6 Ways To Be An Environmentally Friendly Climber

©istockphoto/AlexBrylovRock climbing as a recreational sport has grown immensely over the past few years; there are now roughly 436 gyms open in North America. As more people flock to popular crags around the world, it’s important to work even harder to reduce the damage we’re creating in our wake. Here are a few tips for becoming a more environmentally friendly climber.

Clear the chalk
If you’ve been to some of the crags around places like Boulder, Colorado recently, you might’ve noticed that the rocks are starting to resemble graffiti-laced warehouses in the Bronx more than they resemble a part of nature. All of the white stuff dotting the environment isn’t pretty, which is why we should reduce the amount we use and leave behind. Take a spritzer, toothbrush and water with you next time you climb and try and remove some chalk, whether it’s yours or not.

No more pruning
Some climbers, the bouldering type in particular, have a nasty habit of clearing out brush underneath a climb so they can place their pads. When you do that, you’re clearing out some creature’s natural habitat. Instead, find a spot where you can gently use a string to pull the branch back to make room if possible. Otherwise, consider picking another spot to climb.

Stick to the trails
There are generally trails set in place to reach the most popular climbing routes in any area. Some climbers prefer to seek out shortcuts and use their feet to make new ones, disrupting the local wildlife’s home to shave off a couple minutes of walking. Slow down and stick to the most heavily used trails even if it takes longer to get there. Trust us, the route will still be there when you arrive.

Become a pick up artist
As in, pick up your damn trash. It’s fine to slam some granola on the trail, but it’s not cool to leave it there for the birds to clean up. Newsflash: animals don’t eat plastic. When you’re done with a route or boulder, take a couple of minutes to circle the area and pick up your leftover trash that might’ve fallen to the ground, and maybe, if you’re feeling up to it,  pick up any extra trash you see lying around.

Use eco-friendly equipment
Most climbing gear is already fairly friendly to the environment, so this isn’t as big of an issue as some people try to make it. You still want to choose gear that’ll last for a long time instead of opting for cheap crap. This is especially true for shoes – always aim for synthetic over leather to minimize the impact on wildlife. There are even some outfitters selling specialized climbing ropes that are better for the environment. Look around and do your research before making a purchase and you might even save a squirrel or something.

Remove old bolts
Nobody wants to climb on a rusty bolt that’s seen one too many whippers for its time. Unfortunately, some climbers either don’t know how to properly replace bolts or just don’t care. Instead of leaving an old bolt and drilling a new hole nearby, take out the old one and use the same hole; if you have to widen it to fit a modern anchor, that’s fine. In fact, it’s preferable.

These are just simple, baby steps toward becoming a more environmentally conscious climber that’ll help us all in the long run. If you can think of more ways to reduce a climber’s carbon footprint, don’t hesitate to share with your friends and community.