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Crowded Calico Crags Concern/Rant

Original Post
KrisG · · Viva Las Red Rocks, NV · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 235

The last several times I've gone to do some sport cragging in Calico there were loads of people on the usual suspect walls like Panty, Hamlet, Civilization, Gallery, Sweet Pain, Black Corridor, Wake-Up wall, Cannibal, Sunny and Steep, and always the route Big Bad Wolf. I rarely climb at these crags for this reason, but I walk past them and see crowds of people shouting/spraying, dogs, drones, and substance use. All things that many, or dare I say most, climbers don't want to be around when in droves.

I know this has been the case for years now, but these crags are (or have been) showing signs of pretty extreme overuse with trash left behind, plants and soils trampled, and obviously chalk and rubber wear on the rock itself. I usually fill a pocket with wrappers, bottles, broken bits of plastic, etc. on every trip to Calico. While there's no excuse for the trash and nature damage I think a lot of overuse stems from just too many people climbing the same ~10 crags in an area with well over 100 separate crags listed on MP alone (for Calico hills area only). (Not to mention the entire rest of Red Rock Canyon.)
- Is the problem one of laziness in that many of these crags offer some decent climbs with short approaches? And, related, perhaps it's just a lack of respect for nature?
- The crags close to the pullouts (especially first pullout) obviously see increased gawker tourist traffic too. Perhaps more signage located right next to the eponymous fragile desert ecosystem would help educate the masses?
- How about LNT signs right at the base of these popular crags?
- Dare I suggest that some routes/walls be modernized, i.e. retrobolted, with anchors and maybe pro bolts on sketch-ballnut only protected climbs that are located in amongst fully bolted sport cliffs?

I really don't want this to derail into another dog, political debate, or access thread, but at that risk I'm asking for thoughts or suggestions on ways we can spread the crowds to other crags to share the load. There are many excellent crags all over Calico and you're likely to have them to yourself if you just walk a little further.

PSA to all sport climbers visiting Calico Hills: Let's spread the impact and try out some other crags!

shredward · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 0
KrisG wrote: - Is the problem one of laziness in that many of these crags offer some decent climbs with short approaches? And, related, perhaps it's just a lack of respect for nature?
- The crags close to the pullouts (especially first pullout) obviously see increased gawker tourist traffic too. Perhaps more signage located right next to the eponymous fragile desert ecosystem would help educate the masses?
- How about LNT signs right at the base of these popular crags?
- Dare I suggest that some routes/walls be modernized, i.e. retrobolted, with anchors and maybe pro bolts on sketch-ballnut only protected climbs that are located in amongst fully bolted sport cliffs?

- Yes, I think the desire for a short approach is what draws people to quality crags with short approaches.  

-Yeah I agree, it sucks to see the tourists run off into the desert to get their "Nature" photo for the gram

- I think that would be great.  No one is getting much wilderness when climbing in the calico hills, so a small sign wouldnt really detract from the natural aspect.  There are already boxes with wag bags, a sign reminding people about LNT wouldnt be much different

-  I do not support retro-bolting these crags, or any really any other.  If a climb sees less traffic because the pro is "sketchy", great!

Unfortunately I do not think these measures will do much to affect the crags.  This is likely just the future of popular climbing areas with 5 minute approaches.  
Mick · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

The notion that signage might be needed/helpful simply underlines the core problem.

The idea of retro bolting single pitch trad routes in the Calico Hills might actually be a good one but it would also be a declaration of war. 

J.Kruse · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 365

Institute a permit system and a daily user cap. Sounds terrible, you couldn't pay me to go climb at any of the Calico/First/Second pull out crags these days. 

Mick · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

The only solution to the trash problem is for conscientious climbers to pick it up and pack it out. It sucks but that’s the way it is. 

Peter Brown-Whale · · Randallstown, MD · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 20

The better climbing is on the long trad routes in the canyons further along the loop anyway.  I think the popularity of Calico has less to do with the approach and more to do with the fact that obviously way more people have the skill set needed to sport climb than complete a trad multipitch.  Adding more bolted lines will just make it even more popular.

Magpie79 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2011 · Points: 0
KrisG wrote: The last several times I've gone to do some sport cragging in Calico there were loads of people on the usual suspect walls like Panty, Hamlet, Civilization, Gallery, Sweet Pain, Black Corridor, Wake-Up wall, Cannibal, Sunny and Steep, and always the route Big Bad Wolf. I rarely climb at these crags for this reason, but I walk past them and see crowds of people shouting/spraying, dogs, drones, and substance use. All things that many, or dare I say most, climbers don't want to be around when in droves.

