Private Property

Posted on 21. Mar, 2012 by in News

One issue that hasn’t been discussed here is the issue of climbing on private property. Often times, especially in America, amazing boulders are found on land not accessible to the public. Here in Colorado the classic example is Gross Reservoir. Turn that Frown Upside Down V12 and Singular Objective V11 are two of the best granite problems in the state. These problems were put up “legally”, when the land was open to the public. In 2002, public access to the area was closed, (as I recall, its access is restricted in part due laws put in place that came about as a repercussion of 9/11). On a number of occasions climbers have tried to sneak into the area to climb the problems, but often with little success, and the people who have been caught trying to poach these problems could read like a who’s who list of top American climbers. No one has yet been prosecuted, but a number of stern warnings have been handed down. It is not my intention to call those out who have made this choice. It would be hypocritical of me to suggest that I have never climbed on private property. I have, and yet I continue to have mixed feelings about the issue.

Of course having that one special problem be “closed” can make it seem all the more valuable and difficult to attain. And sometimes the land is not heavily patrolled, making a quick ascent relatively easy and safe. It seems that climbing on private property (where the landowners do not approve) should be a definite no, however many climbers continue to break this rule in pursuit of their passion. It doesn’t seem they are hurting anyone, yet, if caught, they are setting a poor example for other climbers and are perhaps threatening access to areas that are open. That example is amplified when they publicize their ascent online for the world to see. What is the responsibility of climbers and filmmakers to show problems that are on private property?

It is also important to note that in Colorado, (as far as I know) it is legal for landowners to shoot at trespassers. I know several climbers who have been shot at with rock salt. Are these risks worth a rare and elusive tick?

Should climbing on private property remain as it is currently, as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” activity? Is it ever ok to hop a fence to tick that amazing and historical classic? Does the trespasser simply take matters into their own hands, and have the responsibility of dealing with the repercussions? How does that responsibility reflect on to the community, of which they are undeniably a part of? Thoughts?

34 Responses to “Private Property”

  1. Will

    21. Mar, 2012

    In SoCal, the class Mt. Baldy boulders are on private land, as is the approach. After a non-climber who was rock hopping in the area injured him/herself, and successfully sued the landowner, the landowner closed the area to climbing. Despite this closure, climbers have repeatedly snuck into the area to try and tick these problems. The result? The landowner covered every hold he could reach with tractor grease, rendering the problems unclimable for a long, long time.

    Stay out of private land. There are plenty of other places to climb, and as wrong-headed, silly, or unnecessary as climbers think a closure might be, breaking the rules endangers access in other areas. Incidentally, most landowners are significantly MORE likely to eventually open their land to climbing if they feel as though the climbing community is acting respectfully and safely.

  2. Doug Lipinski

    21. Mar, 2012

    Interesting topic. For my part, I think building positive relationships with land owners is only going to become more important as climbing gains popularity. Trespassers reflect badly on the whole community and I think we should all try to discourage that. I can’t think of a single situation where “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a good long term solution for anything.

    In general, excessive use of force against a mere trespasser is illegal. Typically the trespasser would have to enter the actual home and the owner must believe that his/her life is in danger to have any legal protection. I believe that your friends that have been shot at could potentially file suits against the land owners, not that that would be much comfort if you actually *were* shot…

    Here’s the law in Colorado:

  3. Beau

    21. Mar, 2012


  4. B3

    21. Mar, 2012

    Doug, thanks for the links. I was only going off hearsay.

  5. B3

    21. Mar, 2012

    I expect the responses on this will be that across the board, climbers feel it is irresponsible to trespass. But the reality is that several well known areas are on private property and climbers continue to go there and continue to spray about it on the web. So why is there a disconnect?

  6. Crafty

    22. Mar, 2012

    Jamie, good post. I’m in the same boat of having climbed on private property in the past. I don’t really enjoy tresspassing but, as you said, it’s hard to pass up classic problems.

    In general, I think climbers do, as a group, feel “entitled” to climb on the rock. All of the complaining I hear about the restrictions at Hueco or here in CO when (for a short while) the state required a permit to climb on state lands really bring this home. Or when people go to areas that require pay parking (Carter Lake, for example) yet risk a ticket by not purchasing a pass. There are examples everywhere. I don’t know why this attitude persists or what can be done to change it, but it’s there.

