Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Learning the Ropes on Denali

Denali has a reputation for being a horrible place to guide. For the last two years, I had been hearing epic stories from fellow guides about Denali. Most stories revolved around backbreaking heavy packs and sleds, frostbitten nobs, chucking pounds of poo in massive crevasses, freezing your butt off while waiting out storms, guide and ranger drama, high mountain hook-ups, crevasse rescues and heli-evacs. 

It always sounded pretty exciting.

On a morning in March in Chamonix—between sipping espresso and getting my pack ready for a mission—I glanced at an email from my boss at the American Alpine Institute. The subject line read “Denali Scheduling.” And the body of the email got even better: “You’re slated for Team 4 on Denali, I’m booking flights now let me know if these days will work.” I immediately wrote him back, confirming the dates with mixed emotions of excitement, anticipation, and intimidation.

It took me two years working at the Institute to get this gig. I had intended to come home to the States and work in the Cascades like usual. But Denali was bigger. In Athabaskan, “Denali” means “The High One.” And with a massive elevation of 20,322 feet, the peak definitely lives up to its name. It’s the third largest of the seven summits, trailing only behind Everest and Aconcagua

It’s said that people climb Denali as a warm-up for Everest, as it’s closer to the North Pole so the air is even thinner. On Denali, an elevation of 20,000 feet allegedly replicates the feeling of 22,000 feet in elevation on most other peaks. Measured from base to summit, Denali has a vertical gain of 19,000 feet making it the largest of any mountain entirely above sea level. Then there’s the modest Mt. Everest, rising from the Tibetan Plateau with a base to summit distance on the south side of 13,000 feet and 17,000 feet on the north side. Not only is Denali the largest peak in North America but it’s known to have harshest environment of any of the seven summits—horrendous weather, high winds, and temperatures that down to negative forty. Don’t forget to factor in the windchill and altitude. Its reputation only fueled my excitement.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help being a little intimidated. After all, I would be starting off my guiding season with a twenty-one day expedition to a massive objective. I had never even been to Alaska and I’d never been higher than Mont Blanc’s summit of 15,781 feet. Also, I had never felt the frostbite inflicting rawness of a negative forty-degree day. Alas, I wouldn’t be alone. I had two trusty lead guides, Ben and Quino to show me the way.

I spent two weeks before the trip stuffing my face and working out super hard. A fellow Denali guide said I needed to be “fit and fat” for Denali guiding. I think I took him a little too seriously because I ended up putting on almost 10 lbs. After spending a week in Talkeetna, food packing, trip prepping, drinking gallons of IPA, stuffing my head with burgers, and watching out for grizzlies around town, Day Zero had arrived—it was time to meet the climbers.

We had a diverse group from all over the world. A few hilarious Britts, a classy Russian, a hopeless romantic Italian, a couple woman-eating Aussie’s, and a Hong Kong-born American. I knew it was going to be a great group right off the bat. I was ready to fly out onto the glacier and get these people up this behemoth of a mountain.

As a female guide, I’ve grown accustomed to encountering people and cultures with diverse ideas about the role of women. I know what I look like—I bleach my hair and my teeth, I wear mascara off—and sometimes on—the mountain, I get pedicures, I wear lots of pink, and do my best to look and smell nice in most situations. In a lot of ways I’m a girly girl. This doesn’t always go over well with some of those who get me as their guide after they’ve been expecting some macho mountain man with big muscles and a beard. It seems as though women have to dress and act like men to get respect in many male-dominated occupations—but I want to prove that you don’t have to.

I’m constantly dealing with pervy, chauvanistic comments, skepticism, and superiority complexes. Being the lighthearted person that I am, I blow douchey comments off my back left and right and throw it back in people’s faces in a joking manner. They seem to like that and it seems to be working. I let my actions, work ethic, and skill speak for themselves and I’ve never had a trip end the same way it started with this kind of behavior. It’s actually a pretty awesome, empowering feeling.

When we flew onto the Kahiltna Glacier, the summit success rate hovered around twelve percent, which was extremely low for this time of year. The weather had been horrible and we were hoping for it to clear up for our trip, but there was a massive low pressure cell hanging out over the Aleutians and waiting to pound down on us. On Day One we flew on and trudged our way from Base camp up the Kahiltna to Camp 1—we trekked five and a half miles with our heaviest loads and gained a thousand feet in elevation. There’s nothing like carrying a fifty pound pack and pulling a sixty pound sled in the stifling heat of the day.

