Arches National Park Update, UT


By Sam Lightner Jr., Access Fund Board Member, Arches Task Force Coordinator, ASCA South East Utah Representative

In May of 2006 the National Park Service (NPS) placed a moratorium on new fixed anchors in Arches National Park. This moratorium bans pitons (or bolts) on existing aid routes, effectively making many of the established routes in Arches closed to future ascents.

Similarly, any new climbs requiring descent anchors are also now banned. Both Arches and Canyonlands (where fixed anchors are also now currently prohibited) contain a very large number of desert towers and the potential countless new single pitch routes and these new fixed anchor restrictions greatly limited climbing opportunities. However, the NPS plans to start a new climbing management plan governing both Arches and Canyonlands later this year which may address some of the current climbing restrictions.

After the May 2006 Arches fixed anchor ban the Access Fund immediately stepped in to try and alleviate the situation by improving relations with the South East Utah Group. Through meetings with park officials it became clear that the new climbing restrictions in Arches resulted from public outcry about the controversial climb of Delicate Arch last May which forced land managers to make a rule that was not good for climbers.

A group of local Moab climbers, working with the Access Fund and the American Safe Climbing Association, has begun to work with the NPS to try and give climbers a better image by cleaning up anchors and removing old webbing from towers and other visible routes within Arches.

Park administrators have so far been receptive and the improving relationship will hopefully help the Access Fund negotiate an end to the anchor moratorium and eventually produce a new climbing policy that accommodates climbers. In the meantime, it is important that climbers not add anchors to existing or new routes, forgo the use of chalk, and follow trails, washes, and slick rock when approaching climbs.

For more information contact Access Fund Policy Director Jason Keith at [email protected].