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  • Adam Ondra Destroys Italy’s Hardest Climbs
  • 2017 Piolets d'Or Awarded to British and Russian Teams
  • Jimmy Webb and Dave Graham Send Ill Thrill (8B+/V14) in Magic Wood
  • Trango Recalls New Vergo Belay Device
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  • Yoga for Climbers - Video Series
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  • Alexander Rohr Makes Third Ascent of Chromosome Y (9a/5.14d)
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  • Wild Country Recalls Friends - Sizes 2, 3 and 4
  • Learn to Write with John Long
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  • Access Fund Announces 2016 Sharp End Awards
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  • Jeff Lowe Honored with Piolet d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award
  • VIDEO: Stefano Ghisolfi Sends Jungle Boogie (9a+/5.15a)
  • Nina Williams Completes Bishop Highball Trio with Ambrosia (V11)
  • Q&A: Matty Hong Sends La Rambla (5.15a) in Spain
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  • Fifteen-Year-Old Laura Rogora Sends Joe-Cita (5.14d)
  • Margo Hayes Sends La Rambla (5.15a)!
  • Weekend Whipper: Adam Ondra Whips Off Neanderthal (5.15b)
  • After 20 Years of Waiting "Dreamline" (WI 6+) Comes True
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  • Outdoor Gear Innovator Jack Stephenson Passes Away at 84
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  • Events at Valdez Ice Festival Canceled Due to Unsafe Conditions
  • 2017 USA Bouldering Youth National Championships Results
  • TNB: Trad Dads and Dad Bods
  • Puccio, Coleman Take 2017 Bouldering Open National Championship
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  • Roland Pauligk, the Creator of the RP, Dies at Age 79
  • Hardest Female First Ascent Ever for 15-Year Old Laura Rogora?
  • 22nd Annual Ouray Ice Festival Delivers the Stuff
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  • Top 10 Climbing Videos of 2016
  • VIDEO: Jimmy Webb's Next Level Project And A Nasty Finger Injury
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  • Top 10 Weekend Whippers of 2016
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  • Jongwon Chon Triumphs at La Sportiva Legends Only 2016
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  • Final Push – Day 4: Adam Ondra Hits First Hurdle
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  • Michaela Kiersch Sends Golden Ticket (5.14c), Red River Gorge
  • VIDEO: David Lama Attempts Southeast Ridge of Annapurna III
  • Final Push: Adam Ondra Blasts Up First Nine Pitches of the Dawn Wall
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  • Ashima Shiraishi, Margo Hayes Dominate at 2016 Youth World Championships
  • Dawn Wall Update: Adam Ondra Prepares for Final Push
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  • Art of the First Ascent: The Bold Climbs of Marcus Garcia
  • INTERVIEW: Jernej Kruder On Climbing Sharma’s “King Line” Es Pontas
  • Jernej Kruder Repeats Sharma’s “King Line” Es Pontas
  • VIDEO: Adam Ondra Onsights C'est La Vie (8c+/5.14c)
  • Joe Kinder Puts Up Bone Tomahawk (5.14d/5.15a)
  • VIDEO: Adam Ondra's First Ascent of Robin Ud (5.15b)
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  • Dave Graham Nabs Second Ascent of Creature from the Black Lagoon (V16)
  • Michaela Kiersch Sends Lucifer (5.14c), Red River Gorge
  • Nalle Hukkataival Sends World’s First V17
  • Ghisolfi and Garnbret Seize Golds at World Cup in Xiamen, China
  • Neil Gresham, 45, Establishes Sabotage (8c+/5.14c), Malham Cove
  • Dawn Wall Update: Adam Ondra Reaches Pitch 15 and Dyno Crux
  • Adam Ondra Makes Quick Progress on the Dawn Wall
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  • Winners of the Rock and Ice / Mammut Photo Contest 2016
  • Dave Graham Establishes Topaz (V15) in Wild Basin, RMNP, Colorado
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  • Red Rock Canyon Under Threat From Major Housing Development
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  • Chris Sharma Makes Second Ascent of Joe Mama (5.15a)
  • VIDEO: Stefano Carnati Climbing Le Cadre Nouvelle (9a/5.14d), Céüse
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  • Adam Ondra Climbs New 5.15b, Onsights 5.14c
  • Isabelle Faus Sends Her Second V14, The Wheel of Chaos
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  • VIDEO: Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker's "Crucifix Project"
  • Wide Boyz Establish World’s Longest Roof Crack - Crown of Thorns (5.14a)