A massive storm rolled in on our fourth day. We were stuck there for three days in hurricane winds and frigid temperatures. Snow drifts covered the tents every hour and three feet of new snow had rapidly fallen. Ben, Quino and I took turns getting up through the night to dig out tents so clients wouldn’t die a cold, asphyxiation-induced death. On top of this, we had really disappointed clients who wanted to move up as we saw desperate Russian groups passing our camps in a heinous, white-out storm. We only had a contract for twenty-one days to summit, with cache days, acclimatization days, training days, and rest days. We were losing days sitting in this storm, days that would have to be made up for if we wanted to make a summit bid.

We decided to move regardless of weather on Day Six. Turns out it was a sunny and beautiful—but freezing—morning. The clouds broke, a blanket of new snow covered the glacier and the surrounding peaks, and temperatures were in the single digits. We broke trail, carrying our massive loads to Camp 2 at 11,200 feet.

Denali’s big storms are usually the worst between Camp 1 and just above Camp 2. I was antsy to get to Camp 3 at 14,200 feet. It’s above the cloud layer and it’s south facing. I had heard it was the “party camp” where everyone waits to get on the higher mountain. It sounded like the promised land. And a good spot for our team to be waiting to make the final push up to the highest camp at 17,200 feet.

After arriving at Camp 2 we got four beautiful days that were probably the most productive of the trip. We cached around the infamous, Windy Corner, moved camp to the party camp at 14,200 feet, retrieved our cache, did fixed line training, and cached atop the fixed lines at 16,200 feet. We had made up for all but one of our lost days—but we missed our summit window. The day we cached above the fixed lines a couple hundred people summitted then the weather shut us down.

We waited at Camp 3, partying with the locals for eight days while waiting for a window to move. The first couple days were fun. We made a pull-up pit where we’d run from the tent do as many pull ups and upside down sit ups as we could, run back to the tent then, test our blood oxygen levels and pulses. This became a natural place for guides to hang out, talk weather, tell jokes, talk smack, and pull tough. I saw my buddy Lucas De Bari up there with his mom getting rad. I didn’t know the little guy could grow a beard. We also witnessed the superhuman Killian Jornet pulling off the newest speed record of base to summit and back in 11 hours and 48 minutes in a white-out. Beating the previous record by five hours! 

Seeing all these people crushing super hard on their shred sticks of course made me crave powder and steep lines—after all, the Messner, Orient Express, and the Rescue Gully were right above Camp 3. These lines screamed at me for eight days while I watched friends and rangers shred the crap out of the new fallen snow. Although it was painful to watch, I was happy to come here guiding first—it could serve a little recconassaince mission for when I come back with my board next year. After all, a girl’s gotta eat. And I was working hard for my money.

We ended up at the camp for eight days with an insta-frostbite forecast of negative twenty-degree temps, fifty mph winds, and possible new snow at 17,000 feet—so we called it. We descended in a storm, breaking trail through eighteen inches of new snow and high winds. It took two days to get out and we managed to catch a flight back to Talkeetna upon our arrival at base. We went directly to the local bar, the Fairview, and shut it down. It was a blurry night.

The summit rate this year is currently thirty-percent as opposed to last year’s sixty-eight percent. Our team was really dissappointed but they understood our predicament. I was disappointed as well but I know I’ll be back next year.

Although guiding Denali was extremely demanding physically, it only really felt like work when I was changing the CMC (Clean Mountain Container or poop bucket), hauling poop on my sled, or melting water and cooking dinner for seven hours until 1:30 a.m., and then waking up just a few hours later to get breakfast ready. There was a lot of hauling, set-up and break-down, breaking trail, wiggling fingers and toes to prevent frostbite, and digging and more digging through layers of snow and ice. But my days primarily revolved around keeping everyone happy while moving along safely and efficiently up the hill. When you’re in charge of a group of people, you tend to forget about your own discomforts thankfully. For all the anticipation I’d built up around this trip, it was pretty mellow and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get back to Denali next year to guide and shred.

--Liz Daley, Instructor and Guide

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bolivia Update - Part 2

Greetings from Bolivia!

It has been a terrific trip so far. Five climbers and I (and our wonderful Bolivian guides and staff) have been having a great time seeing the mountains of this amazing country. This post will be admittedly brief, as we only have one day in town before heading out tomorrow to Illimani - one of the tallest peaks in the country!

Things that have been great so far include:
  • The food!
  • The weather
  • The company, both among the American climbing team, and among the Bolivians we have been privilidged to work with
  • The climbing conditions - super good snow, great travel conditions, good cravasse conditions
  • And many other things!
Enjoy these pictures I took from this last section (Part 2 of 3)

Chris smiling big on our first alpine climbing day

Nick, equally psyched

The beautiful ridge of Pequeño Alpamayo in the Condoriri Range. What a great climb!

