- Courtesy Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance
- Popular climbing routes require maintenance.
If you've hiked around Red Rock Canyon Open Space or strolled through Garden of the Gods, you've probably seen rock climbers scaling the various formations. Like hikers and cyclists, climbers follow approved, well-established routes, in this case using previously installed, permanent climbing hardware. And those routes and their hardware must be maintained to ensure safety. That's where Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance, an all-volunteer organization committed to sustainable climbing in the region and beyond, makes a difference.
PPCA was founded in 2013 to support the city of Colorado Springs and other areas of the southern Front Range with climbing management. The organization does this in a number of ways, including education and environmental stewardship. Their work can also be found at Turkey Rocks and Devils Head in the South Platte, Shelf Road near Cañon City, and elsewhere in the state.
"We help develop climbing management plans, replace climbing hardware, complete trail maintenance and work with other nonprofits to support our public spaces," says Ian Dyer, chair of PPCA's education committee.
PPCA promotes climbing management plans as an essential step in creating a balanced relationship between protecting natural resources and supporting recreational climbing. Management plans help establish rules that mitigate climber damage and promote climber safety. Those rules, which are location-specific, can encompass anything from the prohibition of installing new permanent hardware without approval or absolute necessity, to limiting the use of chalk whenever possible.
Shelf Road is a particularly popular climbing spot that's included in PPCA's management efforts. The location was once the responsibility of the Bureau of Land Management and Rocky Mountain Field Institute, but PPCA now handles much of the trail and climbing route maintenance.
Currently on the agenda for Shelf Road is the addition of more rest-rooms in areas known as Sand Gulch and The Bank. PPCA's GoFundMe website for the project claims the area sees over 52,000 visitors a year and new restrooms would go a long way toward creating cleaner, more sanitary trails and waterways. The project is estimated to cost $15,000, with only $1,700 in donations accumulated as of this writing.
In addition to maintaining public spaces, PPCA also invests a lot of time in free clinics and events. The rising popularity of the sport means there's also an increase in novices who can benefit from learning climber etiquette, best practices and safety tips. "We work to make climbers aware of the dangers of the sport," says Dyer. "And we provide new climbers with knowledge and resources to make each climb as safe as possible." He says even experienced climbers can use the occasional safety refresher to reduce potential accidents caused by complacency and overconfidence.
As PPCA's work expands, the organization hopes to see an increase in volunteers. Currently, projects are completed throughout the year with the support of about 100 volunteers, plus active participation from the organization's nine board members. PPCA also partners with other nonprofits to accomplish their goals. However, more help would let them increase their efforts and shorten project timelines.
Increasing funds is also on PPCA's wish list. With more donations, the organization can expand its hardware replacement work, trail clean-up days and new climber education clinics and continue to tackle projects like the Shelf Road restroom addition. Visit pikespeakclimbersalliance.org for more.