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Climbing should not be banned at cave rock

There is no doubt that Cave Rock is a spiritual place. We just don’t believe the Washoe tribe has the lock on spirituality.

Rock climbers are some of the most respectful outdoor enthusiasts. They are the last ones to want to destroy or damage the element they are to conquer. Yes, there are permanent bolts embedded in the rock as there are at all climbing sites. Removing the hardware would not do any good.

Current policy does not allow new routes to be created. We want the ones that are there to remain. Leave the hangers and bolts, but perhaps paint them so they blend in with the natural coloring. And there is no reason quick draws should not be taken down after each climb so they are not dangling for all to see. It might make the descent more difficult, but it would be in line with keeping the rock as much in its original state as possible.



The Washoe, who were here long before the climbers, contend their shamans are enriched from the power of Cave Rock. We are not about to challenge this theory.

What we challenge is the notion that climbers are doing irreparable harm to what is left of this extinct volcano. Climbers flock to this mass of volcanic rhyolite because of its difficulty (starting at 5.11 and many routes are 5.13) and the spectacular vistas.




It has become an international destination because of the overhanging routes. There is a natural recess in the rock, known as “the Cave,” above the southbound tunnel.

Climbers are communing with nature in a different way than the Washoe tribe. The rock is speaking to them. Yes, the physical challenge to climbing is alluring, but so is oneness with the rock.

Rock climbing is spiritual.

Why should one person’s spiritual experience be of higher importance than another’s?

The tribe has no qualms with the whir of vehicles blasting through the two bores in the rock because they are transitory, whereas the climbers are said to be insensitive, distracting and incompatible with the spiritual nature of the place.

We believe there is room for everyone and all beliefs at Cave Rock.

We are glad Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has gotten involved to extend the comment period on this sensitive issue. We are, after all, talking about public property and not land owned by the Washoe.

Cave Rock became eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

In the first five months of 1998, there were five public discussion sessions about limiting climbing at the east shore site. In January 1999, then-Forest Supervisor Juan Palma came up with a plan that limited rock climbing. Current Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson wants to tighten the rules.

The Access Fund, based out of Boulder, Colo., is fighting the proposed climbing ban, going so far as to say, “mandatory closure to climbing at Cave Rock raises significant constitutional concerns.”

We hope after all the comments are submitted by March 31 that the Forest Service will come to the conclusion that climbing at Cave Rock should continue, hand-in-hand with the Washoe’s spiritualism, forevermore.


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