  • Mark Anderson Sends Shadowboxing (5.14d), Rifle, Colorado
  • VIDEO: Kilian Fischhuber Repeats Rätikon's Headless Children (8b/5.13d)
  • Chris Sharma Sends Five-Year 5.15 Deep Water Solo Project
  • Daniel Woods Climbs Black 90 Project at V16
  • Marc-André Leclerc Solos Patagonia’s Torre Egger in Winter
  • Matty Hong Repeats Fat Camp (5.14d) in Rifle, Colorado
  • Banff Mountain Book Competition Announces 2016 Finalists
  • Remembering Kim Schmitz, by John Roskelley
  • Ondra Seizes Lead Championship, American Women Climb High
  • Roger Schaeli Makes Second Ascent of La Vida es Silbar, Eiger North Face
  • Ines Papert Makes Rare Ascent of Alpine Testpiece Scaramouche (5.13b/c)
  • Rob Collister: Gletscherhorn North Face, Swiss Alps
  • 2016 IFSC Climbing World Championships
  • VIDEO: Ryuichi Murai Sends Three V15’s In A Month
  • Ashima Shiraishi on Horizon (V15), Sleepy Rave (V15) & “Young Guns”
  • VIDEO: Chris Sharma Trains With Patxi Usobiaga For ‘Le Blond’ Project
  • Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature 2016 Shortlist
  • VIDEO: Dave Graham Sends Monkey Wedding (V15), Rocklands
  • Search Called Off for Missing Pair in Pakistan
  • (Updated) Weather to Break, Helicopters Expected to Fly in Search for Adamson and Dempster in Karakorum
  • ​Tommy Caldwell Free Climbs Mount Hooker in a Day Car to Car
  • Domen Skofic, Magdalena Röck Victorious at Imst Lead World Cup
  • Alex Megos Flashes The Path (5.14 R) On Gear, Talks Fightclub (5.15b)
  • Coxsey, Narasaki Overall 2016 Bouldering World Cup Champions
  • Dave Graham Sends Old Nemesis, Monkey Wedding (V15)
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  • Margo Hayes, 18, Breaks the “Boys Club” of Bad Girls Club (5.14d)
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  • Jan Hojer, Michaela Kiersch Win 2016 Psicobloc Masters, Park City
  • Miranda Oakley Breaks Women’s Solo Speed Record on the Nose
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  • LIVE: 2016 Psicobloc Masters
  • Ashima Tops Second V15, Sleepy Rave, Grampians, Australia
  • Tokyo 2020 Olympics Officially Approves Climbing
  • A Win for Tennessee Climbing: Denny Cove Protected
  • Megos Crushes Canada: Seven 5.14b’s in Four Days
  • Toshi Takeuchi, Shawn Raboutou Smash Spray of Light (V15)
  • Drew Ruana, 16, Sends Le Cadre Nouvelle (5.14d) in Céüse
  • VIDEO: Melissa Le Nevé on Training, Comps and Outdoor Projects
  • Dave Di Paolo, Carderock Hammer Killer, Sentenced to 10 Years
  • Climbers Spook Gunman, Allowing Hostages to Flee on Independence Pass
  • Adam Ondra Cranks 5.15a FA in Three Attempts, Onsights Two 5.14c's
  • VIDEO: Alex Megos Sends Ben Moon’s Infamous Hubble (5.14c)
  • Nalle Hukkataival, Vadim Timonov Send Monkey Wedding (V15)
  • Gary Falk, IFMGA Guide, Falls to Death on Grand Teton
  • Janja Garnbret Dominates Lead World Cup, Again
  • Sherpas on Denali: First Nepalese Ascent of the West Rib
  • Mich Kemeter Frees 14-Pitch Voie Petit (8b 5.13d) on Grand Capucin
  • Paul Robinson - South African Boulder Fiend and Visionary
  • Nalle Hukkataival Repeats The Dragon’s Guardian (~V15), South Africa
  • Sean McColl, Janja Garnbret Take Gold At 2016 Villars World Cup
  • Margo Hayes, Brian Huang Win USA Climbing Junior Sport Nationals
  • Seb Bouin Repeats Thor’s Hammer (~5.15a), Suggests Downgrade
  • Inspect Your DMM Climbing Harness
  • Slovenians Victorious at First Lead World Cup of Season
  • LIVE: IFSC Lead Climbing World Cup - Chamonix, France 2016 - Finals
  • Ashima Shiraishi Injured in 45-Foot Ground Fall
  • Weekend Whipper: Climbers vs. Trees
  • Adam Ondra Establishes The Right of Passage (5.14d), Flatanger
  • Sachi Amma Repeats Thor's Hammer (9a+ 5.15a)
  • Paul Robinson Establishes The Dragon’s Guardian (V15), South Africa
  • Three El Cap Routes in a Day for Brad Gobright and Scott Bennett
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  • Jon Cardwell's Biographie (9a+ 5.15a) Training and Projecting Advice
  • Dave Graham Makes Third Ascent of Delirium (V15)
  • Caroline Gleich, World-Famous Ski Mountaineer, is a Trad Addict
  • Virtual Reality: Watch Alex Honnold Solo the Needles in 360-degrees
  • Bouldering Access is Back in Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland
  • Adam Ondra Makes First Ascent of 120 Degrees (5.15a), Flatanger
  • VIDEO: Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll Loves Pain and Dirty, Wet Cracks
  • Klemen Bečan Sends Papichulo (5.15a), Disappointed With Ease
  • Margo Hayes, 18, Sends The Crew (5.14c) in Rifle
  • President Obama Takes Over Yosemite