  7. cardboard_dog

    22. Mar, 2012

    Jamie I think you are right about climbers, across the board, not being comfortable trespassing. However .. i would like to add a point of view probably not thought of by a west coaster who has access to unlimited boulders and rockclimbing in general .. The EAST coast.

    Now.. there are some decent places to climb, but if you live in the wrong area on the east coast, anything worth climbing is hours away. And in my case, I know of MANY boulders .. many .. that are on private land. As a matter of fact, almost every area that holds any potential whatsoever for having even one boulder is on private property. And in Hunterdon County NJ and I believe in many parts of the state, they have outlawed climbing all together. So, with this in mind, knowing then landowners don’t use the land in many cases, and in others they simply don’t want people hunting on their property, I don’t feel as guilty poaching boulders. I never feel right crossing privae property, but in NJ, most decent places to be outdoor are on private property and certainly many boulders are off limits. What can you do? I would never tell anyone to poach, but in CO there is nearly unlimited access to climbing so poaching is borderline idiotic. However, in NJ there is virtually NO access to bouldering due to most property in NJ being privately owned. In that case, I actually get annoyed that people would buy and keep such limited resources to outdoor activities to themselves.

  8. keu

    22. Mar, 2012

    No good can come from trespassing. The choicest problems in the world (Witness the Fitness? Gioia?) might be out there calling your name, but you gotta get permission. Trespassing only leads to a downward spiral. And finally… don’t frickin’ sue someone if you hurt your ass climbing on private property. In that case, you deserve to be shot and not just by rock salt.

  9. Matt

    22. Mar, 2012

    Not that there should be, but there is a difference mentally regarding state private property and someones backyard (albeit a couple hundred acres of their backyard.) There is less risk on the state land than the citizen’s land and I think that causes a line to be blurred.

    I am not saying it is okay to trespass if it is state land, but if one does it once, they might do it again. If they do again, they might dive in a little further. Eventually they come to the point where they might cross into that private land and can cause problems.

    In my opinion, just ask. Make friends with the home owner. Buy them a drink or something. There is an article in an old Climbing Magazine about Fred Rhouling. He talks about Akira (I believe) being on private property or having to cross through private property to get to it or something and he carried a bottle of wine with him in case. Small things like just communicating your wishes and being respectful go a long way. If everyone would start asking instead of trespassing, I guarentee there would be a lot less hostility and more rock to climb. It wouldn’t disappear entirely, but you probably wouldn’t be shot at as often.

    Then there is the issue about areas that are leased. Currently in Pennsylvania, one of the premier boulder areas just reopened last year after being closed for a long while. They ask everyone to either purchase a day pass or buy a membership card for the year. It costs less than a month membership at most gyms but it’s to help with the lease and allow continued access. Why would you trespass illegaly, threatening the existence of climbing in the area, over pocket change?

    In short, I believe people should just respect private land. There is near infinite rock on this planet. Go climb on that. I also believe that, as a climber, one shouldn’t feel “entitled” as crafty put it. Don’t be selfish and risk ruining it for the rest of us.

  10. Marten

    22. Mar, 2012

    Is it also legal to shoot the landowners? How can a human beeing own a piece of nature? We are all just visitors on this earth, even this capitalists who “buy” land for papermoney.
    You should start thinking about the sense of your system over there, seriously….I told my friend who is sitting next to me about the “shooting rule” and she said: “oh man, they are so stupid”. I think exactly the same

  11. EP

    22. Mar, 2012

    In my experience, Colorado has relatively few access issues. Try climbing in North Carolina!

  12. matt d

    22. Mar, 2012

    We have a ton of rock around us in North Texas, but most of it lies on private land or borders private land. I always ask first. It has worked out a majority of the time to where we can end up climbing on privately owned land. We have had more success than failure so far.

  13. Mark E

    22. Mar, 2012

    Don’t forget that the Access Fund has resources and expertise to help climbers sort out, well, access.Visit

  14. Praxeology

    22. Mar, 2012

    Hi Marten,

    Well someone had to say it……all land should be owned by the public? Is this your opinion? It is not clear to me what you are trying to say.

    Private property ownership is THE most important aspect of a thriving economy. It is the means of production. It is Of absolute importance.

    No it is not legal to shoot land owners, they own the land. I guess you are assuming that if they own it they are also destroying it, as opposed to building a business on it, or using its natural resources to benefit society as a whole.

