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Chockstone Forum - General Discussion

General Climbing Discussion

Topic Date User
Ayers Rock 6-Oct-2006 At 5:13:37 PM The Keeper
I haven't been to Uluru yet but when I do I won't be climbing it out of respect for the local indigenous owners. It is a matter of RESPECT - frankly given all the rock on the planet , my modest capabilities and the amount of petrol left in the tank - I won't be climbing it all anyway. A few restricted places is no big deal really. An all or nothing perspective is a poor strategy and frankly climbers do not carry a lot of political weight in the scheme of things - winning a battle but losing the war is a pretty feeble result.
Check out some of the debate on Dean Potter's little irresponsible climb on Delicate Arches - many other climbers are going to suffer negative consequences for his ill-conceived little gambit for climbing marketing and press purposes. We do not live in a vacuum and our actions impact on others. Frankly, it would be better to respect local indigenous values and work together with them and I suspect the benefits would dramatically outweigh the minor losses. Life is a series of compromises of interests and the smart ones play for the big picture rather than put all their bet on one thin horse. Devil's Tower is such a compromise - climbers can use it but there are restricted periods for the local indigenous people to undertake their sacred ceremonies and utilization of the site. Extremists on either end of the ledger have lost to a middle ground where reasonable people hang out.

The Uluru situation is of interest to me because I come to the discussion as an archaeologist and cultural heritage manager but also as a late-age rock climber - and the interesection of the two is something I spend time thinking about. I climb in the Canadian Rockies near Canmore and places such as Grotto Canyon and Grassi Lakes
have pictographs (images painted on the rock - as distinct from petroglyphs where the images are actually incised into it). Both locations are heavily used sport climbing locales. At Grassi, there is a big boulder with pictoglyphs and the local climbing community as part of their excellent work at the site (deluxe access stairs and belay stations!) have put a chain fence around the large boulder in the middle of the site which has some pictoglyphs on it and added an interp sign). On the other hand I once took in a presentation at an archaeology conference in Banff where a lad was demonstrating some innovative methods to bring out faded and unobservable pictoglyphs so they could be photographed - using multi- lenses , filters & light sourcesetc. One of his pics was of the Okotoks Erractic - a mother of a boulder transported across western Canada by continental glaciers and dumped on the bald headed prairie south of Calgary. It is a favoured bouldering rock and the photo he used showed a mob of Brits with ropes all over the thing and many intersecting inappropriately with the pictographs on the rock.
In this case it was probably lack of awareness and thinking about their actions - they may not have been aware of the pictographs at all. So there is a real need for the climbing community to be connected with local indigenous communities and cultural managers to reduce the potential negative aspects of the activity and to maximize benefits to all. A "manifest climbing destiny" attitude will ultimately strangle the activity we all cherish. You sometimes have to give up a bit to get more and that is not such a big deal. Frankly, it has nothing to do with being right or in otherwards saying that the rock has been there for a few million years before any humans ever saw it and therefore that somehow yields a ticket to ride. Not much satisfaction on being right and being in a train wreck, eh?!

The only other points I would make is that most climbers are totally responsible and many I would commit to being the most rabid conservationists on the planet. Every year the US Access society raises funds, acquires lands threatened by develop and often adds them to national or state parks. On the other hand there are a lot of conservationists who are not climbers, and frankly couldn't give a piper's damn whether any climbers climbed any rock, anytime. Those types are not necessarily our friends!
One of our local notables has gone so far as to say that there should be lots of area that no humans are ever allowed to enter - period . Pretty mindnumbing stuff. Especially when these blokes usually attempt to co-opt indigenous folks to their game but I can tell you that position is not one that Indigenous folks subscribe to here - they
want wise and thoughtful management and sustainable utilization of the landscape .They do not talk about putting it on a museum shelf which would certainly be a death warrant for the real estate and living organisms within it.

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