  • Rustam Gelmanov Makes Second Ascent of Hypnotized Minds (V16)
  • RIP Ken Wilson: Editor of Mountain Magazine, Rabble-Rouser
  • Lena Herrmann, 22, Climbs 5.14c in the Frankenjura
  • The Desert – Excerpt from “American Climber” by Luke Mehall
  • Heather Weidner Sends China Doll (5.14a R) on Gear
  • INTERVIEW: USA Boulderers On the IFSC World Cup in Vail
  • Stefano Carnati Sends Action Directe (5.14d), Frankenjura
  • RIP: Nicholas Clinch, 85, Led Only American First Ascent of an 8000er
  • Jonathan Siegrist's Mission to Rediscover Switzerland's World-Class Sport Climbing
  • Megan Mascarenas Dominates 2016 Vail Bouldering World Cup
  • LIVE: IFSC Bouldering World Cup, Vail 2016 (Finals)
  • LIVE: IFSC Bouldering World Cup, Vail 2016 (Semi-Finals)
  • Mélissa Le Nevé, a Top-Three Boulderer at Vail World Cup, Talks Rock
  • VIDEO: Pump Control and Efficient Resting for Climbing
  • Virginia Sandstone Crag Opened to Climbing
  • Bouldering World Cup Comes to Vail, Colorado This Weekend
  • Alex Megos Sends Hubble (8c+), Northern Lights (9a)
  • INTERVIEW: Melissa Arnot on Climbing Everest Without Supplemental Oxygen
  • Dai Koyamada Establishes Nehanna (V14/15) in Japan
  • VIDEO: Daniel Woods on the Elusive V17 Bouldering Grade
  • VIDEO: Adam Ondra Makes Second Ascent of Geocache (9a+/5.15a)
  • Q&A: Jon Cardwell On Climbing Biographie/Realization (9a+/5.15a)
  • Adam Ondra Repeats Geocache (9a+/5.15a) in a Day
  • American Melissa Arnot Claims Mount Everest Record
  • Jon Cardwell Sends Biographie/Realization (5.15a)
  • Coxsey, Chon Win Innsbruck Bouldering World Cup
  • Nathaniel Coleman, Brooke Raboutou Win 2016 Riverrock Boulder Bash
  • Zimmerman, Wright Establish New Route in Alaska’s St. Elias Range
  • Three Dead, Two Missing and Hundreds Summit on Everest
  • Robbie Phillips and Jacob Cook Free El Cap’s 30-Pitch El Niño
  • VIDEO: Chris Sharma On His Santa Linya Project
  • Climbing and Mentorship Come Together at City Rocks
  • Japan Triumphs at Bouldering World Cup in Navi Mumbai
  • Silvio Reffo Sends Goldrake (5.15a), Cornalba, Italy
  • The Wizard - Dean Potter
  • The Great Unknown - Graham Hunt
  • Dean Potter: What I've Learned
  • VIDEO: Alex Megos Sends First Round, First Minute (5.15b)
  • Ofer Blutrich Sends Mind Control - First Israeli to Climb 5.14c
  • INTERVIEW: Sonnie Trotter on Freeing "The Prow," 5.14a Multi-pitch
  • Valley Walls: A Memoir of Climbing and Living in Yosemite
  • Block and Wall: Buildering and Raving in Trento, Italy
  • VIDEO: Adam Ondra Attempts The World's First 5.15a Flash
  • VIDEO: The Width of Life - Tribute to Dave Pegg, Colorado Climbing Legend
  • William Bosi, 17, Climbs Rainshadow (5.14d), Malham Cove
  • Shauna Coxsey Triumphs, Tomoa Narasaki Shocks at Chongqing World Cup
  • Alex Lowe's and David Bridges' Remains Found on Shishapangma
  • Mark Cole, Longtime Leader in SE Climbing, Passes at 58
  • The Greatest Boulderer You’ve Never Heard Of: Ryuichi Murai's on Fire
  • Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation's Khumbu Climbing Center Almost Complete
  • Climbers Remember Nepal on Anniversary of Earthquake
  • Shauna Coxsey Dominates at Kazo World Cup
  • VIDEO: Epic Climber - Sharma, Ondra, Digiulian, and Marin in Spain
  • Adam Ondra On Climbing In The Olympics
  • Crack School with Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker (Video Series)
  • Mary Harlan: Heartiness, Suffering and The Zion Link-Up
  • Chuck Pratt's "The View From Dead Horse Point"
  • VIDEO: Ethan Pringle Sends Meadowlark Lemon (V14), Red Rock
  • Megan Mascarenas Places Third At Meiringen Bouldering World Cup
  • VIDEO: Slow Details - 2016 Meiringen Bouldering World Cup
  • Tyler Armstrong, 12, Denied Permit to Climb Mount Everest
  • Drew Ruana Sends Five 5.14s, Onsights Four 5.13s at the RRG
  • Ryuichi Murai Sends Hydrangea (V15), His Third V15 in a Month
  • Roland Hemetzberger Frees 22-Year-Old Project, Outro (5.15a)
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  • Glen Dawson, Sierra Nevada Climbing Pioneer, Dies at 103
  • Jim Curran, British Climber and Author of "K2, The Story of The Savage Mountain," Dies
  • Stefano Ghisolfi Sends Adam Ondra’s Goldrake (5.15a)
  • Access Fund 2016 Climbing Preservation Grants
  • Michaela Kiersch Sends Pure Imagination (5.14c)
  • Five New Mixed Routes in Pilot Creek, Wyoming
  • Allen Frame Hill, Climber-Filmmaker, Found Dead at Home
  • VIDEO: Profondo Sud - Bouldering in Basilicata, Italy
  • Ryan Vachon Makes Second Ascent of Saphira (M15-)
  • Adam Ondra Claims 5.15a/b and 5.14d First Ascents in One Weekend