Looking over At Huayna Potosi, where we would find ourselves later in the week

Rock (choss) section. Pequeño Alpamayo in the  background.

The beautiful Cordillera Real de  Bolivia

Practicing crevasse rescue at 16000 ft. on a rest day!

Hauling the backpacks out of the crevasse

As we finished our time in the Condoriri, we (mostly the Aymara-speaking Bolivian guides, Sabino and Mamerto) started chatting with a local lady, whose daughter was a happy, entertaining young lady!

Huayna Potosi at sunrise, from the base refugio and reservoir

On the summit of Huayna Potosí

Me and my Bolivian friend Willie (and his mom to the side). 
It has been a real treat making friend with people here.

I hope this blog entry finds you all well, and we´ll keep in touch as we  get back from our last stint in the mountains this weekend!

--Mike Pond, Instructor and Guide

Friday, July 18, 2014

AMTL Part 3: Big Wall Climbing and Climbing in the Picket Range

I just returned from a Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership Part 3 course. It began with four days of big wall aid climbing and then moved into the Northern Picket Range in the heart of the North Cascades for an alpine climbing expedition. The aid climbing section started with one day of rain so we headed to Leavenworth to get the basics of ascending ropes. The following three days were hot so we headed to the Index Town Walls and practiced our aid climbing techniques on classic routes such as City Park and Iron Horse. Day 3 was the hottest of all so we found a mossy crack in the shade of the Index Inner Walls and practiced setting up a big wall camp and crawling into to it to sleep.

Day 4 was spent prepping for our trip into the Picket Range. We spent the day learning how to create solid trip plans and tracking down route beta and planning menus. The following day we headed into the North Cascades. It was everything a Pickets Range trip should be, tiring, wet, amazing, scary, beautiful and of course bushwhacky (ok thats not really a word, but you get the idea). This is a very physically demanding trip and I was with two advanced guests so it really felt a lot more like climbing with friends than it did guiding. We started out with the intention of traversing the range from north to south, but after a couple of days bad weather and an unfortunate incident of a dropped and unrecoverable ice axe we shortened the trip and exited via Access Creek.

We parked at the Ross Lake Dam TH and took the boat shuttle from the dam to Little Beaver. The 17.5 miles to Whatcom Pass was done over two days. Our plan of climbing Whatcom Peak via the North Ridge was changed when we saw that it was still covered in a lot of pretty sloppy and wet looking snow. We traversed around the east side of Whatcom Peak the following day via the Whatcom Glacier and summited the peak from the south side. Good snow coverage and nice conditions made this pretty simple. On the way to Perfect Pass from the summit we noticed the change in the weather. We did manage to cross most of the Challenger Glacier with no issues and negotiated the last of the crevasses just as the visibility dropped to near zero. We spent the night at low point between the base of Challenger's East Ridge and Eiley Wiley Ridge.

The following day was not any way improved on the weather front, but boredom and a little spirit of adventure lured us out of the tent and to the summit of Challenger. I am not sure I would have been comfortable doing this without the GPS but it was fun and we got to tag our second summit of the trip. Upon returning from the summit we packed our camp and headed down the Challenger Glacier and into the Luna Cirque. We set up camp on the moraine at the bottom and watched as the clouds lifted and the weather cleared.

The next day we moved camp to Luna Col and enjoyed an amazing sunset and the incredible views that this spot has to offer.

The next morning we made the climb to the summit of Luna Peak. This route is not talked about very highly by any of the guidebooks, but I did not find it that bad. Although there is some loose rock it certainly not the worst the pickets have to offer. Not completing the ridge to the true summit would be a mistake for almost any party, and I highly recommend it.

After returning to camp we packed up our stuff and headed out Access Creek. I had not been down Access Creek before and did not find it that bad. Yea, there is some bushwhacking, and yea it sucked a little bit at the time, but once again, its not the worst the Pickets have to offer. We did not find a good log crossing of Big Beaver Creek so a little crotch deep wading was needed to get across. Attempting to put on my pants, socks, and shoes, with a badly sprained ankle while a billion mosquitos took advantage of my bare skin was probably the low point of the trip for me. Yes somewhere in the Access Creek drainage I managed to roll my ankle to the point that it made lots of crunching and popping sounds. A bunch of athletic tape and some over tightened boots managed to get me the 2 more miles to a campsite on the Big Beaver trail.

The following day with a badly swollen ankle we hiked the 18+ miles to the car.

And now some photos of the trip.

