Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Helicopter and Debate

Update on the ice maintenance: Have done a little checking and Dave has a friend in Wyoming with access to a Halliburton oil field helicopter who will drop the cat off at the top of the cliff. The helicopter won't be able to pick the cat back up, so we’ll have to drive it down the trail or leave it up there for a while. If it is left up there, we can make some super belay platforms. Also, if we use the cat to make the approach trail 48 inches wide, I can then run a pack animal business to haul in climbing gear, bolts and drills. That way we won’t have to maintain a cache of gear on the big ledge (out of sight from the anti-climbers as we've been doing). The anti-climbers apparently haven't taken on backcountry horsemen or their trails, so this should qualify as "acceptable" use of public land.

The other big news is the Trump vs anti-climbers debate scheduled for April 8. When Trump heard Obama was involved with the South Rim, he didn't want to be out-maneuvered. He has decided to speak out against the discrimination climbers have faced at the North Rim. Trump also proposes that a wall be built across the mouth of Mill Creek canyon to protect the climbers. We suggest one side of the wall (the west side) be bolted with gym holds paid for by the allied health workers of Hamilton. The holds will allow training and improve climber physical condition and health, something which any health worker should readily promote. The debate will be moderated by the author of this blog series, his brother, and the pilot of the previously mentioned helicopter. Winner will also be decided by the author. UM will televise the debate and the advertising revenue will be donated to the FTUKKR2TCC (Fund to Update Kurt Krueger’s Rack to the Current Century - recall I am retired and on a fixed income).

Other ideas to follow...

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Grant to Study Hikers Impact

I’ve been investigating the possibility of getting a $1,520,000.00 grant from the Forest Service for a study of the anti-climber's use of the North Rim of Mill Creek. I'm pretty sure I can push it through. I've had grants funded in the past for bike trails in Missoula on Forest Service and Fish, Wildlife and Parks land. My proposal for this grant is the study be conducted by our own FS research staff (retired). As I've done in the past, I'll bring in the top people in recreation activity to assist with the work. My friends at the IMBA will be a good match since the anti-climbers have also been pushing the FS to shut down biking trails in the Bitterroot.

The research will focus on trail wear caused by the anti-climbers' hiking boots per weight class, the effect of the holes in the soil made by their hiking pole tips, and the CO2 global warming effect of their extra hiking as opposed to more sedate activities like sitting around belaying. The second part of the study will involve the feasibility of moving any birds of prey to New York City skyscrapers. I think PetSmart has bird cages, and might be brought on as a corporate sponsor. Some funds could be maintained to relocate the anti-climbers to NYC with the birds.

Update on the ice maintenance: I have a request in with the Missoula City Parks Department for a Private Citizens Use authorization (PCU) of their new cat with a narrow blade. I don’t think it will be that hard to figure out how to run it, and it will be the perfect tool to push the snow off the top of the climbs and help us get snow shovels up there for manual use. The old hiking and animal trail up the ridge should be easy to follow and the cat can help straighten out the braided trails at the bottom caused by the anti-climbers' moving of downed trees and habitat as they tried to block the public's access to public land. Once the path is in, Dave will take a bunch of shovels and extra gas in his bike trailer and can cache the shovels in case we get any late season storms. A couple trailers should do the trick for equipment transport.

It's important to reward those climbers clearing the ice and doing other maintenance for the good of the climbing community. The Forest Service has prohibited us from slowing the erosion at the base of the climbs or reversing the damage the anti-climbers caused when they dug up rocks and branches up there as well. But it is possible that pulling knapweed and picking up litter, like the broken toilet and spent gun cartridges that cover the hillside, may be permitted. Therefore, any climber who presents a knapweed stem (roots must be included) or a piece of litter (especially litter planted by the anti-climbers) will be rewarded with a beer on "Tick Traverse" (trad climb). Remember to double up your anchor when you rap down.
Keg is supported by stoppers and hexes.
No bolts placed.

Other ideas to follow...

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Kurt's Korner - South Rim Routes

Editor's Note: Submissions from Kurt often require a little work, teasing meaning from the words, ensuring the essence of the idea is neither distorted nor lost. This is the first part of a longer piece. We expect to get another paragraph or two posted each of the next few days.

