbers without an interest in botany may not know the difference between the two, or between a white pine and a pitch pine for that matter.  A sign clarifying the park's position, and perhaps with photos to differentiate the species, would be a welcome addition.

Of course, all the trees there ought to be protected, rare or common, and padding seems like a pretty simple and painless step to take towards that goal.

Logan Schiff · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 60

Interesting. I had the same understanding as others. How does one use broken branches as padding? Just stick then between the static rope and the tree I guess?

Politically Correct Ball · · From WA to AZ · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 5

Thread is useless without pics.

I'll never climb here, but I do find the proposition of using branches as padding kinda weird. I can only assume that they don't want the rope to rub directly on the tree when you pull it, at which point why not just chop up some old rope and use it as cordelette to rap off from?

june m · · elmore ,vt · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 43

I still believe that the biggest damage to all trees is  soil compaction and erosion. But you can't talk any sense to  rangers because they are rule followers and  believe everything they are told  by their superiors.   Bolted anchors save trees. 

J Cor · · New York, New York · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 180

This was static rope used in a top rope anchor, similar to how you are describing a cordelette. There was little if any movement of the rope over the tree. In your example they would want you to slip something (dead branches, towel, ect.) between the cordelette and the tree so that the cordelette/static rope does not bear directly on the tree.

Marty Molitoris · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0

Hi Everyone,

Mike mentioned to me the recent padding issue and with the feeling it's something that needs to be clarified for us all, I went ahead and asked Jorge Gomes, Assistant Park Manager at Minnewaska State Park about it.  

Jorge responded that the mention of padding was misinterpreted and MSPP does not require padding around trees (they would however appreciate the use of it if possible).  Also, the avoidance of using pitch pines for anchors is also misinterpreted.  Using unpadded trees and pitch pines are allowed, however MSPP requests you use them in ways that does not cause the tree and damage.  The use of static rope, slings, webbing, and cordellettes around trees is acceptable as long as they don't move around to cut/burn into the tree - as would happen when you pull your rope from rappelling directly off a tree (meaning no anchor between the tree and your rope), and with girth hitches (constricting around the trunk possibly breaking off bark).

What is not allowed is having a moving rope run directly over, and/or rappelling directly off a tree and just mentioned above.  

Attached is a photo of the information Jorge wrote for tree use in most recent version of A Rock Climbers Guide to the Peter's Kill Climbing Area.

Have fun out there!

Marty Molitoris

Politically Correct Ball · · From WA to AZ · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 5

Marty's post makes far more sense to me than anything else in this thread

Mark Berenblum · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 105

Marty - Thank you for doing the due diligence! Sounds like the policy is, in fact, totally reasonable. 

J Cor · · New York, New York · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 180

Agreed, thanks Marty and Mike for looking into this.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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