My phone was blowing up before I even read the editorial.
Last week the Dana Johnson of the group Wilderness Watch published a syndicated piece titled, Mountains Don’t Need Hardware. The article strung together a series of falsehoods to argue that the proposed “Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act” was a way for climbers to show that recreation is more important than preserving wilderness, and that bolts are a dire threat to wilderness.
by Luke Mehall (banner image of the author and other climbers doing stewardship work with the Access Fund in Indian Creek, Bears Ears National Monument. Photo: Andrea Hassler)
Several climber friends had read this editorial, and were immediately asking me if I would write a response. My reply was that I didn’t have the time. My writing time is precious these days, and I’ve yet to even start on that book that lies in the back of my consciousness, begging me to start the long and winding road.
Plus, there are professionals to do the job. I’m in the business of climbing storytelling, not policy. My colleagues at the Access Fund and the American Alpine Club get paid to do this work.
But then I kept thinking about it. I made a meme about the article, showing the hypocrisy of the piece in a poetic modern way.
Then I got word the Adventure Journal pulled the editorial from their website. I felt sense of satisfaction, knowing that the weak argument that Johnson was making was being uncovered.
Now, I could go line by line and examine the piece and present my argument, but I want to go in a different direction. I want to tell a quick story from my time earlier this year in El Potrero Chico, Mexico; my winter home, a place that could be described as the Yosemite of Mexico.
I had just finished replacing some old bolts on a classic climb, and was hanging out at the base of the cliff. A Mexican guy walked up to me and asked me if I was the person who replaced the bolts. I replied yes and then he told me he was the person who originally put them in, decades ago.
I feared the guy was going to get angry with me, as I’d rearranged the placement of the bolts to make for a better experience. Plus, I am an outsider, a gringo in his homeland. Instead, the opposite happened, he thanked me for improving the route, for improving the hardware.
We had a great conversation, and exchanged phone numbers. At the end he looked me in the eye and said, “We’re all on the same team”.
And, that’s how I’d like to conclude this editorial, by suggesting to Wilderness Watch that you are on the same team as the Access Fund.
Your goals and vision are similar; the nuance of climbing hardware could be best understood if you connected with climbers, and maybe came out to one of the many Access Fund stewardship projects that happen every year.
After all, next year is an election year, and our team has some big battles ahead.
Thanks for reading.
Publisher, The Climbing Zine
Host, Dirtbag State of Mind podcast