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Apr 15, 2008
Here is some good news about the wilderness plans at Red Rock. There is a new plan emerging at the BLM that is expected to help the BLM figure out how to permit new fixed anchors in the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness via a limited experimental permit process. Here is the rationale:

Although the details of the Wilderness Management Plan are far from finalized, there are a few general features that are almost guaranteed to be included in the plan. Specifically, there will be some kind of permit system to place new fixed anchors. Further (and this is a very good thing!), the BLM recognizes the objective of making the permit process as simple, timely, and painless as possible. The administrative details of permit issuing have not been developed in the plan yet, and they need to be developed to continue the planning process. The intention of having the administrative framework in place when the Plan is completed will work out all kinds of bugs and get the process streamlined.

There are really two components of a potential permit process. On the climber side are obvious things such as location of route and estimated number of bolts, and also some subtle (at least to a non-climber) considerations such as proximity of nearby routes, appropriate levels of boldness, and the matching of challenges to the experience levels of the normal climber traffic. The BLM component involves statutory compliance with NEPA and other regulations as well as general management and preservation of the wilderness resource. The mission of the permits is to harmoniously address both of these interests.

So, the thinking is this. The BLM would like to take the permit process for a trial run. They are currently examining their options to authorize some limited bolting by permit. The sequence would be this:

1. Get feedback from the climbing community on the appropriate "climber-related" aspects that should be included (or not included) on the bolting permit application.

2. Develop a proposed application and have a few climbers submit them.

3. Perform the necessary internal BLM review to confirm that nothing conflicts with their wilderness management objectives.

4. Approve the draft application and issue a very limited number of permits.

5. Review the process, make changes to the application, submittal process, BLM and climber review-- and maybe repeat if necessary.

All right-- this is a good spot to kick off with item 1. We had some positive discussion on the Cat in the Hat thread, so let's move it forward. What are the things that climbers would like to see considered in a permit authorization?

I'll start it off with an example: Red Rock has a ton of unreported routes, so there ought to be some option for public comment-- the proposed route may have even been climbed before...
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points
Apr 15, 2008
Larry DeAngelo wrote:
considerations such as proximity of nearby routes, appropriate levels of boldness, and the matching of challenges to the experience levels of the normal climber traffic.


Larry, I'm not real clear on what is meant by this. Are applicants supposed to guess how run out the potential route will be and then see if the BLM is ok with it?
Aaron S
Joined Dec 10, 2006
85 points
Apr 15, 2008
Larry DeAngelo wrote:
What are the things that climbers would like to see considered in a permit authorization?


I like how Castle Rocks State Park in Idaho has done their climbing management plan. Rather than permit for individual routes, the permit is for the person. You sign up to follow the rules, you get a permit. Seems to work pretty well. And, from the land manager's point of view, with regard to oversight, easier to manage a single person doing a ton of new routes, rather than a ton of new routes.

The process at the adjacent City of Rocks is a bit of a bummer. Ground up and on sight type climbing? Not with any fixed anchors. And, really, its hard to guess how many placements, exact location, etc. Also, the permit process, in some cases, takes a long time and there's no rush in some cases for the land manager to get a permit reviewed and approved. Especially if it requires a survey of the location, etc (a "mini EIS").

I think as long as a permitte agrees to follow "the rules", then permitting the person rather than the route seems to work fairly well.

As far as unreported routes...not sure a permit process will help with that. Unless the BLM has some file of routes they've been holding onto for years.

Thoughts?

-Brian in SLC
Brian in SLC
Joined Oct 6, 2003
12,530 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
Aaron S wrote:
Larry, I'm not real clear on what is meant by this. Are applicants supposed to guess how run out the potential route will be and then see if the BLM is ok with it?



Here is the consideration as I see it. If somebody asks you whether a bolt would be merited in a particular location to protect a 5.6 move, your answer might be different if the route itself is only 5.6 than if the 5.6 move was a friction exit from a 5.11 finger crack. The presumption would be that the 5.11 climber ought to be able to deal with the situation. I don't think the BLM has a direct interest in whether a runout is "OK" but they are interested in how climbers feel about it.

This kind of evaluation is difficult to quantify. If we climbers can develop some framework that is meaningful to us, then the BLM will try to build their plans around it, obviously also taking into account their mission to preserve the wilderness experience.
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
Brian in SLC wrote:
I like how Castle Rocks State Park in Idaho has done their climbing management plan. Rather than permit for individual routes, the permit is for the person. ...