    A simple look into the history of public land ownership would benefit you. I understand the “sense” of our system, because I understand the history behind why it is the way that it is. Private land ownership, and the protection of these rights, is what stabilizes a society.

    May I suggest that you read a book titled “The Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich Hayek.

  15. B3

    22. Mar, 2012

    Colorado has a number of access issues and in fact some of the best bouldering in the state, if not the country, is on private property. I think these issue seem to crop up everywhere in the US

  16. Adam M

    22. Mar, 2012

    Cool discussion (at the moment anyway).

    With you guys. Guilty of putting up a pretty sweet FA on private land back in PA where everything Cardboard Dog said, is very true. NJ as well. There’s a lot of quality rock out here in CO. Diabase springs up in weird places all around PA and NJ. And nowhere else.

    Asking is the way to go for sure. If you sneak, they get pissed. But if you walk up with good intentions and say, “Going to try climbing some rocks. Nothing will happen to you if I get hurt. Is that cool?” like Matt D said, you’ll probably get more success than failure.

    TRying to argue with a landowner over MY right to rock climb on THEIR land is pretty arrogant and stupid. It’s like yelling at a cop after he pulls you over for driving like an asshole at 100mph. If i’m having a party at my house, I knock on the neighbors doors and invite them over or give them a heads up. that way they’re not sitting over their all pissed off wondering when the music will stop. It’s just easier.

    Oh, and i’m with praxeology here. marten…wtf are talking about. I’m not sure where you’re writing from, but the “Paper money for nature is silly” argument doesn’t hold up well in court systems with judges. Whether I agree or not isn’t going to make me go out and change the entire legal system.


  17. Paul

    22. Mar, 2012

    It seems that not all countries look at land ownership the same as we do in the US.

    In Sweden for example, the constitution grants a right called allemansrätten (meaning “the everyman’s right”).

    “Allemansrätten gives a person the right to access, walk, cycle, ride, ski, and camp on any land—with the exception of private gardens, the immediate vicinity of a dwelling house and land under cultivation…”

    I don’t know where Marten is from, or if this is the point he is trying to make (as it seems his is going further to claim that people shouldn’t have private property at all). I can understand though, how not being allowed to access private property for uses such as bouldering, under fear of being shot, might seem a bit odd to people of many countries.

  18. freezeus

    23. Mar, 2012

    I’ve found asking works pretty darn well. I’ve opened up both bouldering and Mountain Biking on private land. We’ve got a great law here in VT that basically makes it impossible for a landowner to get sued unless there is “intent to harm” – meaning a pit with sharpened stakes or ribbon wire strung across a bike trail. I also make sure I try pitch whatever I’m asking permission for in the context of helping the local economy by increasing tourism…most locals understand that tourists…wether climbers,bikers, skiers, hikers – come, stay, spend money.

  19. MikkoS

    26. Mar, 2012

    Yes, that Freedom to Roam thing is certainly a privilege here in Finland. Not everybody gets that.

    Some people take that right as a given, and abuse it by littering or other disturbances.

  20. big poppachosscrush

    27. Mar, 2012

    just as public notice: i intend to start shooting people on public land as well as private.

    the earth is my birthright.

  21. Praxeology

    28. Mar, 2012

    Big Poppa…

    Your comments are lame and really not that funny.

  22. southeast_troll

    29. Mar, 2012

    Praxeology, I am in no means attempting to open an off topic debate on the righteousness or lack there of in relations to private property and/or capitalism, but I might recommend that you do a little research on the Road to Serfdom yourself before you hold it up as an educational resource. Upon closer examination, I think you will find that Hayek’s conclusions are based upon false logic and riddled with hyperbole. A lot of the blame he places on liberalism and government intervention is unfounded, and most people in the academic community discount that particular work as misguided.

    That being said, you are obviously entitled to your opinion, and perhaps you are well versed in your research and simply have a differing viewpoint from my own on the matter. Furthermore, I am with you in my confusion with regards to Marten’s comments. I am not sure what he was trying to express, but it seemed to be shortsighted at best.

    As far as poaching goes, I do not see any circumstances where it is okay. I feel for people who live in area that have problematic access issues and are left with no legal climbing in their local area; but that does not make poaching okay. Either get to work establishing good relations with the landowners and trying to convince them to allow climbing on their land, or stick to the gym and taking trips when you can. Just because there is no legal rock around you does not entitle you to climb illegally.