I know this has been the case for years now, but these crags are (or have been) showing signs of pretty extreme overuse with trash left behind, plants and soils trampled, and obviously chalk and rubber wear on the rock itself. I usually fill a pocket with wrappers, bottles, broken bits of plastic, etc. on every trip to Calico. While there's no excuse for the trash and nature damage I think a lot of overuse stems from just too many people climbing the same ~10 crags in an area with well over 100 separate crags listed on MP alone (for Calico hills area only). (Not to mention the entire rest of Red Rock Canyon.)
- Is the problem one of laziness in that many of these crags offer some decent climbs with short approaches? And, related, perhaps it's just a lack of respect for nature?
- The crags close to the pullouts (especially first pullout) obviously see increased gawker tourist traffic too. Perhaps more signage located right next to the eponymous fragile desert ecosystem would help educate the masses?
- How about LNT signs right at the base of these popular crags?
- Dare I suggest that some routes/walls be modernized, i.e. retrobolted, with anchors and maybe pro bolts on sketch-ballnut only protected climbs that are located in amongst fully bolted sport cliffs?


I really don't want this to derail into another dog, political debate, or access thread, but at that risk I'm asking for thoughts or suggestions on ways we can spread the crowds to other crags to share the load. There are many excellent crags all over Calico and you're likely to have them to yourself if you just walk a little further.

PSA to all sport climbers visiting Calico Hills: Let's spread the impact and try out some other crags!

1. I think there are some climbers that are lazy. But maybe they just flew in and want a half day of climbing without a long approach. Maybe an update to the MP page for suggestions on other crags to spread people out?


2. I would love more signage. Even with existing signage, LNT could be posted. It would also be nice to have signs showing the way to the crags. In my limited experience with Red Rock, I have found that what looks like an easy approach in the guidebook can be difficult to navigate due to bush whacking and scrambling when you lose sight of where you were going. I imagine navigating through the scrambles is easier with experience, but many visitors would probably rather be climbing than getting un-lost.
2a. Signage itself is not really LNT. Signs should be placed where they minimize impact (and don't ruin photos) but are visible to the intended audience.

3. Climber impact is a problem at most popular crags. Is it better to spread out the damage, or limit it to a few areas? (I don't have an answer to that)
Greg Davis · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 10

imagine what 2045 will be like.

Tyler Phillips · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 1,710

The only real solution is population control and to get rid of Instagram.

jonathan knight · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2006 · Points: 275

All for taking care of the high use crags. They have become important sacrificial zones that soak up climbers, contain impacts and help protect less traveled areas in Red Rocks.

Dylan Demyanek · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 2,622

As you mentioned, there is no shortage of quality sport climbing in the area. Adding bolted trad routes to the list of options won't have a meaningful impact. There are already hundreds of sport climbs that get passed over. People will continue to climb at crags with a high concentration of decent routes and a short approach (like black corridor) . Most of the other "non popular" calico crags have 1 or 2 quality routes, and a lot of mediocre ones (like Ranch Hands) or a more strenuous approach (like strategic arms).

Unfortunately a permitting system is the only thing that will prevent more people from going to these popular crags. 

Greg Davis · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 10

It is a finite resource. A popular sandstone crag close to a major city would most likely be the first battleground for the inevitable "this area closed to climbing" legislation. The decisions there could affect access at every national park, monument etc. I'm very skeptical that we can come to a good enough resolution before that meteor hits Earth, but I'm all ears and education seems the best route. Joshua Tree seems to be one of the better managed climbing parks, but they are constantly evolving their plans to meet the needs of growing user groups and that is a tall ask for busy park services. Improved trails, good signage, education and a willingness for the community both local and visiting to do a bit better seem our best options.

MintyAlpinist · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0

One of the principles of  minimum impact back country travel is to concentrate the impact.

For example if there's a camp site in the middle of the wilderness that looks heavily used and is not naturally being reclaimed by the weeds, then it is better to use that campsite than it is to mosey 100 yards away and make a new campsite that would still take a month or two to recover. Thus, I'm not so sure that spreading out the crowds from Calico is a good thing.

I say let the masses have the easy access stuff. If they all dispersed across Red Rock, there'd by horrendous lines, dogs, spray, and trash in every other canyon too.
The park managers understand this, they build parking lots on purpose.

How about requiring a Climbing Permit, for which one would have to sit through a 15-minute BC-etiquette government-sponsored hypnotism/brainwashing session, annually?

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,647

The reason out-of-town people go to Red Rocks in winter:
-the weather is good, while most of the Midwest and East Coast is slogging through wet/cold misery of winter that precludes outdoor climbing.
-there are good deals on flights/hotels, because Vegas is Vegas.

I would posit that most people who fly to Vegas for winter climbing are sport climbers:
-it is easier to fly without the trad rack.
-a lot of multipitch climbing is in the canyons, and is shady/cold, while a lot of single -pitch sport climbing is on sunny walls

I don't think these people are necessarily lazy, or disrespecting the nature. But they go to places that are highly rated, and have a high concentration of sport climbs, because that is exactly what you would do, too, if you were a sport climber flying somewhere for a week-long trip. You would not choose a long and uncertain hike to a crag with 2 good climbs. You would want to maximize your climbing by choosing places with lots of good routes, and relatively short approach.