Good news on the voluntary bolting moratorium. After hearing that the route “No Drama Obama” had been named for him at the North Rim, it looks as if President Obama will issue an executive order to open the South Rim (the cliff band across the canyon from the current climbing area) for route development. As a result, we did a preliminary walk through of the potential up there and it turns out the anti-climbing group was correct about existing routes. We found five routes, only there are two things: First, the hardware dates from the 1990s, meaning, they’ve apparently been there all along and no one knew. Also, the first bolt on each route is at least 20 feet off the ground. We first thought this was due to minimizing visual impact. But the anti-climbing group was too busy stopping timber sales back then to worry about climbers and bolts, so we came to the obvious conclusion that the high first bolt was of the old-school type of climb, before crash pads, stick clips, and climbing gyms made climbers soft and lazy litterbugs. Either way, it may be one of the reasons the routes are still there since hikers and bird-watchers can’t reach the bolts to damage them.

Since climbing at the South Rim is now officially recognized (thanks to May 25 Forest Service letter), I am pleased to report the next 25 routes have been picked out and transferred to official drawings. We’ve also made a few chalk marks at the base of several to help remember where they’ll go. If you want to put one of the new routes up just stop by the Climbers Club HQ and pick one out. Remember you will have to name the climb, so the pressure is on. Important: you can pick up the secret knock for admittance to HQ at the gym’s front desk. You can find out which gym’s front desk (UM or Freestone) by asking one of the girls drawing beer at Draught Works, but only if they’re drawing the special “code” beer at the time. To find out which beer is the special code beer, well, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself. It may take a lot of trial and error, so start drinking.

On another topic, we do have a maintenance problem across the canyon at the North Rim. The ice coming over the top is getting our routes wet. Dave is leading a trip on April 1 to shovel the snow off the top of the cliff. He figures if he takes the snow off for about 10 feet that should allow things to dry off pretty nicely. If anyone thinks the climbs are a little dirty check with Dave about collecting snow in a tank up top and then run a hose down to clean the dirt off. Remember if you have a climbing problem – we’re here to help and will figure out a solution for you.

Scouting the South Rim for Routes
Aerial Vandal Patrols Also Under Consideration

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Good Neighbors

Next issue to tackle: Although Montana had a history of not reporting climbs, that changed around 1990. I’ve had early climbs in Kootenai reported by others when the Falcon guide came out. Other climbers have done the same. That’s our choice. Today we have the guides.

Montana climbers tend to travel a bunch, especially in winter when our local crags are snowed in. When we visit other areas, we get to enjoy the labor of the climbing family in those states in the form of the routes others have put up. Meanwhile, during the time this blog was down in 2015, climbers in our area continued to be harassed by the vocal minority, and received no support from the Forest Service. The Forest Service even activated a moratorium for new sport routes. The blog being off-line resulted in us letting down other climbers by not giving them access to our routes, as we have to theirs. So let’s change that and say, Come and enjoy them now. The North Rim guide is available for PDF download in the upper right corner of this site, as it always has been. Another guide for some new trad routes will also be out soon.

The group and individuals who have pressured the Forest Service with anti-climbing harassment are definitely of the “not in my neighborhood” type. So, to them, sorry about that. But it’s over now. Print the guidebook and enjoy the routes. Montana is a poor state. The state government promotes inviting your friends to Montana to recreate and spend money. Face the reality.

A few more details of coordinating routes and guidebooks. First thing, I’m retired from the Forest Service (research not leadership). Now the important part: I was also a union steward. As a result, I have problems with FS leadership. For Dwight’s 2nd addition of the Butte guide he and I agreed we wouldn’t put all the areas in the guide. There were plenty of climbs for climbers new to the area and we thought once you completed all the climbs you would be plugged into the local scene and could find the non-published areas. After Dwight passed, I continued this practice in the 3rd edition of the Butte guide. We have a similar situation here in Missoula. Lots of climbs and areas are not published, while plenty are published for new residents and visiting climbers. The Forest Service has indicated they will be developing a climbing management plan in the Bitterroot National Forest. It is hard to manage a recreation activity if you don’t know where it is taking place. At this point in time I don’t feel the climbing community believes it has had a positive experience with the Forest Service. So, I will keep some climbs unknown, just in case. If you are a visiting climber (please bring ID to prove you are not a member of the “not in my neighborhood” group) and need to find some of the unpublished climbs -- just get in touch with me. I have the time to show you around. I’ll take you. Sharing is part of being a good neighbor.

Other ideas to follow...

