On our recent trip to Arizona, I went to check out some of the local cragging, only to be greeted by a sign saying the area was closed for birds. The trail that went right up to the rocks was open, but no climbing was allowed. And that’s when it hit me, we’ve been going about this access thing all wrong.
What would America do, faced with restrictions on something she wanted? She would send in the Blacks Ops teams, and subvert the opposition from the inside. Set up a puppet government if needed. Anything to get what she wants.
As climbers we could apply this same model to our access issues, and I believe the time has come for the Access Fund’s Black Ops division, the Climber Intelligence Agency. A secret branch with training camps throughout the country, with the end goal of getting agents inside every land management agency. Aspiring operatives would learn how to fit in at the various government positions, with their lack of unifying policy and endless use of acronyms.
Imagine what it would be like for those of us who deal with access issues. No more sitting through nail biting meetings with land managers, the fate of your newest climbing area left to the whim of an underpaid, overworked employee who may or may not have had his morning coffee yet. Imagine instead a scenario where you glumly sit across the aisle, nodding and smiling at the unsuspecting bureaucrat, knowing his or her boss is really an undercover Access Fund agent, and there is no way the rumored cliff restrictions will ever come to fruition.
Those pesky bird closures that keep us off some of our favorite crags for half the year? Ancient history. We’d get some scientist/biologists on the inside to prove a theory showing that human company is healthy for the birds, as it keeps their instincts sharper and therefore makes them more likely to succeed in the big bad animal kingdom.
In areas where new bolts aren’t allowed, but old ones can be replaced, we could secure permission to replace anchors on climbs that didn’t even exist, allowing new routes to go up in places where they currently are restricted. It would be a new golden age of climbing development, and given the crowded state of many cliffs, we are in dire need of some new spots!
Just thinking about it makes me want to charge my Bosch and buy a stack of bolts and hangers. Access issues would be a quaint thing of the past with the advent of the Climber Intelligence Agency.
As unlikely as this scenario is, in all seriousness, it really would be nice to have some pro climber folks on the inside. I can think of several access issues that have come up not because climbing was in conflict with some established law or regulation, but because an overzealous bureaucrat didn’t get it and thought it shouldn’t be allowed. In fact, I just learned of a BLM office here in western Colorado that manages a somewhat popular area that “doesn’t want climbers on the cliffs”, and this from a very reliable source.
So maybe we do need an Access Fund Black Ops division after all. It’s time to take this fight undercover!