I do believe that this is a suggestion that was submitted in the last comment go-around, and it is vaguely part of the "type 1" permit idea. The fact that NEPA requires some way to quantify and react to impact may keep this from being the only basis. Is Castle Rock in a Wilderness area?


Brian in SLC wrote:
As far as unreported routes...not sure a permit process will help with that. Unless the BLM has some file of routes they've been holding onto for years. Thoughts?


My thought on this is not to develop a file. As an example, suppose I want to bolt some tall varnished face and everybody thinks it would be a good spot for a route. But you chime in and say, "Hey-- I climbed that 10 years ago with just small wires and Ball-Nuts." This doesn't seem like it would be a good candidate for a bolt permit.
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points
Apr 15, 2008
Hmmm.... permitting the individual in charge of the FA would solve a lot of problems. Especially if the BLM permitted someone, then they did a route that conflicted with the guidelines or had some other issue, then the BLM could just request that they remove their own route. I've done that to my own route before just because I thought that the route was no good.

To be more specific, I have a couple lines I've been waiting a long time to go after.

They both involve face, and while you can definitely get lucky in Red Rocks (especially hidden horizontal cracks!), I'd expect both would need at least a couple bolts.

I have NO idea if they'd end up being 5.9, or 5.11 (but I'm guessing low 10 for both). I have no idea how many bolts. I generally run things out on the FA (hand drilling tends to strongly encourage that...), then make the route better protected if: 1) it's worthy (very hard to predict beforehand), and 2) if it's logical - i.e. a big 5.9 runout is fine on a 5.11, but not fine on a 5.10a.

When we get past the excess attention paid to bolts, the real issues are vegetation disruption (trails and base area), and wildlife disruption (obvious would be climbing near a raptor nest, or a new climbing area in a bighorn hang-out). If someone put up a slew of awesome quality 5.6-5.9 cracks without a single bolt, there'd be a big trail headed there right away, while if someone put up a multipitch 5.14 with tons of bolts, you'd be hard pressed to find more than a couple footprints in another decade.

So, I think "would your route likely cause substantial vegetation disruption" or something would be a good component to the equation.

Another point: you can't expect people to tell everyone before hand where their new project will be, especially "visitors" like me who don't want their projects scooped up!
Greg Barnes
Joined Apr 10, 2006
1,438 points
Apr 15, 2008
It's really a shame to have to go through all this bullshiitte in order to put up a new route. Ed Wright
Joined May 14, 2006
35 points
Apr 15, 2008
Larry DeAngelo wrote:
I do believe that this is a suggestion that was submitted in the last comment go-around, and it is vaguely part of the "type 1" permit idea. The fact that NEPA requires some way to quantify and react to impact may keep this from being the only basis. Is Castle Rock in a Wilderness area?


No, not a wilderness. I think the permit process addresses the potential for the impact of popular routes, bolted or not. You plan for that impact up front.

Larry DeAngelo wrote:
My thought on this is not to develop a file. As an example, suppose I want to bolt some tall varnished face and everybody thinks it would be a good spot for a route. But you chime in and say, "Hey-- I climbed that 10 years ago with just small wires and Ball-Nuts." This doesn't seem like it would be a good candidate for a bolt permit.


How would you know there was already an established route there? How would a land manager? If the route is unreported, not published, then regardless of whether you got a permit for the individual route, or, the person was permitted to establish a route, you wouldn't know.

This happens all the time. See the very painful "Stiffler's Mom" thread. Unless a route is reported, its an unreasonable expectation that folks would respect the style of an ascent that they aren't aware of.

What if I chimed in and said, "yeah, I sent that rig years ago when I was young, foolish, and couldn't afford decent fixed pro. Was always worried someone might get hurt or killed on it. Good on ya for opening it up to a much wider range of folks." Or, I just didn't like your style of ascent and decided to fabricate an ascent of that terrain.

Could go any way.

Really, the only way I could reasonably "chime in" is to document the route up front. Otherwise, there's a risk the route will get "re-discovered."

-Brian in SLC
Brian in SLC
Joined Oct 6, 2003
12,530 points
Apr 15, 2008
Greg Barnes wrote:
Hmmm.... permitting the individual in charge of the FA would solve a lot of problems. Especially if the BLM permitted someone, then they did a route that conflicted with the guidelines or had some other issue, then the BLM could just request that they remove their own route.


Which is how it works. Fix it or lose your permit. Fairly effective.

Its only painful and disruptive to the first ascentionist on the front end. After that, it starts to feel like "real climbing" again. Which, is in line with wilderness values/qualities ie "unconfined" recreation.

