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Crowded Calico Crags Concern/Rant

James S · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 84

So maybe one day people will need a permit to climb to curb this problem...just like we need permits to hike now.

Just regulate everything because that's what the people want right?

John Hegyes · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2002 · Points: 5,549
James W wrote: So maybe one day people will need a permit to climb to curb this problem...just like we need permits to hike now.
Asking the government to write more laws to restrict us from doing what we like to do is the most bootlicking thing possible.


Adam W · · Katy, TX · Joined Dec 2019 · Points: 0

One of the main reasons I hike in Las Vegas and not Utah or other places is no permits required don’t want to see permits for hiking or climbing 

Fat Dad · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 60
John Hegyes wrote: Asking the government to write more laws to restrict us from doing what we like to do is the most bootlicking thing possible.


Sure no one likes regulation, particularly us anti establishment climber types.  However, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, the choice is between regulation or destruction. The hope is that climbers will self regulate, but we generally have a poor record of that.  I, for one, chafe at the notion that I need a permit to go into the Sierra backcountry, but one fortunate benefit of jumping through that hoop is the area remains fairly pristine and protected for future generation.  No system is perfect, but you need to ask yourself what you value more.

J.Kruse · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 366
Matthew Bertolatus · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Aug 2018 · Points: 55
John Hegyes wrote: Asking the government to write more laws to restrict us from doing what we like to do is the most bootlicking thing possible.


There are times it makes sense.  For example you need a permit to enter Minnesota's Boundary Waters - and part of the attraction is that it's extremely remote and uncrowded.  Likewise if you want to paddle the Grand Canyon/Colorado River.  In addition there can be times where a permit system which doesn't limit access but does allow for registration is beneficial to climbers.  Some places in Minnesota ask that you get a permit to climb, which just means stopping by a booth and filing out a small form, no cost and no limit.  However it allows them to see how many people are coming to climb, and what the resource allocation should be to protect/encourage climbing.  

I don't think restrictive permits are the answer at Red Rock (can't think of anywhere I'd advocate for that, frankly), but the idea of some sort of climber registration could be good for the area, and the knee jerk reaction of "hurrr government bad hurrr" isn't helpful.  
EFS · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 160
J.Kruse wrote: Good relevant article:

https://www.climbing.com/places/when-legends-die-the-changing-face-of-hueco-tanks-state-park/

glad i had climbed there way before them shutting down 2 of the mountains. it was nice climbing there then, barely saw anyone through the day walking to and from climbs/areas.

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

Thanks to all of the thoughtful responses. My thoughts in return are as follows:

No to permits that limit climbing. Even with the popularity of climbing in RR I don't think this is necessary, because, as stated in my original post, there are literally hundreds of other crags in Calico hills. As crowded as Calico seems, the problem, ostensibly, is that too many people are climbing at the same few crags. (You know what's better than waiting in line for that 3.5 star 10b ten minutes from the parking lot? An entire crag of climbs to yourself twenty minutes from the parking lot!)

On a related note, I do think a survey of the number of people entering the loop road (access to the Calico pullouts for the uninitiated) for climbing would be a good start to putting some hard data to the problem. I think this would be easy enough for the loop road money/pass handlers to tally, but I could be wrong. (Yes you'll miss the Calico West side crags but there are solutions there too.) These data might be what's needed to convince the BLM officials for some signage. I love the idea of some LNT/crag directions signs (including less popular ones) to help locate more crags and reduce social trails.

Anyone know if the BLM collects any user group statistics in RRC? Andrew Yasso mentioned the difficulties with getting signage in place. I'm cautiously optimistic that it might be easier in Calico hills area since it's not wilderness. Are the major hurdles limited resources (person-power, money, time), or do they manifest as bureaucracy? (Yes, I'll gladly donate my time, money and bulging, sport-climber back muscles to the effort as I believe many others would too.)

Sacrificial crags, seriously? Look, I recognize that some crags will see more traffic and show that impact accordingly. However, I hope those of you are not suggesting to just "let them die" so to speak, and allow (or at least not disallow) them to be trashed. Several of the crags I mentioned are close to and/or visible from the road. I don't think that will send the message we want as climbers, and worse, could promote negative access in the future.

