Chris Weiss's Blog

National Park Service to Ban Guided Climbing?

created at: 2011/10/25

"Black Canyon is not a place for the beginning climber. Of the one hundred forty five climbs that are either found in Black Canyon Rock Climbs or are known by the Park Service; eight are rated at 5.8, and of these eight only four have good information available and see regular ascents.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a full on adventure climbing area. Detailed climbing information for Black Canyon climbs is often difficult to obtain or is non-existent."

That's how the National Park Service describes the climbing in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (emphasis their's). Not exactly the environment that you want a bunch of unacquainted, unexperienced climbers tooling around in, unless of course you're looking to give your climbing rangers some in-the-field training ops.

But if an NPS proposal gains steam, hired guides will no longer be allowed to take climbers into the park, leaving climbers to their own devices--not a great scenario in such a dangerous, challenging park.

Admittedly I haven't read the entire Black Canyon Backcountry Management Plan, but it does deride guided climbing for not supporting the goal of  "providing a visitor experience that is challenging, self-reliant, and adventurous," something that just doesn't seem as worthwhile as providing a visitor experience that is 'as non-life-threatening and safe as possible.'

In addition to eliminating guided climbing in this lesser traveled park, the ban could open the doors for similar bans in more popular alpine parks like Rocky Mountain and Yosemite.

You'd think the NPS would be interested in maintaining a system that better prevents visitors from getting lost or in over their heads; this seems to do quite the opposite. 

You can read the proposal in its entirety (the part that deals with guided climbing is in the "Inner Canyon Wilderness Zone" pp. 44-47) and issue a comment there, or check out American Mountain Guides Association's instructions for issuing a public comment.

Hurry, though, comments are due this Thursday.

Photo: NPS/Lisa Lynch

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