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As more and more climbers head into Pennsylvania’s woods it is crucial that we all do our best to leave no trace (always, no matter where we are at) when out. To help some of us understand a little more what it means to “leave no trace” when out climbing, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and Access Fund have provided the following ethical guidelines as at least a place to start (these are also for when roped climbing):

Some Pennsylvania woods.
Some serene Pennsylvania woods.

Access Fund – The Climber’s Pact

  • Be considerate of other users
  • Park and camp in designated areas
  • Dispose of human waste properly
  • Stay on trails whenever possible
  • Place gear and pads on durable surfaces
  • Respect wildlife, sensitive plants, soils, and cultural resources
  • Clean up chalk and tick marks
  • Minimize group size and noise
  • Pack out all trash, crash pads, and gear
  • Learn the local ethics for the places you climb
  • Respect regulations and closures
  • Use, install, and replace bolts and fixed anchors responsibly
  • Be an upstander, not a bystander

Leave No Trace Ethical Guidelines
Before Climbing

  • Research access to the route. Where is parking available? Is there a designated trail? Are climbing permits necessary?
  • Consider the wildlife in the area. Are there any seasonal closures due to wildlife activity?
  • Try to avoid high use timeframes. This keeps impacts and conflicts down.
  • What are the site-specific guidelines regarding removable protections, food storage, or human waste?
  • Think about the rock color and plan your chalk use to match.
  • Keep your group size down and break up larger groups.

During Staging

  • Use existing trails and don’t cut switchbacks.
  • Make sure your staging area fits your group size.
  • Keep the noise down. Be respectful with belay calls and don’t blast music from portable speakers.
  • Organize your gear prior to climbing and avoid spreading out too much
  • Handle human waste correctly. Busy routes can quickly become overwhelmed with human waste. Go before you get there. Walk 70 big steps away from the crag and water sources to dispose of liquid waste, and be prepared to pack out solid waste, toilet paper, and feminine hygiene products with you. In some areas a cat hole will suffice for solid human waste but must be 70 big steps/200 feet away from water, trails, and the crag.
  • Don’t trample vegetation, especially when topping out on walls.
  • Use a large static webbing sling if anchoring to a tree.
  • Keep any pets at the crag under control and on a leash.

While Climbing

  • Share the area with others, climbers and passers by alike.
  • Removable protection is always better than installing new bolts or pitons. Use removable protection and existing hardware whenever possible.
  • Avoid loose rocks and untouched vegetation while on route.
  • Use as little chalk as possible, and use a color that is compatible with the rocks to avoid unsightly chalk marks.
  • Avoid peeing in cracks. Pee will dry faster out on a rock face, and cracks are rarely washed out by rainwater leading to unwanted smells.
  • Be careful where you place your hands to avoid wildlife and nests.

After Climbing

  • Pack out all trash (even if it is not yours please!) including orange peels, shells, tape, and other “natural” trash.
  • Brush away chalk/tick marks.
  • Use designated campsites instead of making new ones.
  • Store food properly to keep it away from wildlife.
  • Give back to the climbing area by volunteering.
  • If posting on social media, don’t geotag or portray bad practices, and add education information to posts if possible.

Additional Resources