I haven't been to Vegas in 6 years, and I am sure it is busier now than it was 6 years ago, just like it was a lot busier 6 years ago than it was 13-14 years ago. I know that on my first trip i looked at the guidebook, trying to determine where to go. The descriptions of approaches were cryptic, so whenever a crag was visible from the pullout on the topo map, that was a positive thing. The places that jumped out are on your list of the worst offenders. Gallery, Sweet Pain, Black Corridor, Sunny and Steep, etc.  I do not see that this would meaningfully change, unless there are other areas that would fit the bill in the same way. And no, some really-good-but-obscure route that locals know about, but the one that lacks neighboring good routes, and a good description of the trail, would fit.  

Matthew Bertolatus · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Aug 2018 · Points: 55

Obviously everyone should practice LNT.  However, if the impact is inevitable, sometimes the best way to moderate it is to lean into it a bit.   My one trip to Black Corrider - it's a short approach, sure, but it's not exactly straight-forward.  As someone else noted, trail development to some of these crags can help ease the impact on those closest to the parking lot.  Not every area can go as far as Smith Rock and build dedicated belay ledges, but if climbing is inevitable measures like these can blunt the impact to the rest of the area. 

John Hegyes · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2002 · Points: 5,549
J.Kruse wrote: Institute a permit system and a daily user cap.
I can't believe that a climber would actually ask for a permit system to be created to control access to the crags.

BLM Red Rock law enforcement rarely patrols anywhere off the pavement, but the notion that some functionary says to me, "can I see your permit to climb that rock?" makes my skin crawl.

Say NO! to permits for climbing!
Eric Chabot · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 45

Dude, lots of other user groups use permit systems to enhance user experience and conserve natural resources. I think it can be a great way to allocate scarce resources if it's implemented correctly. Without it areas get beat to shit. When something is super popular, we unfortunately can't have nice things.

E I · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 0

Keep the crowds in the first few pullouts.

Since moving here the one thing I wish the BLM or SNCC would do is adequately mark some of the high use trail systems to the 3-4 star routes and walls, and to both the sport and trad areas. A few signs along the trails could help prevent some of the sprawling trails that are seen on the way to brass wall, solar slab, and all throughout the calico hills. Honestly the crowds aren't going away, so please continue to help and pick up any trash left behind by our user group.

NO TO PERMITS

JaredG · · Tucson, AZ · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 1
E I wrote: 
Since moving here the one thing I wish the BLM or SNCC would do is adequately mark some of the high use trail systems to the 3-4 star routes and walls
I had the impression that in JTree, some climbers took the initiative, working with land managers to mark trails and reduce social trails.  Could be an opportunity to give back.  

Also, my gut says permits are coming.  You already need a special permit to stay late at Red Rock, or to overnight in most wilderness areas, or to access fragile treasures like the Coyote Buttes, the Subway, or the Whitney Zone.
Russ Keane · · Asheville, NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 180

Jesus Christ,
Everyone thinks it's not them.  Climbers loooooooove to point out all the ways "those others" are messing things up.  I'm sure your urine falls gently and your music tastes are better 

Kevin Heckeler · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 1,557

A lot of good posts here about who is visiting (although there's plenty of local gumbies too coming straight outta the gyms) and focusing the impact to a few areas.  This is what I've seen in my limited climbing travels and back East.  Sacrificial crags.  It happens.  In 2020 with the popularity of the sport, it needs to happen.  A majority of climbers are not outdoors enthusiasts, they're gym rats who are either bored with the gym or 'graduating' to outdoors climbing.  Few have backpacked, camped, volunteered for cleanup days, planted a tree, watch birds, go for casual long walks in the woods, etc.

As still newish Vegas climbers/residents, my climber GF and I have tried a few things that would be pertinent in helping other Vegas resident climbers find sanity in all the chaos.  It involves a bit of 'personal responsibility/action' which isn't quite as popular as spraying about the obvious woes on MP, but here goes...

 1) Climb the most popular Calico sport areas in the summer.  The entire summer of 2019 we got to the park around opening (6AM), and on some days saw no other climbers at all or none until after 9AM.  The sun comes over around 10:45-11AM on most west facing crags, which are many of the most popular walls at the first and second pullouts.  That's 4-5 solid hours, many pitches, before the sun and heat chase us away.  In the late afternoon, if you're heat tolerant, climbing in Calico basin (east facing) is doable starting 2-3PM.  Then we do the less popular areas the rest of the year.  Supplement some Charleston climbing and we rather enjoyed our first full summer at the local Vegas crags.

2) Wake up early.  Climb early.  [Leave when it gets to be too much.  Go for a hike/scramble.]  We start early all year.  Get on the good routes, leave if it gets chaotic.  If getting up early on the weekend is too much hassle, then suck it.  Serious climbers do what it takes to get on the routes they want.  Take control of your climbing life or be controlled by the climbing lives of others.  Find people to climb with who are equally committed, and don't drag you down with them with 9AM starts.

3) Move around.  Calico has tons of walls, when one fills up, pack up and walk 5-15 minutes, you will eventually find a quality route or two open.

4) Trad climb.  It can't be overstated that this is the true key to climbing freedom.  I love sport, it's great fun, but I would never expect the same experiences I get in the wilderness roped up as I get forced on me at Calico.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Nevada
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