So now we have an opportunity to change all of that. The BLM is finally reviewing this policy, and you have until 18 November to make your voice heard. I really encourage you to send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's what I submitted, with some help from the Access Fund to get my stuff straight:
Regarding the use of fixed anchors in the Red Rocks Wilderness:
Technical rock climbing has a long history in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservancy Area, aka Red Rocks. While ideally no sign of a climber's passage is preferred, climbing and descending safely requires some use of fixed anchors and what the appropriate level of use should be determined by local land managers and the user community. Climbers themselves - with some direction through formal policy, local history, and local ethics - are the best resource to determine when, where, and how to use fixed anchors. Fixed anchors are permitted under the Wilderness Act and if properly applied and managed can actually protect and enhance wilderness resources and characteristics. Fixed anchors can be used as a tool to minimize climbing impacts on fragile soil, vegetation, and wildlife. They can also minimize the visual impact to other users, by eliminating the cord and sling material necessarily abandoned in situ for "removable" anchors, only to be added to annually as the original material ages into untrustworthy disuse. Power drills violate the Wilderness Act and "sport routes" - climbing routes employing a bolt approximately every 2 meters for protection - are unsightly: simply requiring that all fixed anchors be placed utilizing a labor-intensive hand drill will naturally limit the use of fixed anchors.
Red Rocks famously offers a full spectrum of climbing experiences, from bouldering and short (30m) routes near the road to incredibly long mult-pitch wilderness adventures and epics. This reputation has made Red Rocks and international climbing destination, attracting climbers from around the world. The current prohibition against fixed-anchors, which includes replacing aging fixed anchors with new hardware that will last for 20+ years, detracts from that experience and increases the objective hazards for visiting climbers. Zion and Rocky Mountain National Parks are great examples of appropriately managed fixed anchors, and could be used as a model for the Red Rocks wilderness areas. Zion and RMNP's policies are simple to follow, require a low level of administrative oversight, and are consistent with the policies agreed upon by the Fixed Anchor in Wilderness Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee.
As I said above, the current prohibition is creating a negative impact. Red Rocks needs a wilderness fixed anchor policy that does the following:
1. Requires hand drilling for fixed anchor placements;
2. Allows for the replacement of previous fixed anchors on a 1:1 standard without prior approval;
3. Allows placement of new fixed anchors without prior approval on sections within a route that is otherwise un-protectable with removable protection or anchors; for safety in descending; and emergencies; and
4. Allows for a permit or approval system to be developed if the BLM determines through research and monitoring that it is necessary to protect wilderness values.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.