Do Babies Belong at the Crag?

April 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

I was going to write this nice post about our climbing outing to North Table Mountain in Golden last weekend. It was going to have all these lovely pictures of us smiling in the sun, playing in G’s little blue tent, and plum bushes in bloom. Weeks came out and climbed with us, even though he has two torn MCLs, and we did a run-out 5.7, a fun trad-sport mixed 5.8 and beautiful little 5.9- face climb. Really, a nice day.

North Table Mountain and plum bushes in bloom

But, I’ve been reading all week long about Peter Beal’s challenges to the climbing media community to examine the place of our sport in the world and our impacts on the environment as we practice it. Here’s one interesting quote:

The issue is never just how many believers but what kind of believers they are or what they will actually practice. And to make the analogy with climbing a bit closer, how many Christians can we fit in a given physical church? Because like it or not, climbing is not all in the mind or soul; it is a practice that happens in a finite physical world, that draws upon resources that are fragile and not easily restored. We can’t keep building new cathedrals or Cathedral Ledges ad infinitum. So yes, more climbers have an impact and not just on the “experience” but on living things, ecosystems, and a natural order that we haven’t much of a clue about and may well not be around by the time we figure this simple truth out.

So, his arguments begin with a classic “oh dear, the sport has sold out, and everybody has lost the true meaning of climbing“, and ends with an interesting discussion on our impacts as a user group on those bits of stone and mud we love so dearly.

I always end up with one picture like this after climbing with Weeks

These types of complaints always get me, because I am a completely sold-out climber. I do nothing to “push the sport forward.” I’m just out to have a good time with my friends at a sunny crag. And now that I have started bringing the kiddo along with us, our impact on the area has probably doubled or tripled. For instance, last Saturday, we added to the circus at North Table by pitching G’s little UV tent right at the base of a rarely climbed 5.12. We ran around making noise, instigating dogs to bark, and probably trundled more than one rock off the side of the trail (erosion!). And, I’m pretty sure we left a couple crackers laying in the dirt at the end of the day, litter bugs that we are. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

Kate and G hanging out at the crag

Babies and Dogs are classic complaints on internet climbing forums. People just love to complain about how much they are disturbed by barking, crying, diapers, messes, and distractions. And they have a point, in a sport as dangerous as rock climbing, really bad things happen if you are not paying attention to the task at hand.

So, should we leave G home with a sitter? Should we give up climbing all together because our impact on the environment is far beyond our contribution to the sport?

G eats an orange in his little blue tent


I love climbing. I love getting my kiddo outside. I love playing in the dirt with him, and I love playing in the sun with him. I love the smiles we get from other climbers and the way friends and complete strangers interact with him at the crag. I love showing G that there are more interesting things to do with your time than playing video games or watching DVDs. I love introducing him to an exciting world, the taste of adventure, and the experience of nature. And I think his contribution to the sport could one day be far beyond anything we can imagine now.

Mark and a very tired G hike out at the end of the day

So, thanks Peter Beal, for making me think a little about why I do what I do. We’ll try harder to make sure we pack all of our trash out with us (and maybe some extra), and talk to G about why the rocks need to stay on the trail next time. We can also sign up for more trail clean-ups and adopt-a-crag days. I can’t obliterate my impact on a crag, but I can try to reduce it a bit. Because it’s true, we’re taking more from nature these days. We can afford to give a little more back.

Weeks and Mark pack up at the end of the day