Archive for May, 2015

The Boulder Climbing Community: a natural partner for the CMC

May 13, 2015

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If you are a rock climber in the Boulder area, you have probably heard of the Boulder Climbing Community (BCC); so this article is primarily for those who are not climbers. But it could be for climbers too, who might have heard of the BCC, but are yet unaware of who they are, or what they do. I wanted to write this article for the benefit of all CMC members, just to let them know about how the BCC is helping the stewardship of climbing areas, and helping to integrate all the Boulder area climbing organizations. The BCC could also serve as an example to other public sectors who need to unify their efforts for a common public need.

The Boulder Climbing Community (BCC, boulderclimbers.org) is the youngest of the climbing-oriented organizations in Boulder, but perhaps most audacious in its vision, depth of experience in its core management team, and the most accomplished in what it has achieved in its short history. This is in no small part due to its founder, Roger Briggs. Roger earned his reputation in the Boulder community from a long ways back, both as a climber and a career spent as a teacher of physics in the Boulder school system. Perhaps the one climb that has most cemented Roger’s reputation was his creation of Death and Transfiguration in 1973, where he personally committed to using modern “clean” technology (i.e. no pitons). This climb is regarded in the local climbing community as one of the transformative events that helped to pursuade the collective climbing community at the time of the necessity to convert from environmentally destructive pitons to more environmentally benign “clean climbing” which used nuts (camming devices were yet to be invented). It foreshadowed Roger’s deep committment to conserving climbing areas today.

I  happened to attend some of the early organizational meetings of the BCC when it was just getting started. Due to my IT background, and knowledge of the local climbing community, I offered to help get their website started; at it turned out, my services were unnecessary, but it allowed me to witness the beginning of the organization. At the time,  other local climbing organizations existed, but their coverage of the local environment was fragmented. The Access Fund, though headquartered in Boulder, was focused regionally and had a national scope. The American Alpine Club (AAC), located in Golden, had an international scope, focused regionally as well. The Action Committee for Eldorado (ACE) was focused on Eldorado Canyon State Park, and The Flatirons Climbing Council (FCC) focused on the Flatirons.

Each of these organizations have their specific missions, and were pretty internally oriented. There were a few occasional joint projects, which would usually be a conservation project of some kind, confined to brief, small scale, periodic events. Moreover, there tended to be geographical boundaries. None of the organizations covered Boulder Canyon,  a fact that became incresingly apparent with the lack of attention to climbers’ impacts there. Boulder Canyon presents a difficult management case, because the land use ownership is so fractured between private and public use, requiring tedious negotiations for any conservation operation.

Also, none of these organizations sought a connection with the climbing community overall, or tried to foster communication between them. So it was that that Roger reached out to, and started the BCC in 2010. The American Alpine Club graciously allowed the website to be hosted on its servers in Golden, and others with technical skills pitched in. Not long after, the 501(c)3 was formed, making it a tax deductible organization to donate to, and funding started coming in. A core staff of volunteers helped, but gradually better funding allowed for some paid staff. It should be mentioned that Roger’s brother, Bill Briggs, an accomplished climber in his own right and a professor of mathematics at the University of Colorado at Denver, pitched in to help, and continues to serve as financial manager.

Five years later, the BCC is in full bloom. Its first major project was restoring the trails around the base of Castle Rock, which was the most accessible, located just off Boulder Canyon road at the top of canyon. There is now a trail crew team of three full time members that heads up the Front Range Climbing Stewards (FRCS), that are dedicated to trail projects in the area. Repairing the badly eroded trails at Cobb Rock is a prime future project. Generously, the FRCS are currently engaged in helping to rebuild the Royal Arch Trail, which is not primarily used by climbers, but is such an important trail in Boulder Open Space and was so devastated by the 2013 floods, that they have voluntarily taken it on, to help Boulder Open Space, which is still recovering from the trail damage done by the 2013 floods. Other BCC initiatives include wag bags (both for dogs and people) at several trailheads, and bolt replacement at the most critical locations; an innovative online “bad bolt” reporting form on their website allows climbers to help  identify them. All of these activities obviously require clear and open communication within the climbing community, and this is the BCC shines. It has an effective online presence, a monthly newsletter, and sponsors or participates in numerous local events.

In conclusion, the Boulder Climbing Community has helped to strengthen the stewardship of the climbing areas in the Boulder area, and the cooperation between all the climbing organizations located here. With the increasing population in the Front Range, and the resulting impact on Boulder County recreational areas, the BCC is filling an important and needed role in helping preserve Boulder’s climbing areas for future generations.

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