  • Brooke Raboutou, Dru Mack Send Southern Smoke (5.14c) at the RRG
  • Durango Climbers Linkup Six Fisher Towers in Under 24 Hours
  • Margo Hayes Sends Pure Imagination (5.14c) at the Red River Gorge
  • VIDEO: Edu Marin Discovers His Limits On Alex Huber's Sansara (8b+/5.14a)
  • Matty Hong Sends Papichulo (5.15a) in Oliana, Spain
  • 2016 Piolets d’Or Award Recipients Announced
  • Jon Cardwell Sends Shadow Boxing (5.14d), Flashes Waka Flocka (5.14b)
  • Interview: Klemen Bečan on the First Ascent of Joe Mama (5.15a)
  • Ashima Shiraishi Sends V15!
  • Stefano Carnati, 17, Makes Quick Work of Goldrake (5.15a) in Italy
  • Margo Hayes, Sean Bailey Win USA Sport Open National Championships
  • Big Crowds, Big Money: Climbers Bring $3.6 Million to the RRG
  • Ethan Pringle and La Reina Mora – The Full Story
  • V15 Send Train by Adam Ondra, Sachi Amma and Jongwon Chon
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  • The 2015 Sharp End Awards from the Access Fund
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  • Magnus Midtbø Makes Fourth Ascent of Seleccion Anal (9a+/5.15a)
  • Daniel Woods Sends Papichulo (5.15a) in Oliana, Spain
  • Legendary Climber Cal Swoager Dies at 66
  • Klemen Bečan Puts Up New 5.15a in Oliana, Spain
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  • First Winter Ascent of Nanga Parbat
  • The Final Frontier – Rumney, NH Land Purchase
  • Scott Cosgrove, Bold Yosemite Climber, Passes Away
  • Highlights from the 2016 Ice Climbing World Youth Championship
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  • Felipe Camargo Repeats Catalán Witness the Fitness (V15)
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  • Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita Named Nat Geo Adventurer of the Year
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  • Jimmy Webb, Charles Albert Repeat Fontainebleau's “Hardest Climb”
  • Alex Puccio, Jakob Schubert Win 2016 Hueco Rock Rodeo
  • Climbing Anchors and the Evolution of the Quad
  • Tom Ballard Establishes World’s Hardest Dry Tooling Route
  • Tim Emmett, Klemen Preml Establish 260-Foot WI 12 at Helmcken Falls
  • Jimmy Webb Sends The Big Island (V15), Toupie Carnivore assis (V14)
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  • VIDEO: Jonathan Siegrist Sends Power Inverter (5.15a)
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  • Brette Harrington Free Solos Austríaca in Patagonia
  • Nathaniel Coleman, Megan Mascarenas Win 2016 Bouldering Nationals
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  • Jimmy Webb Sends The Game (V15)
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  • Jakob Schubert Sends La Planta de Shiva (5.15b) in Spain
  • VIDEO: Ueli Steck - Accepting Risk, Reward & Danger (Part 4)
  • Epic TV's Top Three Training Videos of 2015
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  • Climbers We Lost in 2015
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  • Climbers Against Cancer Founder John Ellison Dies
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  • 2016 Mugs Stump Award Recipients
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  • The Top 7 Climbing Achievements of 2015
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  • VIDEO: Highlights from La Sportiva Legends Only 2015
  • Top 10 Weekend Whippers of 2015
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  • Southern Rampage – Jimmy Webb Establishes Four V14s
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  • Alex Megos Hikes Demencia Senil (5.15a)
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  • VIDEO: Martin Stráník Climbs Story of Two Worlds (V15)
  • Q&A: Ueli Steck On Reclaiming the Eiger Speed Record
  • GEAR OF THE YEAR 2015
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  • Top 10 Climbing Videos of 2015
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  • VIDEO: Ondra and Markovič Crush in Kranj
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  • Ondra, Markovič Crowned 2015 Lead World Champions
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  • The K2 Summit Controversy
  • VIDEO: Adam Ondra and Stefano Ghisolfi Send New 5.15b's
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  • Megos Cruises the Red River Gorge
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  • Ondra, Kim Sweep Lead World Cup in Wujiang, China
  • How to Build a Home Climbing Wall
  • Winners of the 8th Annual Rock and Ice / Mammut Photo Contest
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    The Battle for Indian Creek: Bears Ears, Rob Bishop & the Access Fund