Another issue is how to manage it. If I'm hot to do an FA, and, do the work required to scope the line, I'd be pretty tempted to finish the route before I got a permit. So, there's a big potential for rule breaking up front where you have a process that requires a permit ahead of time. Then, how are you going to police it? And, will the crime be worth the time?

I see "less is more". The less rules, the easier for the land manager, the easier for the user.

The easiest would be to just get rid of the fixed anchor ban. Its not a potential for increased impact. Other aspects of the sport are (bouldering?).

-Brian in SLC
Brian in SLC
Joined Oct 6, 2003
12,530 points
Apr 15, 2008
Good point Brian - Larry, you might try the "do the same as the NPS" approach again and see if the BLM will just say no power drills, hand drilling fine, and that's it. Greg Barnes
Joined Apr 10, 2006
1,438 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
Ed Wright wrote:
It's really a shame to have to go through all this bullshiitte in order to put up a new route.


You don't-- only if you want to drill holes. I know you've been around long enough to not fall for that, "It's not really a route without bolts" line.
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
Thanks Larry, Jed, and the BLM folks who are working on this option to get the process moving in a positive direction again!

I have half a dozen proposals, but let me limit it to two:
(1) Likely to require significant bolting. I know bighorn and peregrines frequent the general area, but so do climbers and hikers. By itself I don't imagine it would make a significant difference in traffic, and there is already a trail right to it: it would be alone on its wall, but near several important formations. I might want to rap bolt for the sake of labor efficiency, since I'm only in Red Rock for limited periods of time. But I'd give it a ground-up go first.

(2) On an inconvenient wall that few if any have ever visited. Unknown number of bolts, but I'm hopeful it would be half a dozen or less. (Actually, I've got 3-4 proposals like this.) Ground up or no go.

Other than providing the exact location of those routes, I'm not sure I could tell you much more. I'd be ready to go in October - I'd like to test some of my ideas before I hit 50 years old! Please hurry!

Aren't Castle Rock and City of Rocks managed by the same people? Other than the time it takes, I didn't think the process at City was horrible. Their NEPA review caused us to move the first two pitches of our route - fully bolted, and completely ground up and on sight, so much fun! If the process is better at Castle Rock, its because the land managers/climbing ranger saw an opportunity to make the process better for everyone, taking advantage of the different regulations that apply to State versus Federal land?
Doug Hemken
Joined Oct 1, 2004
5,235 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
Greg Barnes wrote:
Good point Brian - Larry, you might try the "do the same as the NPS" approach again and see if the BLM will just say no power drills, hand drilling fine, and that's it.

I like the sound of it, too. And I certainly agree with Brian's "less is better" approach. But there are a few things that seem to me pretty difficult to escape: It is a Wilderness Area, and therefore subject to very specific laws (specifically NEPA). Bolts are a whole lot more permanent than footprints. Heavy bolting tends to increase impact.

I'd like to think that climbers could generally agree that preservation of the wilderness characteristics in the canyons is a good thing. If so, this is a point of agreement with the BLM, and the question becomes how to do that with minimum imposition on the outdoor community.
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points
Apr 15, 2008
I bolt in Wilderness all the time, there's nothing at odds with the Wilderness Act in the use of some bolts here and there. There is no need for NEPA, it's ridiculous. Where's the quote from David Brower - something along the lines of "the Forest Service is wasting all this time on these little bolts, when there's clear-cutting and mining and real issues out there."

The interpretation of bolts as "installations" is ridiculous, both in the letter and the spirit of the law. Look at the Wilderness Act and at all the debates leading up to it. Installations are roads, dams, buildings, bridges - permanent human-made changes that are large scale. If you took a wall with heavy vegetation at the base, clear-cut the vegetation, grid-bolted the whole thing with shiny bolts, and created a big trail to it - even then, it's pushing the definition of "installation." Just look at the Gallery and other sport crags - from a distance, you can't even see it unless someone points it out.

So Larry, to say that little bolts stuck in a tiny hole up on a rock cliff out in the Wilderness needs NEPA is just stupid. Not even in the same category as real issues.

As a hiker, would you agree that anyone hiking off-trail needs to go through NEPA before stepping off the trail?
Greg Barnes
Joined Apr 10, 2006
1,438 points
Apr 15, 2008
Doug Hemken wrote:
Aren't Castle Rock and City of Rocks managed by the same people? Other than the time it takes, I didn't think the process at City was horrible. Their NEPA review caused us to move the first two pitches of our route - fully bolted, and completely ground up and on sight, so much fun! If the process is better at Castle Rock, its because the land managers/climbing ranger saw an opportunity to make the process better for everyone, taking advantage of the different regulations that apply to State versus Federal land?


