Cave Rock Closed Permanently

Posted on: March 6, 2008

A climbing ban has been enforced on Cave Rock, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, on February 28, 2008, after ten years of access negotiations. So far the bolts that were put up on this sport crag remain unchopped. [Photo] Abel Jones

Over ten years of battles and negotiations came to a close on February 28 when US Forest Supervisor Terri Mason signed an order to enforce a permanent climbing ban at Cave Rock on the shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The volcanic rock is home to many steep sport routes mostly in the 5.12-5.13 range.

The dispute started in 1997 with complaints from the local Washoe Native American tribe. The Washoe's complaints sparked controversy because they included an objection to women touching the rock. Access Fund marketing director Robb Shurr explained, "The actual rock is considered holy by the Washoe tribe. They originally wanted to ban women entirely from the area, but the Forest Service would obviously not allow it."


There also were protests to the amount of trash left around, the bolting of the rock and the heavily chalked holds that supposedly altered the natural state of the rock. These complaints had more traction, and the Forest Service enacted a climbing ban that was upheld in court in 2003.

In 2005, members of the Access Fund decided to appeal the decision on the basis that the climbing ban was unconstitutional. "The closure was first based on a cultural belief which is why it went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals," Shurr said, "but the judge upheld the closure on the grounds that Cave Rock has historical significance."

Hiking, fishing and picnicking are still allowed on and around the paved floor of Cave Rock. U.S. Highway 50 runs through a dynamited tunnel a few feet away from the climbing area.

As of now the bolts remain unchopped, and there are no formal plans to remove them. Angry climbers via internet forums vow to increase their climbing activity in protest to the ban despite the consequences. However, Shurr and the Access Fund urge climbers to heed the closure because "it is in our long term interests that climbers be agreeable and respectful."

Sources: Robb Shurr,,

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.


hmm, does any member of the tribe actually still practice their former belief system, and does their culture still solvent. Are you really going to stand up for a group who believes that women profane the rock, when the highway didn't... Also isn't this a case of one Religions point of view being forced upon the rest of us... Climb it!

2008-03-16 19:58:13

sacred...until hollywood shows up with a wad of cash for a film permit

2008-03-16 08:37:13
Father Finigin

Often we forget that there are things other than the 'rock' that need addressing. Ones's desire to be challenged with difficulties is blinds anything else of importance. a philosopher by the name of L. Ron Hubbard wrote about the two rules for happy living - 'Be willing to experience anything' and 'Create only those effects that others can experience easily'.

Evidently the Washoe Indians feel that there were effects that were created that others (they) couldn't experience easily and it might be out of that respect that individuals like the Access Fund might stand back and look at this from the indians viewpoint for once. God knows the American people have taken enough of their property to last an eternity. Would allowing them to have a sacred ground respected be too much to ask?

I think that a project of volunteer climbers to return the rock as much as possible to its original state wouldn't be too much to ask nor too difficult. If you want to climb something difficult, climb El Cap!

2008-03-13 20:26:15

I guess this is what we get for bolting the shit out of a sacred place. Just because they're native American doesn't mean they don't count. At least the NFS is standing up for them where the Gov and BIA have failed. Would you like it if some spandex-clad asshole grid-bolted the ceiling of your church?

Chop 'em

2008-03-12 20:08:13

oak flat. mushroom boulder. cave rock. another "victory" for the Access Fund! donate today!

2008-03-11 16:49:33

Formal Record of Decision & other info located at the USFS site:

Thanks Robb & The AF for all that you do ~

2008-03-07 00:58:54

Wow, that was very interesting and informative. Excellent reporting!!

2008-03-07 00:08:44
Post a Comment

Login with your username and password below.
New User? Here's what to do.

Forgot your username or password?