  23. Brian

    29. Mar, 2012

    I think Cardboard nailed it and I would think you could relate Jaime, being from MI yourself. Colorado is chalked full of climbing areas. Is every sq ft of climbable rock legal, no. But is there a lot of climbing areas, yes.

    VS. Ohio, where we have just a handful of sub-par areas in the entire state. Then when we do find some hi quality ones they are all on public or private land. In Ohio, the standard is to NOT allow climbing on public land. You may be able to ask a private landowner to climb on their land and get a quick yes/no, but the process can take years with public agencies. It doesn’t help when we are perceived as a small and insignificant user group. Many climbers become frustrated and choose to poach. Many rangers look the other way so who can blame them?

  24. Praxeology

    29. Mar, 2012

    Hi southeast,

    Very impressive indeed to find another climber interested in differing viewpoints regarding the proper role of government. In this case the concept of communal ownership of property. I have no problem going off topic, because I feel it is an important issue that not a lot of people in the climbing community seem to be very concerned about. I have done extensive research on Hayek, and read his Book several times over the past couple of years. Why his logic is not perfect, it is very close to it. A lot of blame he places on liberalism and government intervention in unfounded? How so? He wrote the book in the early 1940’s and nearly every thing that he warned us about has happened. Government intervention, and centrally planned economies destroy individualism and Ultimatley create situations of Moral hazard and fascism. For proof look no further than our current situation in America where corporations and central governments are joined together at the hip, in a revolving door of greed and corruption. Constantly propping each other up, and leaving people like you and I in an environment that is nearly impossible to be successful in.

    And please do not use the argument that it is not supported by todays academic community. In my opinion the ultimate moral hazard. Do not forget that these institutions are completely supported by the state and tax payer money. Of course they discount Hayek. His logic is the ultimate threat to the livelihood of these individuals and institutions.

  25. CBDog

    31. Mar, 2012

    Prax .. I’m with you on the varying opinions regarding the role of G’ment .. however .. The ownership of land is very sticky. Especially regarding aspects of land that have been around .. not for centuries, but for millenia. In the case of rocks .. millions, to even billions of years. They were around before you or anyone else on this planet right now was even thought of in the eye’s of God. And they will be around when all life on this planet has ceased to exist. If you want to get into a philo/ethical debate, how do you equate that into your “private property” argument? Private Property rights dictate that, for the short time you own that property, not even an eye blink in terms of earths history, you can destroy that property to your hearts content. In the G’ments eye’s i.e. eminent domain, although often abused for the purposes of economic developement, something which should be removed from the law imho, it dictates that private property can be taken from an individual for the good of the community as a whole. Certainly we refer to ourselves as a community? Climbers that is? I respect that someone paid a great deal of money to be left alone, and so i respect peoples private property, .. but what about the case of Sourland Mt where a mine controls several giant boulders and eventually plans to dynamite them into dust to make sidewalks?? you think I;m not going to poach that shit? Or that the G’ment shouldn’t claim eminent domain over those boulders to save them from some idiot who just wants to make money?? Please. In that case PP laws can suck the fatty end of my f@#k stick.

  26. CBDog

    31. Mar, 2012

    And I’m pretty sure moral hazard has it’s origins in the private sector where people invested, and made money off of, other peoples money without taking any personal responsibility for it’s loss. A term which has now begun to be applied to the US government, in some cases appropriately, in other cases, not so appropriately. i.e. i don’t want my tax money being spent on failing banks and arena’s when I’m being told there is no money for schools, but I also don’t want to hear wind bags from the private sector turning that phrase on Government to avoid being judged for their own misdeads.

  27. Random

    01. Apr, 2012

    And in Socal theres a place called Rainbow in which some wealthy climbers bought an area with “the best boulders in California” and keep it closed to those in which they dont invite, which is nearly everyone. That situation kinda sucks.