    29-Jun-2016
    By

    From high above the rusted desert, Canyonlands looked vacant, boundless and wide-open. Massive rock formations down on the sandy floor—jagged cliffs, rock islands and spires—were as small as Legos on a red carpet. From our view riding the air currents in a Cessna 210, the power of geologic time’s grind on the stony architecture was almost frighteningly stark. A climber wouldn’t be detectable from up here, invisible as a bug on a beach.

    A piece of Indian Creek, seen from the sky. Photo: Seth Heller.After taking off from Moab, 40 miles to the north, our single-propeller craft shuddered as we banked left over Indian Creek. The roaring engine was the only sound in the vibrating cabin when Leland Begay, a legal counsel for the Ute tribe, spoke.

    “So how hard are the climbs down there?”

    Aaron Mike, the Native Lands Coordinator for the Access Fund, began explaining the workings of trad climbing from behind Begay. Mike is Navajo. He was raised on a reservation, and is eloquently passionate about the economic boost climbing could bring to reservations.

    “There’s a disconnect about what rock climbers do,” Mike told me. “It helps to explain that climbers take care of the environment, that for a lot of us it’s our church.”

    In an identical plane ahead of us, Jason Keith, the senior policy advisor to the Access Fund, had been narrating specifics of the geography below on our crackling headsets as we gazed down upon the great Utah desert.

    If congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative passes in the legislature—he’s expected to submit a final proposal soon—portions of this landscape could be handed over to private companies for energy exploration, livestock grazing and mineral development.

