Biden Administration to ban most rock anchors used by climbers in federal wilderness lands

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The federal government says you can rock climb, but you just can’t use traditional techniques of setting anchors.

The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service released draft climbing management directives late last year, proposing a major shift in the regulation of fixed climbing anchors within wilderness areas. Alaska has 57.5 million acres of designated federal wilderness area, and a large rock-climbing community.

These directives, which have sparked controversy among outdoor enthusiasts and climbing organizations, could render all fixed climbing anchors illegal until they are individually reviewed and approved by land management agencies. The public has until Jan. 30 to comment on the new proposals.

Under the proposals, the term “fixed anchors” includes all permanent or left-behind protection, including bolts, rap rings, slung trees, stuck nuts, and even snow pickets, such as those used by climbers on Alaska’s Mount Denali.

The directives categorize these anchors as “installations,” a designation historically used to describe objects like paved roads, fire towers, buildings, bridges, and landfills.

According to the 1964 Wilderness Act, installations are automatically prohibited within wilderness areas, but they can be permitted on a case-by-case basis through what is called a minimum requirement analysis.

Instead of assuming that fixed anchors are permitted, subject to approval, the directives presume that all anchors in wilderness areas are illegal, possibly even if they were installed before the Wilderness Act. The anchors would be subject to either removal or non-replacement until federal workers have resources to conduct a minimum requirement analysis, critics say. But the directive notes that existing anchors can remain until they are analyzed.

Historically and currently, specialized anchoring equipment and ropes are used while climbing to reduce the risk of a fall. The new directive, while it affirms that “climbing is a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness” and that “the occasional placement of a fixed anchor for belay, rappel, or protection purposes does not necessarily impair the future enjoyment of wilderness or violate the Wilderness Act,” also says “the establishment of bolt-intensive face climbs is considered incompatible with wilderness preservation.” It has extensive verbiage that describes the bad aspects of anchors, and how using a drill to set an anchor disrupts the quiet solitude of the wilderness.

The Director’s Order 41 §7.2 also states that “fixed anchors or fixed equipment should be rare in wilderness” and that ‘“clean climbing” techniques should be the norm in wilderness. The directive indicates that climbing ice falls or rock faces in federal wilderness land may have to be done without setting anchors, which renders the sport too dangerous.

“This Reference Manual 41 directive clarifies that fixed anchors and fixed equipment (hereinafter referred to as ‘fixed anchors’) are a type of installation under §4(c) of the Wilderness Act, consistent with the definition of that term in Reference Manual 41 §3.1 as ‘anything made by humans that is not intended for human occupation and is left unattended or left behind when the installer leaves the wilderness.’ Fixed anchors fall into this definition because they are installed and remain in place long after the installer has left. Although fixed anchors may be small, there is no ‘de minimis’ exception to the Wilderness Act’s restriction on installations, and the combined impact of many fixed anchors in a single area or rock wall can have a significant effect on wilderness character. Therefore, fixed anchors constitute a prohibited use pursuant to the Wilderness Act §4(c) and may only be authorized if they are determined to be “necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of [The Wilderness Act]” through a minimum requirements analysis (MRA),” the new directive explains.

Read the National Park Service planning document and provide comments at this link.

35 COMMENTS

  1. Another day in which we must endure the Biden Administration.
    AND(!!!) … Another day in which we must endure another Absurdity!

  2. Just outlaw regular people from the national parks. Save us all time.

    Is there anything Grandpa Bloodstains can’t F up? Anything?

  3. How WILL the socialist leftists respond to their government telling them how they can live? Many of their crowd are outdoor extremists.

    • That was my first reaction, but then I remembered that leftists can’t ever get governed hard enough. I’m sure the rock climbers will come up with a less invasive solution to pursue their passion. Anyway, they will die doing what they love.

