A Canyon Care Taking (or not) Perspective
From an invitation from Iceaxe to bump this thread:
Boasting a fully packed canyoneering agenda this Spring, I come away from this last trip with a sour taste in my mouth. I’m struggling to digest it and the reflux of it drives me to write my perspective to this forum venue and invite others to share, please.
I admit a bias, before I even begin this thread. I am one of the oldies who “gorged” “back in the day”. I am honored to have co-pioneered some of the canyons that have become popular today and have now been visited by hundreds. I cannot make my tongue give up the old names for canyons done by my friends and I (Kalideoscope, Edge of the Earth, Tight & Nasty ASP, etc.). I have however, lost most of my strong attachment to the regret that so many folks are visiting these places; until this last trip. You see; we did not have beta, openly scorned guide book authors and their inquiries, kept our exploits private and never wrote trip reports or shared photos. Frankly, there were few who ever asked. As a result, most of the early canyons were left “undiscovered” and therefore remained pristine from human impact for years, in some cases, for decades.
Ironically, this year, I have mostly traveled through the canyons in a pack. Gang raping the canyons as one of my old “gorging” partners puts it. While this may baffle some of my old pals, it has been a source of delight for me and has opened my mind to wonderful new perspectives and techniques, over 100 new canyons, and literally hordes of wonderful new friends.
I never really understood that term, “gang raping the canyon” until just a few days ago while traveling down Larry Canyon, in The Roost. Sadly, now I understand the term and fully appreciate my friend’s concern.
Here’s a part of the story. While waiting at our trucks for the shuttle vehicle to return, Tony and I were passed by two other groups headed to the canyon. As it turned out, there were four or five groups in there that day. This was my first experience of seeing others in a canyon. Yes, you may be justified in saying, “Welcome to Reality, duh!” Still, it was a bit of a shock. At the first rappel, we found over two dozen distinct rope grooves and a lazy anchor placement which ensured more. Dean, Amy and Tony swapped and lengthened the webbing anchor while Ram and I set up a SandTrap with hose and leather to protect both our rappel rope and the pull. We continued down canyon noticing several more thoughtless placements and saw-blade edges from the many rope grooves everywhere. We repaired, replaced and reset anchors where ever we could. We pulled and patched two bolts at a rappel where safe natural anchors were abundant.
The really disheartening discovery was the senseless graffiti carved into the canyon walls by a group ahead of us. We sanded and buffed these out still leaving a mar on the wall. We hoped and failed to catch up with the culprits. More etchings were found at the final rappel. “We were here”. “So were we.” I may have felt more interest in their passage had they the courage to carve into Larry’s flank, “We are careless idiots who were here on May 16th and have no respect for this place or your private experience”. They didn’t even have the date correct and left us with the notion they were coming in the future.
A key focus (if not the dominate one) of my particular canyoneering pack of wonderful folks this Spring has been in working to progress tools and techniques of the Leave-No-Trace (or as little as possible)ethic in the canyons we explored and visited. The SandTrap has proven its value as a versatile, quick and reliable anchor and a water holding insert was tested and will soon to be shared with all interested. A variety of protection tools has proven to reduce and/or eliminate rope grooves and ideas for repairing damage are in the works. Committed folks are out in the canyons rigorously working to protect and care for the canyons. What can be done about the folks that are blind to the consequences of NOT caring and the damage that is done by this care less attitude?
Are the oldies but good gorgers of the past truly justified in the claim that canyoneering has and is ruining our canyons? Is there justifiable hope that the guides, guidebooks, trip leaders, individuals who are committed to education and solution for the issues of destruction in the canyons will make an impact to turn the tide of ignorance and blatant carelessness? What else can be done? Do you personally care and what are you seeing positively or negatively out there this season?
05-19-2011 02:52 PM
Interesting write up.
Nice write up Jenny. Unfortunately Pandora's box has been opened, never to be closed in our lifetimes. The movie 127, just multiplied the evil(if you will) coming out of the box.
Education is the only answer, but it will ultimately fall on deaf ears, people don't want to be educated to get themselves safely through a canyon, yet alone get through with some kind of taught ethic.
There is a "small" minority who put forth the time and often money to learn both an ethic as well as the technical nuances of canyoneering but again, they are few.
Personally, I'm far from an environmental zealot or activist but I consider myself a good steward of the land. I hate seeing simple disregard, such as granola wrappers, tp, beer cans, broken bottles, etc.
This litter just adds to the scarring that is found in canyons.
The masses are here and here to stay. They will be multiplying exponentially. What can be done? I for one, don't know.
All we are left with is that which is in the bottom of Pandora's box/jar.
The box has been opened and cant be shut. The same issue exist for caves, secret camp spots, hang gliding paragliding spots, etc. There is a reason most of us share spots with others only when they come along and you can lead by example.
Same thing I do with my scouts when we go out. I am always soo worried that when we come across others in the middle of nowhere and another party sees myself and a small group of Scouts, that they will find we are doing something wrong. But I am doing my best and so are my assistants and we are trying to train young boys how to do it right so that when a bunch of their buddies do the same thing in the future, the boys will at least know how it should be done.
So to end my ramble, keep up the awesome canyoneering, and share you experiences w/o giving us GPS coords for the area! Someday I hope to do a canyon with those who know to do it right!!!
PS having never been in a "REAL" canyon, I am not qualified to discuss this matter.....
Bottom Tier Superhero
I have to say, I love the term "gang raping the canyon", what a perfect description. I've never understood this method of madness myself, although I have been guilty of it a time or two. I have always preferred to do canyons as a pair or a small group.
And while you look at the days of "gorging" in a romantic light the original pioneers spread their share of destruction... I have seen much of their work where canyons were engineered and hammered into submission with bolts, embedded rebar, chopped holds, fabricated hooks and ladders. Heck, even the original canyoneers, the Anasazi, chopped Moki steps into the canyon walls. These practices are now frowned upon and avoid by modern canyoneers.
Now days if someone hammered a canyon into submission the way Imlay, Heaps or the Squeeze were they would be e-tarred and e-feathered by the modern canyoneering community.
As for the graffiti..... You can't fix stupid.