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Once a counter-culture sport for hippies, intellectuals and social misfits, climbing is now mainstream. It is estimated 5 million or 1.67% of Americans consider themselves climbers today.  The recent ascent of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite received over 13 billion online hits. “If even a tiny fraction of those people got a spark in their mind saying, ‘I want to do that,’ we have a wave of participation coming like we haven’t seen,” Brady Robinson, Executive Director of The Access Fund, a national climbing advocacy group, told The New York Times.

For land managers, including the Truckee Donner Land Trust that owns Black Wall and other climbing and bouldering sites, this boom in popularity creates new challenges. While climbers have a legacy of embracing conservation – John Muir and David Brower were climbers – the sheer number of climbers has unavoidable impacts. The Access Fund reports that scores of climbing areas on public and private lands have been closed in recent years due to impacts of climbers and other user groups.

With more climbers can come more trash, trampled vegetation, unsustainable trails, parking problems and other impacts. Local climbers, the Land Trust, and the USFS are trying to stay ahead of the curve.  Climbers have taken the initiative at Donner Summit to make trails sustainable. This volunteer effort will continue this summer at Black Wall.

The Land Trust is working with the local climbing community, The Access Fund, and CRAGS, a Sacramento climbing organization, to minimize impacts from climbing at Black Wall and on Donner Summit. “With increasing numbers comes increasing regulations. Climbers have a long-standing tradition, and especially on Donner Summit, of policing themselves,” local climber, Hans Standteiner noted.

Learn more about Black Wall by clicking here. 

Greyson Howard