If you’re like most climbers, you pore over guidebooks for weeks or even months when planning a climbing trip. You educate yourself on routes, descents, gear, and camping. But what about valuable insight into local ethics, issues, and challenges at your destination crag? Part of being a responsible climber is knowing how to tread lightly—both socially and environmentally. In this new Inside Scoop series, we'll connect you with local climbing access leaders at some of the country's top climbing destinations for valuable insight into local climbing ethics and issues.
Destination: RED ROCKS, NEVADA
Local expert: XAVIER WASIAK, PRESIDENT OF LAS VEGAS CLIMBERS LIAISON COUNCIL (LVCLC)
What’s happening on the Red Rocks access front right now?
We’re in the middle of working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the Red Rocks Wilderness Management Plan—the plan will govern the placement and replacement of fixed anchors in Red Rocks wilderness, so it’s a pretty big deal. That effort has been ongoing for many years and has included the hard work of many LVCLC members, the Access Fund, and our climbing rangers with the BLM.
What are some challenges that climbers are facing at Red Rocks?
Our largest long-term issue is bolt replacement. Although many of the great classic routes, both sport and traditional, are safely equipped with modern hardware, there are a large number of really fun and popular routes that are unsafe and past the point of being merely adventurous in their current condition. There are still many 20-plus-year-old, threaded, 3/8" non–stainless steel bolts on many routes at Red Rocks. The local climbing community is working on these replacements.
Parking is also a challenge. Visitor volume has topped one million annually, and that kind of traffic creates some difficulties for climbers at certain pullouts within the one-way loop currently used to access most of the park. The BLM is considering how to expand current parking, but we are also working with them to reestablish a parking area just outside the gates where climbers can meet and carpool.
What’s the best option for human waste disposal at Red Rocks?
Human waste disposal is a real challenge in a sensitive desert environment—feces don’t break down in the same way that they do in other parts of the country. The best strategy is to pack it out. We’ve built and installed five waste bag dispensers at locations throughout Red Rocks and work hard to keep them supplied with bags.
How’s the relationship between climbers and rangers at Red Rocks?
We are very fortunate to have an extremely collaborative BLM climbing ranger to work with. Years of work have gone into building a positive relationship with the climbing rangers, who provide us with valuable information and insight about BLM policy and planning. It’s critical for locals and visitors alike to show these folks the same respect that they show us.
How would you describe the local ethics of Red Rocks?
Local climbing ethics and the opinions of those who call Red Rocks home are as varied as the type of climbing encountered here. But overall, I would say that we agree that maintaining the adventure character of canyon routes is important. That bouldering or climbing on soft sandstone after a good rain is a source of angst, and so is not respecting culturally sensitive areas and not cleaning up after yourself or your dog.
Any words of wisdom for folks visiting Red Rocks for the first time?
Remember that your actions reflect on all of us. Have fun and enjoy Red Rocks—there is something here for everyone!
Oh, and don’t feed the burros! Just kidding. But really, don’t.