  28. Praxeology

    01. Apr, 2012

    CB Dog,

    You make some valid points….however I do not agree with many of the things you have stated. Regardless of where Moral Hazard has it’s origins, the most destructive examples of this are most certainly in governents. The example you have given regarding private investments is not a good example of a moral hazard. Maybe bad “Morals” for the investor, but not moral hazard. The private marketplace will solve these types of issues, the person who is investing others money will develop a bad reputation and no longer have any customers. Problem solved. A real moral hazard is when the individual involved faces no consequences for his/her actions. Take
    Solyndra for a prime example, or how about all the crazy foreign entanglements / disasters that we are involved in. NOBODY has to be responsible because it was all In “good” intentions.” Well we tried and it did”nt work. Oh well. Let’s take some more taxpayer money and spend it on some other future
    failure.” The private marketplace, while not perfect, does a far better job of punishing bad decisions and bad morality. So that’s that.

    Regarding PP. regardless of all the one-off examples you may come up with. That is irrelevant. PP is the glue that holds together a functioning and productive economy. Once you begin to tell people what they can or cannot do with PP, it becomes a very slippery slope regardless of how valid you may feel your examples are. Once again, I go back to the same example as before. Just because someone has PP does not mean that he or she will be destructive with the environment. Why does everyone feel this way. I own PP and I treat it better and with more ethical standard than any local or federal governents ever would treat it. And nobody could ever convince me otherwise. By the way, if I had boulders on my property, which I don’t, I would allow people like yourself to boulder anytime they wanted too, as long as they were respectful to the land.

  29. B3

    01. Apr, 2012

    @Praxeology That’s awfully ideal of you to let people on to your hypothetical boulders, but the reality is that there are thousands of amazing boulders on private land that no one is allowed to climb on. And the vast majority of bouldering areas in America are on public land. If all of the public land were made private, I don’t assume that boulders would be destroyed. But the pattern that exists in America today is that we would have far fewer climbing areas and areas to hike to and recreate. And access to those lands would not be guaranteed. I am so thankful for the National Park System, because however sloppily and inefficienty it maybe run, it still allows me the freedom to run around the woods. And few things have significantly benefitted my life so much.

  30. Praxeology

    02. Apr, 2012


    Why thank you, it would be ideal of me, and any other land owner that would choose to do the same.

    However, I never stated that all land should be privately owned as you have implied. Simply that the respect should be given to those that do own private land. I have also enjoyed our national parks and public lands, and will continue to do so. Where in my comments did I state that all land should be privately owned?

    Regarding those thousands of hypothetical boulders that excist on private land. What is your solution? I am simply saying that the only real and logical solution is to try and work out the best possible arrangement with the land owner, and if he or she does not allow you to be on his land, please respect that decision..

    You cannot disregard the Importance of private land ownership. It is THE means of production our society. Once governments begin to infringe upon this right, history has shown us how destructive it can become.

  31. B3

    02. Apr, 2012

    I didn’t say that you said it. I just said that if all public land were made private, I wouldn’t assume that private land owners would destroy their land.
    My solution would be to vote for politicians who value public land and fight for it. I’m not disregarding the importance of private land. Both are important. You write that once governments infringe upon the right to own private land, history shows how destructive this can be. It seems then that any national park would then fall under the government infringing upon the right of people to own land. I think NP are great and I don’t see how they cause the kind of destruction you are talking about.
    RMNP is probably my favorite place on earth, and it has brought me untold happiness. I am so thankful that it is not privately owned.

  32. CBDog

    03. Apr, 2012

    @ Prax … I absolutely believe that PP is what most of work for, and so in that respect it is a cornerstone of our economy, and we also get taxed heavily for having it, but what I was trying to infer, to agree with B3, I think it is part of what he was saying, and that is that there is alot of land in the US that shouldl NEVER be sold off to individuals or companies for PP. It should always remain public domain and open for public use. What if someone had enough money to buy Mt. Evans and wanted to use the massive amount of granite on that hillside to blow into dust or make countertops out of? It’s rediculous to even think of. But not far fetched. There are people with enough money to buy private islands and companies in NJ that bought entire diabase ridges filled with granite boulders and now those boulders are gone.

  33. […] 14th time.  Let’s move past it and talk about something else that you wrote on your blog.  You wrote about private property, bouldering and climbing on private […]

  34. matt

    20. Mar, 2013

    @ Cardboard Dog:
    “However, in NJ there is virtually NO access to bouldering due to most property in NJ being privately owned. In that case, I actually get annoyed that people would buy and keep such limited resources to outdoor activities to themselves.”

    You don’t know where to look :) There’s many many many UNTAPPED boulders on PUBLIC land.

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