ABC Bulletin No.2
VIOLATIONS ARE A COMMUNITY DISSERVICE
Whether we like it or not, climbing is now a regulated public activity in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). The Refuge's fixed anchor regulations were designed to insure that rock climbing remains a compatible recreational use of Refuge lands. Conversely, failure to abide by these regulations is not only against the law, its counterproductive and a serious disservice to the climbing community, as demonstrated by the following incidents:
1) Lichen Wall Belay Station Placed without Authorization
Sometime before August 1999, a belay station was installed above Fool's Aid on Lichen Wall without authorization. Failure to follow proper permitting procedures resulted in the removal of this belay. Less time spent circumventing the law and more time spent following guidelines would have been more productive. Especially since installing new fixed belay stations to existing routes is often justifiable (i.e., approved) from a resource perspective and usually appropriate in cases where rappelling the route results in less trail erosion or impact than downclimbing or hiking off of the back side.
2) ZooWall Belay Stations Replaced without Authorization
Sometime between June and August 1999, the two belay stations on top of Zoo Wall were replaced without authorization. To make matters worse, the illicit hardware was inconsistent with natural resource criteria. For example, the rappel chains were painted bright yellow instead of the natural color of the rock. Failure to follow proper permitting procedures resulted in the removal of this hardware. This type of incident is particularly annoying, as bolt upgrades (i.e., replacing bolt for bolt in the same location) is promoted by Refuge Management and usually approved through proper channels. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), aware that the original belays serviced one of the most popular user destinations in the Refuge, granted approval to install proper belay anchors in their place.
3) Echo Dome Bolts and Hangers Removed without Authorization
Sometime in October 1999, more than twenty bolts and hangers were illegally removed from several routes on Echo Dome, a formation located northwest of Tiny Bubbles in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area. Theft of fixed hardware, while rare, is a serious offense that can negatively impact many users who frequent a particular route or area. Fortunately in this case, approval was granted to the first ascensionist to re-equip these routes.
4) Belay Stations Added to Lost Dome, Hidden Wall and Crab Eyes without Authorization
Sometime in May 2001, unauthorized belay stations were placed above Women on Mopeds on Lost Dome, Serpentine on Hidden Wall, and Steep Show on Lost Dome. These were the first reported occurrences of illegal bolt placements in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area. These incidents were most likely the work of one individual, and are especially troubling in light of the Refuge's current moratorium on the placement of new fixed anchors in the wilderness area. At this critical time when the National Forest Service and Department of Interior Agencies are in the process of finalizing decisions on climbers use of fixed anchors in all designated wilderness areas, incidents like these not only jeopardize our right to place fixed anchors in the future in Charons Garden, but in any wilderness climbing area in the country. Following a review of these incidents by Refuge Management and the ABC, the illegal belay anchors were removed.