Cragging | Skyward Mountaineering

By: Skyward Mountaineering  09-12-2011
Keywords: Rock Climbing

The Park administrators openly admit that guided climbing is inherently a safer and better experience for guests, and that this has always been a very amenable relationship over the years, with no problems. However, it is up to the public to ultimately convince them that guided climbing is necessary for people to experience this resource, and that through guides it is the only way they would be able to experience this resource. Specifically, they feel that guided climbing in The Black Canyon is inconsistent with the “desired condition” of self reliance.
I recommend emphasizing the following in your comments to the Park:

  1. Guided climbing is necessary in the Black Canyon specifically because it allows a higher degree of self-reliance for many parties.
  2. Guided climbing does not diminish the challenge, adventure and ruggedness involved in climbing in the Black Canyon.
  3. Guided climbing is of minimal impact to the other users of the inner canyon wilderness.
  4. Guided climbing has long history of practice in the Black Canyon (since the 1960’s!) and is, therefore, an integral part of the climbing legacy there.
  5. Any other reasons you personally feel are important about allowing guided climbing to continue in the Black Canyon.

Thank you very much!

Vince Anderson

For those interested in reading further, here is a more in depth rebuttle of their proposal:

Black Canyon Wilderness Management Plan Guided Climbing Exclusion

I strongly recommend that the National Park Service reconsider their proposal to discontinue allowing commercially guided climbing in the new Wilderness and Backcountry Management Plan for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park for the following reasons:

In the Decision Making Matrix of the Park’s Environmental Assessment document(Table 1, p 233-234), commercial services for climbing (i.e. guided climbing) was determined to be “appropriate & necessary” in ALL of the Park’s own filters (Filters 1-3) and only with respect to their personal interpretation of the the Wilderness Act (section 4(d)(6)) was it then deemed unnecessary and not meeting the “desired conditions for wilderness character.”
This section of The Wilderness Act states that “commercial services may be performed…to the extent necessary for activities that are proper for realizing the recreational…purposes of the area.” Filters 1-3 did determine that climbing is proper, so then guided climbing should be permitted to the extent necessary. That extent is to provide access to the services of a trained professional for the purpose of rock climbing to those who would prefer such services and is, therefore, necessary, as it has been since the inception of the Black Canyon National Park.
Furthermore, page 7 of the Environmental Assessment states that “Wilderness character is described as having four necessary and interrelated qualities: untrammeled, natural, undeveloped, and solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation (USDA 2008).” Guided climbing does “protect and enhance (these) desired conditions for wilderness character” on par with, if not more than, non-guided climbing. There is no proof offered to suggest the opposite.
Therefore, according to the Park Service’s own Environmental Assessment Decision Making Matrix, Commercial Service as it pertains to rock climbing (i.e. guided climbing) meets the necessary requirements to be deemed an appropriate activity.
Also in the Environmental Assessment (p. 207) it states that, “Per the findings in the Black Canyon NP… Wilderness and Backcountry Management Plan, commercial use authorizations (for climbing) … are not allowed within Black Canyon NP to maintain and improve opportunities for challenge, self-reliance and adventure that are integral to the wilderness character of the inner canyon.” However, it is for precisely these reasons, “to maintain and improve opportunities for challenge, self-reliance and adventure” that guided climbing is necessary and appropriate in the Black Canyon.
Challenge: According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Adventure is defined as A test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking. Guided climbing allows this and aims to maintain reasonable safety all the while. There is no proof that guided climbing offers any less challenge than non-guided climbing.
Self-reliance: From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, self-reliance is defined as: Reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, or resources; independence. Taken to an extreme, total self-reliance, then would involve climbing alone. This is clearly not the Park’s intention. How does guided climbing not fit this definition? There is no proof that guided climbing is any less self-reliant than non-guided climbing. In fact, it could well be argued that climbing with a trained and certified mountain guide offers a higher degree of self-reliance than that with which is present in the average climbing party.
Adventure: Again, from the American Heritage Dictionary, Adventure is defined as Participation in hazardous or exciting experiences. Risk is inherent in climbing and there is still an ample amount in guided climbing, especially in the Black Canyon. A guide, simply helps evaluate and manage the inherent risks to an acceptable level to the best of his or her ability and training. Climbing with a guide does not eliminate these risks, but it can help mitigate them.
In the public meetings (9/21/2011-Montrose and 9/22/2011-Gunnison), it was stated in the Power Point presentation that  “the objective (of the new proposal) is to: Provide a template for basing management decisions on sound scientific research & informed observations.” If so, there has been no such scientific research or  informed observations referenced or cited to support any claims that guided climbing does not help maintain and improve the above mentioned qualities.
There is a long and documented history of not only professional guiding, but that of partnerships based on mentorship in the Black Canyon. The tradition of mentorship: master and apprentice has been a part of the Black Canyon climbing experience all along. Guided climbing, is just a formalized master and apprentice relationship and the guide is compensated financially for his or her training, experience and skill by the client. From the oldest documented climbs in the Canyon in the 1960’s, climbers like Layton Kor would often mentor young climbers by taking them along on various climbs in the Black Canyon. At that time, the canyon was unquestionably wild, rugged and untrammeled. These climbers then, had an extremely high level of commitment, self-reliance and sense of adventure. Here are a few examples of this type of relationship in the history of climbing in the Black Canyon.
In 1962, Layton Kor and a very young Bob Culp established the Route “Rosy Arete” in the Long Draw. Kor led the entire route.
A 16 year old Pat Amment also apprenticed under the the tutelage of the older and more experienced Layton Kor on a first ascent of the North Chasm View Wall in 1963.
Wayne Goss says of his climb of “The Swallow Walll” in 1967 with Layton Kor, “Kor’s drive to complete the route… and leadership made the dream a reality. I was just along for the ride.”
In the1970’s and 80’s, guide Michael Covington took numerous clients on adventures here long before the modern days of numerous parties climbing on any given day. In the mid 70’s, Covington and an unknown client established “The Tourist Route” in Long Draw. There are numerous other examples of guided climbing having been an integral part to the Black Canyon’s climbing history to this point. To say that it is not part of the user experience here would imply an unfamiliarity with the canyon’s fifty year climbing history.
Guided climbing is of little impact to the current overall inner canyon use. In 2010, guided climbing accounted for 1% of all inner canyon use. The newly proposed Climbing Management Plan maintains the status quo for all aspects of climbing in the Black Canyon except for guided climbing. Considering that guided climbing has an important and documented history here and poses no threat to the resource or its users, it should be maintained at status quo, as well.

Keywords: Rock Climbing

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