What does it take to keep a crag in climbing shape? The answer is quite a lot, especially in the rainforests of Southwest BC. The story of a climbing area starts with a first ascent, and while the route developers get a lot of well-deserved credit, it’s only the beginning of a crag’s life. What follows is the continual process of stewardship, as the community takes responsibility for their new climbing resource.
Stewardship comes in many forms, with varying levels of commitment. It can be active, doing tasks like re-scrubbing climbs, replacing old fixed ropes, or clearing trails. Rescrubbing climbs is particularly important — climbs in Squamish tend to moss over, especially after a long wet winter like the one that seems to be ending finally. Much of this critical work happens without any direction or prompting from the Squamish Access Society. While we certainly play a role in the development of trails and infrastructure improvement, the number of hours it would take to co-ordinate all the upkeep of our climbing areas is beyond our capacity. Our continued enjoyment of climbing depends on the individual initiative and contributions of many dedicated locals.
So how can you play your part?
Climbers tend to find themselves returning to the same cliff repeatedly, which gives them the opportunity to see issues that need fixing. Stewardship often starts with the thought, “Someone ought to fix that.” The pivotal moment is the jump from that thought to taking action on it. Beyond the satisfaction of contributing to the community, giving back to a place offers a valuable opportunity to form a deeper relationship than the one created by just recreating there. Below I’ve outlined some ways you can help with the upkeep of Squamish’s crags and boulders:
Rescrubbing: You could spend a few hours bringing a greened-over route back to climbing shape, or keep a line from growing over by quickly brushing off pine needles and dirt as you lower back to the ground after a climb. All you will need besides your regular climbing gear is one of the red steel scratch brushes available at Climb On Equipment or Triton Automotive and Industrial. If you’re doing extensive scrubbing, it’s wise to also wear a dust mask and eye protection.
Trail clearing: If you’ve noticed a trail becoming overgrown, take a pair of pruning shears next time you head out. It only adds a few minutes to your day to trim back some of the vegetation on your way to and from the crag.
Hardware maintenance: Pack a wrench in your cragging bag to tighten loose bolts. A 9/16-inch wrench is perfect for almost all bolts in Squamish, or take a crescent wrench to fix any size.
Alex Ryan Tucker is a Squamish resident and Squamish Access Society board member. Go to squamishaccess.ca for more information on SAS.