Rumney at Risk: Impacts Reach Tipping Point

Rumney Rocks in central New Hampshire has an amazing concentration of world-class cragging across 38 cliffs. The area draws climbers from across the country, many of whom regularly trek from the busy metropolitan areas of New England, New York, and even eastern Canada. In a word, Rumney is popular. Very very popular.

But Rumney is facing some serious environmental and safety issues, and we’re reaching a tipping point quickly. With more and more climbers visiting the cliffs each year, local volunteers and the US Forest Service can’t keep up with the rapidly expanding impacts from climbers.

“Rumney is seeing a rate of visitation it just isn't prepared for,” says Ty Tyler, Access Fund Stewardship Director. “Heavy foot traffic and climber use is damaging this special climbing area, and without a concentrated effort now there's a real possibility that Rumney could be damaged beyond repair.”

At the popular Meadows crag, erosion and soil loss have exposed tree roots, threatening to kill shade trees and destabilize the belay area. At the 5.8 crag, the base of the cliff is barely held together by rotting retaining walls that are about to give way. Climbers and belayers on lower sections of Orange Crush Wall are being pelted by rocks, kicked down by climbers making their way up unstable trails, creating a major safety concern. And these are just a few of the issues this iconic area is facing.

"We are concerned about the unmitigated impacts to Rumney's trails and staging areas,” says Andy Casler of Rumney Climbers' Association (RCA). “The only way to get in front of these issues is by tackling them in a systematic way, with the support of professional trailbuilders. We’re excited to partner with the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team and US Forest Service on this highly technical work. Now we need to call upon climbers to help.”

Access Fund will be investing significant resources starting this year to address critical stewardship issues at Rumney. The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team will lead a multi-year initiative to begin restoring trails and staging areas, working closely with the US Forest Service and the Rumney Climbers' Association. But we need climbers’ help. To learn more about the Restore Rumney initiative, please contact [email protected].

Help Restore Rumney

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Restore Rumney initiative to address these critical issues. Access Fund is shovel-ready, but we need climbers’ help to raise $140,000 to cover two seasons of professional trail crews and supplies.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This is a photo from the Meadows at Rumney. Climbers often see slopes like this and think they are perfectly normal, but this is a sign of big trouble. The drastically exposed tree roots show what happens when foot traffic denudes ground cover. (The vegetated slope to the left is a good example of what it once looked like.) Once the ground cover is destroyed, there is nothing left to hold topsoil in place, and over time it gets washed away. Eventually, those tree roots will be unable to hold the remaining soil in place, and they will die as well. The tree will die, eliminating shade for climbers, and the slope will continue to erode without the stabilizing properties of the tree. With that slope eroded and unstable, climbers will find another way up and broaden the impact even more. This pattern will continue to repeat itself as people avoid the gullies and walk to the side.

Photos courtesy of © Lee Hansche