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40 The brief history of rock climbing at Cave Rock is replete with accomplishments featuring the development of challenging and spectacular routes. Even before the Washoe sacred site issue came to the fore, the site’s enthusiasts faced a problem that confronts all modern climbers: they value new climbs and first ascents, but each achievement reduces this finite resource. The supply of high-quality, accessible rock for climbing is exhaustible, and demand for it has grown immeasurably.1 A Forest Service survey conducted in 1995 revealed that 7 million U.S. citizens participated in rock climbing in 1994–95 (with an additional 9.5 million participating in mountain climbing), and estimated that 100,000 people try rock climbing for the first time every year. The rock-climbing community, formerly small and independent, has evolved into something resembling “a national subculture” with a common language and values. Although the group is spread across the country, its members share a lifestyle and are surprisingly homogeneous: they read the same three or four journals and visit the same major climbing areas.2 In the 1950s the climbing community viewed both free climbing, in which ropes are used for safety only, and aided climbs as acceptable. By the early 1970s free climbing had become the only acceptable method of ascent. Reacting to thirty years’ worth of piton scars left in Yosemite and other once pristine sites, free climbers insisted on minimizing the number of bolts placed in the rock. A widely disseminated magazine article published in 1973 summarized free climbers’ complaint about sport climbing : “The mere act of achieving a route has become secondary, while the style in which a route is achieved has become of primary importance.”3 The community extolled the personal rewards of overcoming hardships, challenge, and exertion as opposed to competition, which was seen as egotistical. f i v e Slayer slayer 41 In the early 1980s the biggest ethical issue for rock climbers was whether or not they should use gymnasts’ chalk on their hands. The question of environmental and aesthetic damage caused by climbers had yet to arise. By 1985 French climbers had rap-bolted the Verdon Gorge, igniting the idea of accessing all parts of rock faces rather than only their crack systems.4 Traditionalists viewed the new sport climbing as overly competitive and environmentally destructive. They continued to advocate “clean” climbing using removable pieces of protection, and argued vehemently against overconsumption of the resource. As the anchors and slings of sport climbers began to cover rock faces, complaints—some by traditionalists, others by wilderness devotees—were taken to public land regulatory agencies. Land managers began to count bolts. An October 1993 Los Angeles Times article reported that the U.S. Park Service, fearing irreversible environmental damage, was seeking regulations to limit what climbers could do. Climbers argued that prohibiting the placement of new bolts and the replacement of old, weakened ones—fundamental to climber safety—would put them in jeopardy. They did not want to use top ropes because that would remove the sport’s key appeal: climbing with as little assistance as possible. Climbing guidebooks promoted environmental ethics and restraint as well as skill and integrity in putting up routes—creating lines only if they differed significantly in character from those nearby. Route builders were asked to limit their bolts and to use rock-matching colors for bolt hangers, webbing , and chalk. In 1997 the Leave No Trace organization produced a document that went much further and urged rock climbers to leave sacred sites alone: “Disturbing cultural sites may render them useless for study and observation in the future, and shows disregard for early American cultures.”5 By that time, however, a great deal of damage had already been done. The rock climbers who created the original routes at Cave Rock had no qualms in this regard because the site had not been publicly identified as a cultural site. Climbers began securing bolts for sport climbing in the crags around Lake Tahoe in the mid-1980s. Boldness, difficulty, and danger have always been key components of a climb; if the route has the additional quality of being aesthetically pleasing, it becomes particularly valued. Few places could match the steep walls of Cave Rock towering above Lake Tahoe in all of those factors.6 42 cave rock Route builders, who determine the difficulty factor of a particular climbing route, rate it by the most difficult technical move in the climb, although the rating may go up...


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MARC Record
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