  4. Traditional methods include removing anchors as you descend, the rule codifies traditional methods of leaving no trace

    • Frank, it all sounds so reasonable, this removal as you desend, but how will it be enforced? Will Park Rangers require each anchor have an embedded chip that sends out a GPS signal or simply require each anchor have a serial number with mandatory inventory when entering and departing the Park?

      Details Frank, the devil is always in the details, or as in this case, the White House.

  5. WOW!!! Way to gooo…The Biden administration taking on the most important threats to America 🇺🇸 This surly will put you creeps on top of the heap for the 2024 campaign!!! TRUMP 2024🇺🇸🇮🇱

  6. Many of these “installations” are in very dangerous and precarious areas. Who will remove them? I guess if you throw enough money at something it can happen.

  7. This means far-left progressive, Patagonia-clad climbers with man buns will be forced to free climb and die. So … what’s the problem?

    • Patagonia advocates for leave no trace principals and not installing anchors in wilderness areas, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say they and their customers won’t be too upset.

  8. Just continued overreach from an Administration that cannot achieve or resolve any legitimate issue our country faces. As a retired climber who enjoyed rock, ice and alpine this is just crazy. The Alaskan climbing community has always been first and foremost, defenders of the wilderness areas where we climb.

  9. Enforcement might be very expensive and restrictive to those who seek the wilderness to escape from this Etonian administration. This mind bending micromanaging of everything has no place here. The seemingly innocent societies and organizations that compete for your heartfelt donations have a hidden agenda and play a large role in pushing these ideas under the cover of what seems a good cause at face value. You then are represented by them and complicit in all of their lobbying campaigns.

    • A big Jimmy Carter (D) accomplishment, and Tony Knowles (D) sold Alaska out to the feds by not suing. Now we are a big national park/monument/refuge/forest.
      Sometime read “A Land Gone Lonely”. It will make your blood boil.

  10. I am no liberal hippy lefty kook Democrat environmentalist.

    But I agree with this. So many bad climbers out there setting ridiculous sport routes and setting anchors without thought.

    Full disclosure: I hammered pins back in the day to A3. I have learned over the years how destructive this can be.

    • If you couldn’t see them a 1/4 mile away without
      binoculars they are not a problem. As for not
      being a liberal hippy lefty kook Democrat
      environmentalist, I don’t believe you !!

  11. I wish that the haters will stick to their word: “Like it, or leave it”. Dudes, just move out of Alaska and the U.S.A.

  12. There are certain mountains in several national parks where fixed anchors might properly be regulated, and El Capitan of Yosemite NP is one such place. The Cassin Ridge of Denali? – now, that would be ridiculous. And the Biden administration is entirely ridiculous.

  13. Rocks are the new “Endangered Species” for these derelicts at Biden’s NPS. The dumbest bureaucrats ever.

  14. I hope the climbing community takes stock on what this means for their sport. When is the Biden Administration going to outlaw people? That would be in line with the diktat of the World Economic Forum, who want mankind reduced to a more manageable 500,000.

  15. Next, a multi million dollar contract to remove those offensive bolts. Please send a list of your donations, er, qualifications with your proposal.

  16. Maybe all the roads and trails accessing places like Yellowstone will also have to be removed. There’s plenty of work to do to make sure people can’t access beautiful places unless they are in optimal condition.

  17. Ok my very few climbing years are now decades ago so any climbers may correct me. Fixed anchors not only can be life saving (oh wait, can’t have that….) but it sure seems far less ‘invasive’ than myriads of temporary bolts and anchorage constantly being hammered into rock and crevasses. This is far more about power and control (and maybe population diminishment) than any concern for the environment.

  18. Just another law that won’t be followed or enforced except by those chosen few. You know, like can’t “carry” in certain prohibited places.

  19. In the immortal words of the Irish Gangster Rap Crew, House of Pain, “It ain’t a crime if you don’t get caught”

  20. Glad we could solve the rock anchor crisis. Meanwhile, the rest of American goes bankrupt as communists and Hamas protest in the streets unimpeded and un-prosecuted.

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