Photo by Tom Boyd
Climbers scolded for leaving trash, waste behind at Rocky Mountain National Park
September 9, 2008 —
When I come upon a forgotten candy wrapper or aluminum can among the wildflowers, I usually picture the responsible party as some hairy Neanderthal type, grunting and snorting his way through the wilderness, chucking half-empty beers into the bushes, readjusting his diaper, and marching on – probably to bait fish for trout.
I may have to realign the well-worn trails of my own prejudice. The pariahs of the latest rubbish over littering aren't Neanderthals, but Colorado climbers, who suffered a blow to their overall reputation this week when Rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park scolded them for leaving trash, gear, and human waste behind at popular climbing spots in the Park.
I called the Park to hear a bit more about the style of the mess, which I find a kind of anthropological assessment of the messmakers themselves. Just exactly what, I wondered, are climbers leaving behind? Water bottles seem to make up the bulk of America’s current heaving wastes, but one would think climbers would have a little more mountain-sass in their choice of rubbish. Chalk bags, old climbing shoes come to mind. Or perhaps a fashionable set of carabineers or a once-downy, now-forgotten Patagucci jacket?
Unfortunately, the RMNP media-relations staff calls it quits around 4:30 p.m., so all I could get from the operator was confirmation of the fact that climbers, specifically, had been targeted by park rangers in their everlasting war on trash.
I’m also waiting on a callback from David Roetzl of Vail Rock and Ice Guides to hear discover if our local climbing spots here in Eagle County are in similar shape.
My optimistic side hopes that local climbers will report that cleanliness wins the day here in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, but the part of me which hikes, kayaks, hunts, and otherwise roams the mountains knows better.
It’s the law of averages: for every 10 worthy, leave-no-trace apostles there’s at least one bonehead with a very, very wide definition of the term “biodegradable.”
It's good to know, however, that groups like the Northern Colorado Climbers Coalition and the American Alpine Club are helping gather groups to glean the garbage. Oh – and the human waste, too.
Alas, climbers are notorious for their loose definition of the 5 p.m. end-of-day whistle, because the AAC offices were absent and unable to return RealVail’s calls. Check back to this space tomorrow when, no doubt, all my many calls will come in at precisely the same time, and probably right when I’m outside taking out the garbage.
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