How to Educate New Climbers

One of the biggest problems facing the climbing community today is the poor behavior of some climbers. Improper trail use, damaging rock faces, and crushing fragile vegetation can threaten climber access to outdoor climbing areas. Can education change behavior, ethics, and stewardship among climbers or are we doomed to a life of closed crags? Many people who love climbing have been discussing how to change climber behavior the past few years and their discussions resulted in the formation of the ROCK Project by Brooks-Range Mountaineering‘s partner the Access Fund.

GEAR FOR THE CRAG: HYBRID DOWN SWEATER

The ROCK Project was created to promote positive behaviors among climbers, especially those who are transitioning from the gym to the outdoors. These climbers are often cited as the biggest threat to climbing’s future, because they can appear to be unfamiliar with the social and environmental intricacies of climbing outdoors. However, it is a mistake to blame only gym climbers for the damage and access problems happening at outdoor climbing areas. Pointing the finger only invites scapegoating, which divides our small climbing community.

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The problem of damage to climbing areas is probably mostly due to increasing numbers of climbers as a whole. As more and more people go to climbing gyms, even more people are taking their newfound love of climbing to the outdoors. There are only so many outdoor climbing areas in the US and many of the popular ones are becoming overcrowded, over-trampled, and over-loved.

As it would be impossible to police all climbers’ behavior at all crags, one solution is to encourage climbers to want to do the right thing on their own. This is where climber education comes in. Sometimes “education” consists of just posting the rules. However, does simply posting laws change people’s behaviors, ethics, and their sense of stewardship? Probably not! Messages can encourage positive behaviors, and encourage visitors to internalize the rules, but management has to do more.

The reasons why people choose behaviors that may have negative ecological and social impacts vary depending upon their motivations. People may break a rule simply because they don’t know that it’s the rule. But often, rule breaking is more complicated than not knowing the rule. Some people feel justified breaking a rule when they see others breaking it too. Social trails are an example: One person goes that way, and the next person thinks it’s all right. It’s important that management removes or blocks the “social trail” to remove this cue for negative behavior.

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Some people break a rule because they think the rule is stupid, or they don’t understand the negative consequences of breaking the rule. For example, boulderers might put their crash pads down without thinking about the vegetation that they are crushing while doing so. Informing visitors of the negative consequences of their behaviors can help change these behaviors.

Sometimes people break rules because they feel they have no alternative: They have to have a safe place to land. Management needs to provide reasonable alternatives for these climbers, such as “sacrifice” areas where the vegetation is already dead to put their pads.

Sometimes peer pressure to violate rules is an issue. Visitors egg each other on to go against the rules. This is a hard issue to deal with, but some have had success by encouraging these visitors to identify with management goals by having the climbers become “citizen stewards” of the land, and record instances of damage.

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Finally, there will always be a small percentage of the population that will purposely violate rules – for fun, profit, or malice. The only effective tools here are direct management techniques such as law enforcement and fines.

Simply posting rules and calling that “climber education” doesn’t go far enough in encouraging climbers to change their behaviors, ethics, and stewardship. However, explaining the reasons behind the rules, removing evidence that rules have been broken, providing reasonable alternatives, and encouraging identification with management goals could go a long way toward improving climber stewardship and ensuring access to crags for many years.

Play safe out there!

Dr. Kevin, PhD, Brooks-Range Mountaineering Product Ambassador, Assistant Professor, Westfield State University and Rebecca Barry, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Arizona State University

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Mojave Down Jacket: The Total Package

While the bitter bite of winter is still months away, fall can bring its own sting. Although the warm autumn days exist, the setting sun brings dropping temps and the need for warmth on cold nights. Most us welcome the brisk wind at dusk when the light disappears below the horizon, and there’s no better companion in the changing weather than a trusted down jacket. Enter the Mojave, the sarcastic—yet accurate name—for Brooks-Range’s most robust goose down warrior.

Brooks Range Mojave Black

Weighing in at exactly one pound, the hooded 800+ fill Mojave can accommodate a helmet and has an athletic cut with longer arms for alpine pursuits such as ice and mix climbing. Plus, it features horizontal baffles that prevent balling and a sleek Pertex Quantum face fabric that is wind and downproof, while maintaining a high strength-to-weight ratio as well as high abrasion resistance. Simply put, the Mojave is a go-to safety blanket that is appropriate for any and all mountain enthusiasms.

Let’s begin with some science on fill levels. Down jackets with a high fill power can better resist compression forces, so they tend to loft higher and trap more air, making them warmer. As with down sleeping bags with a higher fill rating, down jackets need less insulation by weight to provide the same level of warmth. The jacket’s high 800+ fill rating is going to be very warm (why we named it after the Mojave Desert!) and very light, keeping you toasty in much colder temperatures.

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The Mojave is an all rounder, built to withstand the rigors of winter camping, backcountry skiing and the mercurial mood swings of Mother Nature on those alpine climbing outings. Like their down sleeping bags, Brooks Range’s Mojave uses DownTek-treated goose down, a hydrophobic treatment that keeps moisture at bay and you drier, a potentially life saving action in the high peaks. Even during cold and wet storms, moisture can permeate into untreated down feathers from the outside in, or inside out during high output activities. When molecules of moisture encounter DownTek, the moisture is forced to collect into a sphere shape and roll off the down cluster rather than soaking into it. That sounds fancy, but it means that if the moisture can’t collect on the plumes of the down, you don’t sweat out the down during arduous ascents, nor do you loose loft from wetter weather.

Because the Mojave is featherweight, compressible and resilient to the whims of Old Man Winter, there’s never a reason not to bring it on any adventure—whether it’s in the mountains, on river trips, or the occasional car camping stint for late season desert cragging and mountain biking. It’s one less choice you’ll ever need to make.

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ICYMI: The Importance of Sunscreen

Remember a couple of blogs we published last year on sunscreen? Well, the issue is still important and recently, a video went viral that powerfully demonstrates the hidden effects of sun exposure (UV radiation) on the skin and how sunscreen can help mitigate this problem. While the video is a bit shocking, it will also, hopefully, encourage people to use sunscreen more effectively and more regularly. Skin cancer is more prevalent (almost 5 million cases per year) than breast, prostrate, lung, and colon cancers combined!

However, sunscreens, unlike people, are not created equally. There are critical differences in the chemicals used by sunscreen manufacturers to block or absorb UV radiation. The effectiveness and potential harmful side effects of these chemicals and the way that they are marketed and regulated are examined in these previously published blogs, which look at the problem of UV exposure and what to look for in sunscreen. We hope your skin stays safe while you get outside all summer and winter long. (And remember, wear a hat!)

Dr. Kevin

PhD, Brooks-Range Mountaineering Product Ambassador,

Assistant Professor Westfield State University

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