Flatiron Climbing Council

Posted on 27. May, 2010 by in News

Tuesday I was called upon to meet with some heads for the Flatiron Climbing Council, a volunteer organization. Their goal is to build a stewardship and education program targeting the community at large and initially bouldering areas.

“In an effort to educate local climbers of the impacts of their land usage and the consequences of those impacts, the Flatirons Climbing Council is undertaking a new outreach program. The FCC believes that through an multi-intervention stewardship and education campaign, we can: mitigate some of the environmental and social impacts of climbers; build our local climbing community and empower more environmental stewards; build stronger relationships with other Flatirons user groups and City of Boulder OSMP.”

Scott Rennak, former head of the ABS and Crater Holds is spearheading the project. Most of the meeting focused on how to get the word out to the youth, and the gym culture at large, that the preservation of our climbing resources is important. There were a lot of great ideas and I think the first meeting was a success. I will be using my position at the gym to work towards getting our Junior Team involved, and hopefully the Junior Teams at The Spot and the Boulder Rock Club as well. I also suggested that it was important to try and involve sponsored and professional athletes in the kinds of things the FCC hopes to put on (Trail Days, Trash Clean-ups, etc).
Some interesting questions were asked and the responses were all over the place, so beyond just providing information about the meeting, I was hoping to generate some discussion about these issues. Do gym climbers today feel less interested in the environmental concerns surrounding climbing outside? Is it the responsibility of professional climbers like Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson to get themselves involved in activities and organizations like this? Will that generate interest from other climbers? What are some good ways to involve not just the youth, but to empower all climbers to get involved in such organizations?
Scott is a great leader and has proven himself time and again to grow and develop positive organizations in the climbing community. I think he will do the same here.

10 Responses to “Flatiron Climbing Council”

  1. peter beal

    27. May, 2010

    Obviously I had to leave the meeting early but I will be contacting Scott about my views regarding his summary of the discussion. First I don’t think the young team climbers are the problem as they have usually been educated by adults on these issues for quite a while. The main problem is usually adult climbers who are either unaware about impact issues or don’t care. I have seen this pattern repeated many times over at Flagstaff, RMNP, Evans, etc. I am not sure that “professional” climbers will have much of an impact on this demographic.

    While I agree that climbers whose experience is solely based on the gym may initially be more of a problem, I think the bigger problem is self-policing across the board. When I recall the nonsense that was said a few years ago defending pad-stashing, it was clear that only strong direct peer pressure would be effective in quashing that practice. And interestingly enough, that seemed to work.

    I don’t think the issue is one of empowerment as much as climbers taking responsibility for their attitudes and actions. Climbers like to retain the illusion of individuality and independence whether they are climbing at busy and crowded areas or isolated and fragile ones and this often results in environmentally destructive behavior.

    I think the most effective tactic in the most vulnerable areas is having actual volunteers on the ground, representing the land management agencies or climber groups, who can act as ambassadors and guides. This to my mind is the most difficult but most useful step that climbers can take to improve climber behavior. I hate to say it but can you imagine what Hueco would be like now without guides or visitor limits?

    Given the popularity of the sport in the Front Range, all climbers should be maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem every time they boulder outside. The “cool” factor in bouldering should be focused on this aspect as much as any other.

  2. Conrad

    27. May, 2010

    Way to go Jamie
    I don’t even live there but love to hear about this kind of stuff. Get the kids involved, everyone benefits.

  3. Chuck

    27. May, 2010

    I heard that all the competitors in the Battle of the Bubble were asked to help out at a trail day on the day after the comp, and it was a huge success.

  4. B3

    27. May, 2010

    Peter thanks, I agree with basically everything you said. I guess by empowerment I meant that climbers are empowered to care. It’s hard to deny the impact of getting it into the heads of the young ones. And we talked about having ground volunteers too. Sorry things couldn’t work out for you, I think you could have really offered some insight. It was a very positive meeting, I thought.

  5. sidepull

    27. May, 2010


    Awesome post. Here’s a thought: The onus is on the gyms. Gyms attract most people to climbing, they make it seem easy and safe and provide an environment for people to improve in a dramatically short amount of time. All of these things are great. The problem is that gyms generally don’t share in the responsibility of educating climbers about the outside aspects of climbing. The result is that most new climbers try to export gym ethics – someone will clean up after me, I can mark up this boulder like the taped problem inside, where’s the loud music?, why should I stay on a trail?, etc. – and this leads to a rapid decline in outside ethics, particularly “Leave No Trace” (LNT) practices and general respect of others. What’s the solution? As part of belay tests or preliminary videos or any other socialization tool gyms use for first timers, they should be required to include a bit on LNT and explicitly note that the rock is not the gym and needs to be treated differently. If all gyms were doing this, we’d have a more educated generation of climbers. Big climbing companies should push for this, the Access Fund should push for this, Climbing mags should push for it, someone should certify gyms to make sure they do it.

    In sum, I’d love to see the stars have a bigger presence, but the gyms are the gateway and the moment a potential new climber walks in the door is the pre-eminent teaching moment. As a sport we’ve missed out on that opportunity for at least two decades now and, in the long run, that just won’t cut it.

    Gyms need to be accountable and proactive in sustaining a positive outdoor climbing culture.


  6. John

    27. May, 2010

    I think getting the youth involved as early as possble will help, it may take a few years for them to muture and understand, but lets teach them while they are young and they can improve and pass it on to the next generation.

    I also think Sidepull hit the nail on the head with People trying to export indoor ethics out side, Education is the key here. I know there are a few trail clean up days with raffles, and what ever. But what if all the local gyms orginized their own clean up days & promoted it with a one month free, punch pass, Etc. just something that would be very intising on getting the gym ratts out there to help make a difference?

  7. seth

    28. May, 2010

    +1 to everything Peter said.

  8. Nietzsche

    28. May, 2010

    Has pad stashing been a problem in the Flatirons?

    I am sure Jamie is aware of the controversy at Evans and RMNP and has been an outspoken member of the community against these practices. Does this extend to the Flatirons?

  9. B3

    28. May, 2010

    I am outspoken against stashing pads in areas where it threatens access, like the Park and Evans. In areas like Squamish, MagicWood etc it’s not an issue, so each area has it’s own parameters. In the Flatirons, the rangers take a very proactive attitude towards climbing and it is heavily regulated.

  10. Peter J.

    29. May, 2010

    Pad stashing has been a problem in the Flatirons. Not so much now, but I’ve seen pads stashed at every major area in the Flatirons/Eldo.

    The bigger problems these days are dogs, stashed ropes, excessive cleaning, and landscaping around landings.

    I agree with Peter B. and Sidepull. I also agree that more outreach is needed. For example, this is the first I’ve heard of this initiative.

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