Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

More on Mill Creek canyon climbers

After reading the Mill Creek sport climbers’ response to my letter regarding resource and wildlife concerns, plus law violations related to their unsustainable climbing scheme in Mill’s extraordinary canyon, it’s clear the relevant climbers need to own up to facts, and take some responsibility for their actions. Readers and public land enthusiasts, including all climbers, deserve the truth.
Here’s one simple example that undermines the climbers’ self-purported truthfulness, legitimacy, and ethics. Their letters and blog claim all their activities are legal and confirmed so by Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) authorities. They unequivocally state (in blog) their access trails are completely “incidental” in nature, caused by legal random use and wear—neither planned nor constructed.
The truth: The route-developing climbers placed dozens of rock cairns on north Mill, and voluminous flagging on south Mill (admitted in Ravalli Republic climbing article—6/22/13), to purposefully guide others on a planned route. This is trail construction and violates the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Deliberate, not incidental.
Even more egregious and incriminating was the trail construction of stairs using lumber and rebar. Incidental? Random? Hardly. Willful construction.
They have continually performed “maintenance” on their illegal, user-created trail—also unlawful.
BNF officials confirm, as recently as 6/24/2014, the climbers’ “trail” construction and maintenance are unlawful under the CFR without a special-use authorization, which they’ve never had to this day. Fact. Not opinion.
As my Access Fund-endorsed (and funded) NOLS’ rock climbing ethics handbook (1996) says: Check with land managers before climbing for regulations and to verify if local ecology can withstand new route developments. Also, remove equipment at day’s end, as “Regulations on federal lands prohibit abandoning equipment overnight.”
I’d recommend it to Turley, Professor Scott, Moore, et al. It’s an enduring, timely classic that speaks truth to power and advocates responsible land stewardship.
Van P. Keele

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