I think crag location and LNT signage (and maybe some concomitant education) is about all that can be done without implementing usage reduction measures like permits. I'm not ready to go there especially if this problem can be solved without going there! It'd be great to prevent the situation from the Hueco Tanks article linked up-thread from fully manifesting itself here before it's forced upon us.

Travis O'Neil · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 490

A lot of the climbers swarming these areas are new and inexperienced, out of the gym. Or experienced in sport but have never been to red rocks or have only been a few times. Or limited time. If they have never been here at all, the first day is often easy to moderate sport at these popular walls to get used to the rock. Hard to really fault them for that.

Efforts are being made to add more routes and spread out the crowds in this way, however this also means more total routes, which means more popularity, more people. This is not some magic solution to crowds. It's just more options.

You can take these climbers under your wing and get them hooked on MP and trad. However this means, at least in the short term, even more swarming of the most popular trad MPs until they have grown enough to be able to handle the temporarily chossy obscure MPs and inspired enough to do FAs of their own.

There is no perfect solution, there is only failing with as much "grace" as YOU can muster to inspire in them.

Case in point:
I have friends coming from ATX soon. One has climbed for decades, but he is the mentor for the rest who have climbed about 2 years now. All single pitch sport. One of the main goals for this trip is to get them a little bit of MP experience, which means they will want to do, obviously, Big Bad Wolf. It's a short trip so it's hard to entice them into learning trad, though believe me, I'll be trying. Not surprisingly that would most likely mean Physical Graffiti, due to proximity and time consideration. The other days will probably be places like The Black Corridor, The Gallery. If one of my more experienced friends comes he and I, maybe plus one of the newer climbers in that group, may go do something longer in the canyons, but it's not likely with the trip being so short.
(Imagine situations similar to this applied to many of the groups coming to RR and there's your all too predictable cause, now what are you going to do about it personally? Put yourself in their shoes.)

Thankfully a few kind souls are increasing the sport options and bolted MP options, but it's not exactly a fast process, and if they do it wrong it kinda sucks. Expanding options in the canyons, the wilderness area, is not a simple thing, and is a slow process.

Edit: Also, regarding sacrificial crags, consider cannibal crag, every day after a rain there are parties on it and other easy access crags. It's been like this for years, basically the battle has been lost. Good on those few who go out the day after a rain and talk to those people. Mentorship. Too many people think they know what dry rock looks like. Doesn't help that Kentucky Pete tells people that the rock doesn't weaken when wet.

Anonymous · · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 13,360

A significant part of the crowding problem is the gym scene. Go to any gym on a tuesday night from 6-8 and see what the crowds are like...that atmosphere has become normalized for newer climbers making the transition to outdoor climbing. People think walking up to a crag with 20-30 people already there and waiting in line is just normal because that's what it's like in their gym, whereas 15-20 years ago, if my partner and I rolled up to an outdoor crag with more than 1-2 other parties, we'd probably move on to something less crowded. Waiting in line to climb is dumb. Going to a crag with 5-10 of your friends is also dumb and rude AF in my book. Gyms should somehow teach this. 

Fat Dad · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 60
E IV wrote: A significant part of the crowding problem is the gym scene. Go to any gym on a tuesday night from 6-8 and see what the crowds are like...that atmosphere has become normalized for newer climbers making the transition to outdoor climbing. People think walking up to a crag with 20-30 people already there and waiting in line is just normal because that's what it's like in their gym, whereas 15-20 years ago, if my partner and I rolled up to an outdoor crag with more than 1-2 other parties, we'd probably move on to something less crowded. Waiting in line to climb is dumb. Going to a crag with 5-10 of your friends is also dumb and rude AF in my book. Gyms should somehow teach this. 

I agree with the observation that lots of newer climbers seem to travel in large packs; same with boulderers.  I don't know if it's dumb or rude if the person doesn't have any other frame of reference.  To them it probably seems normal and us parties of two probably seem like anti-social wierdos.  