Yeah, both managed by the IDPR. City of Rocks is a National Reserve that agreed to being managed by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Castle Rock was private land, bought and transferred to the National Park Service, which in turn traded for some Idaho state lands with the state of Idaho (act of Congress, quite cool to read, actually, and flat out amazing coup for climbers).

I think, when the Castle Rock deal went down, the Access Fund was very involved in the process and a bunch of folks got together to craft what they felt would be a climbing management plan that was an improvement on the City of Rocks plan.

Also note that the Castle Rock climbing management plan also manages some Forest Service land, as well as BLM, in cooperation with both of those local offices.

I've gone through the permit process at both locations. Much, much prefer the Castle Rock style of establishing routes.

Cheers,

-Brian in SLC
Brian in SLC
Joined Oct 6, 2003
12,530 points
Apr 15, 2008
Great thoughts and comments made by all.

I think the BLM needs to understand the work involved bolting without a power drill. As long as there is a rule about no power drills, I can't see someone sewing up any route (even on sandstone) when drilling by hand. They might start off gung ho, but after the first pitch they are going to be saying "screw this, let's run it out." In my experience, when drilling bolts by hand, it is not a matter of convenience to be drilling, but perceived necessity... and even then, it gets old fast. To the point where you decide you would rather rap off of one bolt, rather than drill a second.

My point is, I don't think the BLM needs to worry as long as the rule is hand drilling only.
John J. Glime
From Salt Lake City, UT
Joined Aug 28, 2002
1,045 points
Apr 15, 2008
Thanks for the information, Larry. It's nice to know that people are still working on this issue, some time has gone by since I've heard an update so thanks again. John Hegyes
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Feb 2, 2002
4,205 points
Apr 15, 2008
The sad thing is that the total bolt ban has actually encouraged rap bolting with power drills, since it's easy to get away with (a lot faster, and a lot quieter, than using hand drills). I've found that rap-bolted multipitch routes are rarely of the same quality as ground-up routes - most particularly in bolt location - even when the FA team has relocated bolts all over the place to get the final line.

You can bolt "tightly" with hand drills, but you have to REALLY want it, and have a lot of time to spare. And even then, you'll end up with fewer bolts compared to if power drills are permitted. There's a reason why sport climbing wasn't invented until portable power drills were.

The other danger in talking about regulations regarding reasonable bolting is simply one of changing ethics. Tightly bolted routes from 20 years ago are now runout. What I consider tightly protected differs greatly depending on the rock, the climbing, etc. I don't think the climbing community or the manager have a right to say that a route is too runout, at least at an area as vast as Red Rocks (I could see it at a small area with very limited climbing resources). I also don't think it's good to have the land manager involved in such decisions - especially since if they do get involved, it seems to me that it might open them to lawsuits about not-tightly-protected-but-approved-by-manager type suits if someone falls and gets hurt (as far as I'm concerned, lawsuits having anything to do with climbing, mountain biking, skiing, etc should be thrown out on principle...).
Greg Barnes
Joined Apr 10, 2006
1,438 points
Apr 15, 2008
Greg I gotta say I disagree with the idea that rap placed bolts are in worse places than ground up bolts. Having climbed many ground up sport routes here in RR, I feel there are more bolts at bad stances than on rap bolted routes where the first ascensionist can rehearse the route before placing a bolt.

However, with that being said..I don't think that top down or ground up has any place in this conversation. It isn't about which end of a rope you are on when the bolt goes in, but where are the bolts and how many.

I agree with the idea that hand drilled bolts only would be a great solution.
Darren in Vegas
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Feb 13, 2006
1,900 points
Apr 15, 2008
Hey Darren, that's probably true for sport, but I was talking about multipitch not sport routes.

But of course it depends, someone could do a masterful job rap bolting, and a terrible job ground-up, or vice versa. And I do have to say that I'm personally biased since I've seen multipitch terrain that I was interested in rap-bolted with power drills all of a sudden (not here, CA granite), and it pissed me off that others "stole" the terrain from my ground-up efforts by tossing a rope down from 500' above. My personal ethics are my deal, but if someone rap bolts with power drills and spends a lot on bolts, their personal ethics can affect the amount of available rock in a very short time period, while if they'd done things ground up with a hand drill they would simply not be able to climb so many routes so quickly.

