NPS Considers New Bolting Policy

Posted on: January 22, 2010

From The Access Fund:

"National Park Service Releases New Wilderness Policy on Climbing Fixed Anchors

After years of anticipation and direct advocacy by the Access Fund, the National Park Service has released an updated draft of its wilderness management policies in order to provide accountability, consistency, and continuity in its wilderness stewardship program. The update covers a wide range of topics including the long-waited-for provisions specific to climbing fixed anchors. Iconic climbing areas in the U.S.—including as Yosemite, Zion, Black Canyon, and Rocky Mountain national parks—would be governed by this new policy.


The proposed policy acknowledges that climbing is a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness and that each park with significant wilderness climbing activities must prepare a climbing management plan. However, the policy calls for climbing to be restricted or prohibited if unacceptable impacts to wilderness resources or character occur.

This proposed policy recognizes that the occasional placement of a fixed anchor for belay, rappel, or protection purposes does not necessarily impair wilderness, but it requires prior authorization for the placement of new fixed anchors (replacements or removals may also require park approval). The requirements and process for authorization are to be laid out in each park's climbing management plan.

The practical outcome of this proposed policy is that climbers would need a permit or some other authorization prior to the hand-placement of new bolts in any national park wilderness area. Most parks currently require no such prior-approval. The public will have 60 days to comment on this proposed policy revision. The Access Fund is currently analyzing the policy and working on an advocacy strategy. Stay tuned to Access Fund E-news for our position statement and an action alert for climber comments."

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A positive step here...some of the old policies were terrible.

2011-01-24 08:34:38

This new law would essentially make ground-up in-a-push style ascents illegal, unless there is a way to descend and/or bail without leaving fixed anchors.

How do you get a permit to place fixed anchors on a route nobody has ever climbed? Do I need to rap in from the top first and plan out all the placements so I can submit an application like the Eldo format? Are we now only able to climb formations that have established descent routes? In certain parks, this may force the end of climbing in good style. Though, more likely, it will just force climbers to break the law.

I love how they say the details of the permit process are TBD. Climbers should demand to see those details before passing judgment on this law. The devil is in the details, and how the permit process is handled makes an enormous difference on the impact it will have on climbing.

2011-01-24 04:51:10

I think that this is a solid compromise that is going to help pace how many bolts are placed and replaced. So many "environmentally responsible" climbers in their eco-friendly clothes and toyota prius want more federal regulation to protect the environment, UNLESS it affects their ability to work on bolting another "totally rad proj... maybe the area's first 13b/c!"

I can get behind this plan.

2011-01-22 05:17:56
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