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Forest Service Follow-Up Letter

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King has issued a follow-up to her March 7 letter. The new letter, dated March 25, is reproduced below. The letter contains a number of inaccuracies, actual and implied. The statement about routes on the South Rim especially demands comment. Simply put, there are no routes to any climber's knowledge at the South Rim. What makes this claim's inclusion especially disturbing is that it reveals the extent to which the BNF listens to the anti-climbing group without verifying the information they're being fed. We saw an example of this last year when Lost Horse was closed based on hearsay of nesting raptors that was shown to be false.

The South Rim statement does raise an interesting question: If there are several imaginary bolted routes at the South Rim, and we are allowed the "replacement of existing bolts for safety reasons" then logic seems to indicate that missing bolts on routes believed to exist can be replaced, bringing those routes into actual existence. Any philosophers in the reading audience want to weigh in?

Here's the letter:

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Defying Gravity and Gnar Pirates Youth Web Sites

To foster a love of climbing in our local youth while developing a sense of community, pride, self confidence and stewardship of the land.

--Defying Gravity

Fred Rhoderick got in touch to let us know that web sites are now on-line for both Defying Gravity and the Gnar Pirates. Defying Gravity is a non-profit organization promoting youth climbing in the Missoula area. Gnar Pirates is a Missoula-based youth competition climbing team. The two organizations are committed to giving kids in western Montana the opportunity to learn and participate in climbing through supervised activities both in the gym and outside. Membership is growing with lots of events and programs on the horizon.

Click on the following links to learn about how your child can join, upcoming events, and ways to contribute:

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Kurt's Korner - Blog is Back

The Blog is back. It is time to share some opinions. The Forest Service bolting moratorium did nothing. So where are we now? The main objection was the sport climbing. Well just before the moratorium, we saw 2 new sport routes. A steep one on the far left, above hard rocks with no soil damage at the bottom. And Cole and I put up a route which is over on the far right of the Tick Farm. It shares the first 3 bolts of a previous climb so no new soil impact, for any readers who are counting. We’ll likely call that one “Better Friends of the Bitterroot” but we have to get approval from Ken, keeper of the guide, for permission to deviate from the “tick” theme for names. Given his “opinion” of Keele and FOB, it’s unlikely he’ll object. So, this was an increase of 5% to the sport climb routes. I also put up some trad climbs, resulting in a 28% increase of those routes. My project for this spring is to add a second pitch to Liger. There is about 25 feet of crack and a gear placement up a little higher. After that maybe a couple bolts. It will go up to anchors which have been waiting for use for about 5 years.

A number of trad routes have also gone up on both sides of Pie for Strength. I count about 50 pitches. This means trad pitches now outnumber sport. This makes Mill Creek a trad area (guide of the new trad routes coming soon). Therefore, while we don’t want to discriminate against sport climbers and want to make them feel welcome, I do think we need to adapt to the change in the type of climbing at Mill. I did come up with one idea: The first thing is we can’t have the wimpy sport climbers running around on their thin legs. Therefore, to help bulk up the wimps, we will have them carry the trad climbers’ packs which have those heavy trad racks in them, those cams and nuts and things that make those climbs “acceptable.” As the author of most of the trad climbs says, “FOB can’t chop what’s not there.”

Other ideas to follow.
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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bitterroot Forest Service Letter - No Progress

The Bitterroot National Forest service released a letter dated March 7, 2016, that updates "interested parties" on the status of climbing in Mill Creek. The letter is a disappointment, and keeps our local Forest Service sitting firmly on the fence. The letter was in part a response to a letter sent by the Western Montana Climbing Coalition to Stevensville District Ranger Tami Sabol. Among the requests made by WMTCC was that the Forest Service honor a verbal agreement made with District Ranger Dan Ritter that the voluntary bolting moratorium be lifted February, 2016; agree that climbers could work to mitigate erosion at the base of the Tick Farm --erosion that we shall remember was accelerated by the repeated destruction of primitive belay platforms by the small but extreme group that opposes climbing-- and demonstrate willingness to establish a climbers' approach trail from the main trail in the Mill Creek drainage.

Instead, the Forest Service has extended the bolting moratorium indefinitely; apparently prohibited erosion control by banning "permanent structures"; and most disturbing, stated that no route development of any kind shall be done in the canyon. This last clause especially appears an attempt by our local Forest Service to place the Bitterroot National Forest in a use class by itself, standing unique among all other Forest Service lands, occupying a category of management more restricted than even our country's national parks or wilderness areas where traditional gear routes are routinely and legally established, and where bolts themselves are permitted if hand-drilled.

A copy of the letter is included below. The fight is far from over.