Warning.  Boomer story:  my first time out to Red Rocks was shortly after Mike Tupper and others put up a lot of those routes at the First and Second pullouts.  We learned of them because of an article/guide published in Rock + Ice mag.  Hardly anyone out there.  Mike showed up and came over to us and told us how nice it was to see other folks at the crags.  Times change.  I like people and I don't mind sharing.  Unfortunately, there are now A LOT more people and far less easily accessed rock to go around and the wear and tear is showing.  
jonathan knight · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2006 · Points: 265

Kris, have you engaged the SNCC with your concerns? A sign plan certainly makes sense and might be something that could qualify as a categorical exclusion to NEPA. Think smaller, piecemeal projects vs. a more comprehesive EA. Maybe this has been tried before?

Been a few years, but last time in RR I couldn't help but think the place would be better managed as a national park.

Josh Glantz · · Seattle · Joined Jun 2019 · Points: 442

scared to even ask but are the crowds any better mid-week? going next month...... and yikes.

Dylan Demyanek · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 2,622
Josh Glantz wrote: scared to even ask but are the crowds any better mid-week? going next month...... and yikes.

Crowds are definitely worse on the weekends. Maybe try checking out The Pier, The Fringe, Jane's Wall, The Stratocaster Area, or The Running Man wall. If you look, there are also a few random sport climbs scattered around other areas further down the loop. 

Sandy Crimp · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 15

I am an old curmudgeon that has been climbing here for 30 years, and I miss the good old days, but the OP is blowing this problem up to be WAY more than it truly is.  RR is not that overrun by climbers.  

On weekends and when school (colleges) are out, the big name crags are swamped, but at other times it is never an issue.

We are in a bubble of climbing popularity right now.  It will slow just like every other fad.  It will never be the 90s again, but the “new” will wear off and 80% of new climbers will move on to other things.

I do not see a need to individually count climbers or require restrictions.  The crags are fine.  I think you need to go look at the crags and ask if there is really anything worth freaking out about.  As an example, the black corridor sees thousands of climbers a year, but go walk though it some early morning.  You will find it looks perfectly fine.  In over 30 years of extremely heavy use, it would look almost untouched if we removed the chalk and bolts.

Our impact is not that heavy.  This is not the issue we need to worry over.  

You are probably, actually, just upset about your own ability to enjoy your local crag in peace and quiet.  Well, for now, those days are few and far between.

Adam W · · Katy, TX · Joined Dec 2019 · Points: 0
Josh Glantz wrote: scared to even ask but are the crowds any better mid-week? going next month...... and yikes.

Get there at 6am year round and any wall is open.  Get there at noon expect people climbing on most easy walls.  We didn’t see anybody else yesterday until afternoon 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Sandy Crimp wrote: We are in a bubble of climbing popularity right now.  It will slow just like every other fad.  It will never be the 90s again, but the “new” will wear off and 80% of new climbers will move on to other things.
Recall that climbing is an Olympic event in a mere 5 months.


Troll in the Dungeon ! · · Nevada · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 30
J.Kruse wrote: 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. 

It's really not THAT bad unless you are an under 5.9 climber who only climbs on the weekends. As long as you manage your expectations (you arent going to find solitude or a wilderness experience single pitch sport climbing 5 minutes from the road) you will have a good time. As far as trash I've hardly seen any around cliffsides even at the most popular crags. The trash comes from the hoardes of vegas tourists who hardly step off the pavement.

John Hegyes · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2002 · Points: 5,549

There is no doubt that Red Rock is getting more crowded. There are more climbers and the walls showing the results of the heavy impact.

However, an even larger concern is that Red Rock is also getting hammered by tourist and hiker traffic. It's now common for the loop road to close by noon or 1pm on weekend days and holidays that have nice weather. If the road is open, it's not uncommon for the line of vehicles waiting to get in to be a mile long from the toll booth with wait-times of a half hour or more.

The worst is when the BLM declares a free entrance day. The next one is this Monday, February 17, President's Day. If you don't get to the entrance before 10am, just forget it - the BLM determines that there are no more available parking spaces inside the loop and access is CLOSED at the entrance.

Yes, there are a lot of climbers, but our numbers are a tiny percentage of the overall problem of crowding at Red Rock. This is not to say that we don't need to change our behavior. We, as climbers, do need to set good examples for the public-at-large to follow. I'm just saying there are greater forces at play that also need to be addressed.

Gaarth Donald · · Chelan, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 927

Every crag gets too crowded the day after you discover it.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Nevada
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