    When the crack-climbing mecca of Indian Creek crept smoothly into view beneath my window, it simply looked like tiny burnt-orange walls—just another section of rock that time forgot to crumble. Unremarkable and lonely on the ancient seafloor, the Creek was soon gobbled up by the blue-banded horizon as we flew onward.

    In the Cessna 210, over Indian Creek, Utah. Photo: Seth Heller.Climbing areas are sacred to climbers, but so are some of the sites they sit on. The flight reinforced that climbers and Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition don’t just value the crags or archaeology in this region—they covet the history their respective clans have etched into these rocks.

    Bishop, with his Public Lands Initiative, joins the fight for a slice of Utah. Bishop, a Republican Congressman in Utah, is the chairman of both the Committee on Natural Resources and the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. He created the PLI—a plan intended to balance land protection with enhanced industrial development.

    “While many stakeholders and public land supporters argue that the draft PLI is not balanced and will harm irreplaceable public resources,” states Jason Keith of the Access Fund, “[the draft] doesn’t provide sufficient protections for the Bears Ears region, and does not reflect the three years of local community input.

    “The Access Fund will continue to work with Congress to find the right balance for conservation and climbing access in Eastern Utah,” he stated. He cited collaboration with colleagues at Outdoor Alliance. The Access Fund has stated that as a general principle it prefers legislative solutions to executive orders.

    The PLI isn’t the only option on the table, however, and the AF is fostering a relationship with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.

    The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition—comprised of tribal leaders representing a five-tribe federation of Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe Native Americans—opposes the PLI and advocates the establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument instead.

    The proposed Bears Ears National Monument—a 1.9-million-acre wedge of Utah that politicians, businesspeople and Native American tribes have fought over for years—encompasses the legendary desert-climbing area of Indian Creek, and the lesser-known but equally important Arch Canyon and Valley of the Gods.

    Another view from the plane. Photo: Seth Heller.It was for this reason that the Access Fund and American Alpine Club organized an EcoFlight over Utah with representatives from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.

    Two hours after our plane touched down on the scorching tarmac, Octavius Seowtewa, a representative of the Zuni people for the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, sat on a bench under the shade of a tree.

    “Looking down at the Bears Ears area, the vast landscape, thinking about the medicinal plants and the animals there, that was special,” he said quietly.

    When asked what he hoped to accomplish by viewing the area, Octavius, who is the head of the Zuni’s medicine society, responded: “We know some of the ancestral archaeology sites down there. Think of the possibility of finding new sites, new petroglyphs, new shrines. All the National Parks have federal agencies protecting them, but this is a new venture because we want to have a native voice in the decisions. We know what we want protected and how we want it protected. Who better than the people who know it best?”

    Land has always been a volatile issue in Utah, where the federal government manages two-thirds of it. From 1930 to 1980, 14 million acres of previously pristine BLM land felt infrastructure and industrial transformation. Since then, conservationists have kept most public land from being developed by filing complex lawsuits that slow down the process.

    The Bears Ears battle began in 2009 when the Obama Administration published a shortlist of regions it hoped to designate as national monuments. Cedar Mesa, the plateau in San Juan County that constitutes much of the proposed Bears Ears National Monument, was on that list. In 2010, then senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) debuted his own land proposal in an effort to preempt establishment of the national monument. A group of Navajo in San Juan County responded to the proposal by forming a non-profit, Utah Dine Bikeyah, to advocate for enhanced archaeology and rock-art protections in that area. Senator Bennett lost re-election, a Tea Party member took his place, and Bishop expressed his determination to put forth a land proposal of his own; the eventual proposal was the PLI.

    Signs of industry already dot the vast landscape. Photo: Seth Heller.In 2012, the Access Fund began lobbying federal, state and local politicians to consider climbing-access conflicts that could arise, or be solved by, the new map Bishop hoped to draw. At that point Bishop had not released the PLI and was simply asking various organizations what issues they wanted the PLI to solve.

    Utah Dine Bikeyah, aware of Rob Bishop’s conservative bent, believed the PLI would be an unacceptable plan and rallied other tribes to the cause. In July 2015 the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition was formed, and Utah Dine Bikeyah turned over leadership to the coalition. Three months later, the new alliance of tribes proposed the Bears Ears National Monument designation to the Obama Administration, preempting Bishop’s PLI.