In any case, like you say, it's not a debate for this thread, since regardless power drills are not permitted in Wilderness! Greg
Greg Barnes
Joined Apr 10, 2006
1,438 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
Greg Barnes wrote:
... The interpretation of bolts as "installations" is ridiculous, both in the letter and the spirit of the law. ... to say that little bolts stuck in a tiny hole up on a rock cliff out in the Wilderness needs NEPA is just stupid. Not even in the same category ...

Greg, you may be right about this, and it may even be reasonable. But I have doubts about this as a practical point to argue. The BLM is a big organization and it has a lot of momentum going in the direction of controlling bolts. You can look at this question from the other side: No climber (certainly no traditional climber) thinks that bolts should be placed indiscriminately. Back on the Cat in the Hat thread, there was overwhelming concurrence that the retrobolt did not belong. Can we identify areas of agreement that could be the basis for a BLM standard?
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
John J. Glime wrote:
... the BLM needs to understand the work involved bolting without a power drill. As long as there is a rule about no power drills, I can't see someone sewing up any route (even on sandstone) when drilling by hand. ...

One of the things working against this simple approach is the large number of counter-examples in our own canyons. Some people HAVE SEWN UP routes in the past, even drilling by hand, and there is no indication of a growing community resistance to such practices.
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points
Apr 15, 2008
No Larry, I don't think there's room for agreement. Bolts are not installations, that's just dumb. If people want to argue that, they could argue that footprints are installations, since your shoe could have non-native seeds on it that would effect a permanent change to the land, or you could crush one last plant of a particular species. So why not require a NEPA finding to leave the trail as a hiker?

At some point, it's just ridiculous. Climbing is almost the definition of appropriate Wilderness visitation - a "primitive and unconfined type of recreation." Even with a good pair of binoculars and a guidebook, you can't even find camouflaged bolts. Even a heavily bolted route is often completely invisible until you get very, very close.

I want to be reasonable and work with land managers, but you have to start somewhere. If they want to blatantly misinterpret the Wilderness Act to regulate bolts, then that's not some place that we can start from.

If they want to talk about vegetation damage from trails, then there's a reasonable place to start.
Greg Barnes
Joined Apr 10, 2006
1,438 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
Greg Barnes wrote:
No Larry, I don't think there's room for agreement. Bolts are not installations...

Not to dive to deeply into the legalese, but BLM manages things that are not "installations" (e.g. commercial activities). Can you find NO plausible grounds for managing bolting?
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points
Apr 15, 2008
No Larry, I can not find a reason why the BLM should be managing bolting.

Case 1: someone goes out and climbs a great new long crack system. No bolts are used.

Case 2: someone goes out and climbs a great new long face climb. Lots of bolts are used.

Why is there a difference in the management?

There's no doubt at all that a new awesome 5.7 crack with no bolts will have a larger environmental impact than a new face route that is 5.12. Or even if you look at two 5.7 routes, if the face one has lots of loose holds and the climbing isn't that great, then the crack will get a trail to it in no time at all, and the face will stand ignored.

Why does the BLM care about the level of bolting? Who are they to tell us about whether or not we use a bolt?

The number one factor in future popularity is route quality. Bolts CAN have an impact, but they may or may not depending on the route, and their impact is frequently tangential.

In fact, you could easily argue that the crack system has a larger impact on the environment. Plants are frequently found in cracks, and while you may climb around them and only break a few branches, if the route gets popular, then the plant often suffers. Routes out on faces tend to have less impact.

I'm not looking for more sport routes out in the canyons, but I am looking for a reasonable basis for government regulation of my unconfined recreation in Wilderness. Bolts aren't it. Restrictions on sport climbs may be a reasonable regulation, but not just bolts.

Larry, how would you react if the BLM proposed a ban on climbing all crack systems because there might be plants in the cracks?

How about a ban on putting a sling around a tree?
Greg Barnes
Joined Apr 10, 2006
1,438 points
Administrator
Apr 15, 2008
Well, one difference might be that there is a natural limit on the number of crack lines. But without some regulation (normally provided by the climbers themselves) there could be an infinite number of bolted routes. If the Gallery or the Black Corridor is what climbers do when left to do their own regulation, I think wilderness characteristics will have a very short half-life.

Greg Barnes wrote:
... I'm not looking for more sport routes out in the canyons...

maybe there is a basis for agreement here?

I don't think this distinction is so far-fetched. The BLM's suggested type 1 permit is intended to be very lightweight and easy to acquire...
Larry DeAngelo
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Nov 1, 2002
3,915 points


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