There's been a lot of chatter recently about Dry Tooling and it's impact on Climbing.
Basically, as dry tooling gains traction, there are more climbers wielding hardware at crags that support winter pursuits. Right now, most of those crags are packed with rock climbers. And since it's impossible for change to happen without some sort of conflict, controversy ensues.
In order for conflict to exist, however, there must be at least two conflicting parties; in this case, rock climbers and ice/mixed climbers. Somehow, there's this idea that ice, rock, mixed, aid climbers, boulderers are all separate user groups and do not crossover. This is a silly idea of course. At some point in every climber's career, they will try other types of climbing, be it rock, aid, mixed, ice climbing, or dry tooling. We are all climbers sharing an amazing adventure through climbing.
To think that one user group more significantly impacts the experience of the other pulls a convenient veil over the actual issue, climbing and climbers impact the environment. Indeed, people in the outdoors impact the environment. But which impacts are acceptable, and which are not?
I remember when I first saw crampon scars. I was a Cub Scout on a spring hiking trip in the White Mountains of NH where we were learning about Leave No Trace ethics. I saw little white lines on the rocks on the trail. After thinking about how these mountains were once glaciated, I said:
"Check out all the cool little glacier marks."
"Those are actually scratches from winter hikers wearing crampons."
"What's a crampon?"
"Hikers use them on their boots in icy conditions for better traction, and sometimes the spikes scratch the rocks."
"Wait a second. How is that 'leaving no trace'?"
To this day I think it's crazy that we as a population are fine with some impacts and not others. In the climbing world, sport climbers literally drill holes in the rock in order to place bolts and anchors. Boulderers mat down vegetation under a boulder in order to wrestle a few moves. Trad climbers pull off loose rock on obscure climbs and tramp over vegetation blazing trails to routes at the bases of crags. As far as climbing is concerned, all of those impacts get a happy thumbs up.
Every type of climbing has some sort of impact.
Clearly Dry tooling has impacts too. Dry tools put enormous stresses on tiny edges of rock, and sometimes those holds break. Crampons can slip off edges and scrape the rock leaving a scratch. These impacts, seemingly outrageous to the uninitiated, are just part of the activity, just as bolting, cleaning, nailing, and crag 'development' leave permanent scars on the land.
With time, these impacts become managed, tolerated, ultimately accepted, and sanctioned by some climber advocacy group whether they are contrary to climbing's roots in preservation or not.
With that pretext, here are the Rules for Dry Tooling.
1. Recognize the impact your tools will have on the environment. If that impact negatively affects the experience of the climbers who follow you, go climb somewhere else.
2. Respect the local ethics. Relativism is rampant in the climbing world. What's acceptable at one cliff is completely off limits at another. Educate yourself on local customs.
3. If the climb could be climbed without tools or crampons, it's a rock climb.
4. Wear rock shoes for warm-season dry-tooling.
5. Outside the alpine environment, established rock routes are off limits. The firestorm that would ensue by dry tooling a rock route at your home crag is not worth the social ostracizing due to the permanent damage the tools can leave on the rock. It's wrong, and contradicts rule #1.
6. Be careful when rappelling.At many areas, crampons scratch the rock more
during lower-offs and rappels than during actual ascents.
If you're at the base of your dry tool route and it meets the criteria above, rock out. If not, it's not a route to be dry tooled. Exploration and adventure are central to why we climb, so do yourself and the climbing world a solid and go climb elsewhere.
Ultimately, education is and will be the best and only solution. Currently, membership in The Access Fund, the American Alpine Club, or in the UK The British Mountaineering Council, is the best route to getting that education. For the new climber, however, that point of contact must come sooner. In the current era of climbing, all data indicates the overwhelming majority of new climbers are a product of the climbing gym. Going forward, climbers will learn what is acceptable and what's not in the gym.
At DRY ICE Tools, we are committed to promoting dry tooling, ice, and mixed climbing while conserving the climbing environment. As a Corporate Partner with the Access Fund, it is our sincerest desire that the DRY ICE movement will continue to educate new climbers at our demo events, with resources from our web page, and with every pair of DRY ICE Tools sold.
Climbing is not getting any smaller, but with DRY ICE, perhaps it can grow more educated.