    In January 2016 Congressman Bishop finally unveiled the long-awaited PLI discussion draft. The sweeping proposal he claimed would settle Utah’s land disputes once and for all fell flat. The PLI would protect 4.3 million acres in northern and eastern Utah, but it restricted future administrations from designating any more national monuments, and stripped protections from millions of acres to create roads and dig for oil and gas. The coalition immediately opposed it.

    The Access Fund had worked for nearly three years advocating access considerations the PLI should include, but realized that Bishop’s draft wasn’t the grand compromise the organization had hoped for. Disappointed but optimistic that a new solution could be found, the AF continues to lobby Bishop.

    “The Access Fund is a strong supporter of permanently protecting the Bears Ears region in southeastern Utah from impacts caused by looting, vandalism, resource extraction and careless or irresponsible visitation,” states Jason Keith of the Access Fund. “We support collaborative management of federal lands at Bears Ears in a way that honors the traditional and ancestral ties of Native American people to these lands while also protecting this world-class landscape for all Americans ... The Bears Ears area contains many world-class recreation opportunities that the Access Fund believes will benefit from a protective status and management.”

    Aaron Mike, the Native Lands Coordinator for the Access Fund. Photo: Seth Heller.The Access Fund and Native American tribes have butted agendas in the past, which makes their current collaboration on Bears Ears all the more important. In 1997, a Washoe tribe complained that climbing on Cave Rock, by Lake Tahoe, Nevada, was sacrilegious, and the sport was banned there, though boating, fishing and picnicking continued. In 2003 the sanction was upheld in court and despite a 2005 appeal by the Access Fund—which called the ban unconstitutional—the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals maintained the injunction.

    Sometimes the Access Fund found common ground with tribes. Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming, has long been a popular destination for both climbers and native tribes who consider the butte sacred. In 1995, the National Park Service instituted a voluntary ban on climbing during June to respect the tribes that practice religious rituals during that month. The Access Fund publicly supports the "voluntary ban."

    Some access disputes span decades; past and potential closures at Hueco Tanks [see Rock and Ice issue 235 (July 2016) for a full report] are an example. At Hueco, a famous climbing area and a sacred tribal site full of rock art overlap. In 2014, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) began re-evaluating the Public Use Plan at the Tanks, and all boulders in the park are being scanned with a specialized “DStretch” camera to detect rock art invisible to the naked eye.

    Climbers, Octavius says, are not only welcome allies but they're also indispensable.The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition craves a national monument because it would protect the 100,000 historical sites the coalition estimates are within the area. Octavius Seowtewa hopes to discover more archaeological sites once Bears Ears is created.

    Climbers, Octavius says, are not only welcome allies but they're also indispensable. “Climbers go to places where ordinary people don’t go. They may find new archaeology that we don’t know about. We would have a passionate group of people out there, and they would be like an extra pair of eyes,” he mused. In some areas, climbing may be in conflict with archaeology, but Seowtewa thinks that these access issues should be examined on a case-by-case basis, rather than banned on climbing within Bears Ears.

    For the Access Fund and the climbing community, Bears Ears is an opportunity to include language in the charter of a national monument establishing climbing as a protected recreational activity. If such a clause is included in the Bears Ears charter, the precedent will make it easier for similar clauses to be included in the charters of future national monuments.

    Communication between the Access Fund and the coalition may also be a chance for the climbing community to build trust and respect with several tribes in the West. Both communities share a love of nature and a desire to see as little industrial development as possible on pristine lands.

    Octavius Seowtewa. Photo: Seth Heller.That afternoon at Canyonlands Field Airport, I asked Octavius if he thought climbers and native peoples could share the Bears Ears area without conflict. Octavius sat with the question for several moments.

    “Destruction of our sites would mean a destruction of our history. You have your information in books; our ancestors wrote them on rocks to last forever. That’s what we’re looking at.

    “Bishop’s bill [is] talking about improving protections for the land, and improving roads so people can come visit places like this, but it’s not what they’re really looking at. They’re looking at oil and other resources that would only benefit a few rich people.”

    Octavius paused as a helicopter buzzed over us. “I hadn’t heard of the Access Fund before the flight. Talking to them here, I see they hold the same respect for the land as we do.

    “Think of Native Americans as the first rock climbers.”

     

    This article was updated on June 30 to add new information.

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