More photos of the trip can be found on my website here: http://www.alasdairturner.com/blog

--Alasdair Turner, AAI Instructor and Guide

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/17/14


--AAI Guide Ian McEleney was recently interviewed by the Indefinitely Wild blog. To read the blog, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--"Harry Potter" actor Dave Legeno died while hiking in Death Valley National Parkin California, TMZ and Yahoo have reported. Legeno's body was found "in a remote wash" by a pair of hikers on Sunday, July 6, according to a Yahoo report. Police told TMZ that Legeno most likely died of heat related issues and may have been dead for three to four days before his body was discovered. To read more, click here.

--A rock climber was killed this weekend as the result of an accident at Tahquitz Peak in Idyllwild, which had left him dangling on a rope. Bryan Rockwood, 49, of San Diego, was reportedly harnessed while scaling the one half-mile northern face of Lily Rock at the peak Saturday in Humber Park. To read more, click here.

--A 19-year-old pregnant woman appears to have disappeared in Joshua Tree National Park. However, this no longer looks like a standard "hiker-got-lost" type of incident. Law enforcement is now involved due to the suspicious circumstances surrounding the woman's disappearance. To read more, click here.

--Here is a great piece on the Las Vegas Metro Search and Rescue Unit and a mission that they had saving a rock climber over Memorial Day.

--After months of mere speculation, biologists in Zion National Park can now make the official birth announcement. A pair of California condors has hatched a chick, park officials said Tuesday. It’s the first wild-born California condor in Utah since organizations began reintroduction efforts in the 1990s. The California condor had been poisoned to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climbing accident on the 13,770-foot Grand Teton resulted in the death of a 43-year-old climber on Monday morning in Grand Teton National Park. Mary Bilyeu was ascending to the Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton (elevation 13,160 feet) when she fell while negotiating a short section above the Exum Gully about 8:30 a.m. Grand Teton National Park rangers were notified of the accident at 8:40 a.m. and a rescue response was quickly initiated. Two park rangers on routine patrol at the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton (11,600 feet) climbed to the accident site to begin emergency medical care and prepare the injured climber for a helicopter evacuation. To read more, click here.

--People in Mount Washington Valley are mourning for a man described as a pillar of the local climbing community. he New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said a man preparing to descend from a rock cliff in North Conway fell 65 feet and died of his injuries. Officers said Brian Delaney, 56, of Scarborough, Maine, was climbing alone Saturday and climbed up Cathedral Ledge. At about noon on Saturday, another climber saw him finish his climb, then saw him fall. To read more, click here.

--It appears that there was a fatal accident at Pinnacles National Monument near the Bay Area on Tuesday. Though there is no real information about the incident yet except that the victim was a doctor.

--Cheryl Strayed's book Wild will be released as a film in December. The book chronicles that author's journey of discovery on the Pacific Crest Trail. The film features Reese Witherspoon and the trailer can be viewed below:

--Two New Zealanders were responsible for completing three first ascents in the Alaska Range this spring. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Extending the Anchor

"Belay off!"


"Belay off!!!"

"Are you at the anchor...?"

"I said, BELAY OFF!!!"

Sound familiar? Many parties establish an anchor and then have communication problems.  Some feel that the best way to deal with this is to employ the use of radio, whereas others use rope tugging tricks to communicate.

I'm not a fan of the use of radios, in part because people become used to them almost too quickly. When people depend on radios, they lose touch with even the most basic command sets. And when something goes wrong with the communication, it becomes incredibly hard to reestablish effective communication.

Rope tugs are fine, but they should be used sparingly.

It's common for climbers to miss one major factor in communication. That factor is the position of the belayer.  Many climbers climb up to a large belay ledge, walk across the ledge, build an anchor and then clip into it.  The fact that they are away from the edge and cannot see their partner compounds all of the communication issues. The best thing that one could do in order to decrease these issues is to extend their anchor to the edge.

There are three systems that you might employ to extend the anchor. They are as follows:

Estimated Extension

In this first option, you belay directly off the anchor with an autoblocking device, but  extend your tether so that you can look over the edge. This is a quick and dirty technique wherein you simply estimate how much rope you'll need to look over the edge and then tie yourself off into the anchor with clove-hitch.

There are two issues with this system. First, it's easy to estimate incorrectly, which means that you have to walk back up to the anchor and readjust your clove-hitch. And second, your autoblocking device is out of reach, which makes it hard to provide slack or lower a climber.

The advantage to this system is that it is really really quick.

Pinpoint Extension

In this second system, you will clip a locking carabiner into the anchor, run the rope through it, walk back to the edge of the cliff, and then clip another locking carabiner into your harness. From there, you will clip the rope running up through the anchor to your belay loop with a clove-hitch. This allows you to set yourself exactly where you need to be.

The same problems exist for this system as for the previous system. You are unable to reach the belay device in order to provide slack or lower the climber.

Extended Powerpoint

This last system is really smooth. When you reach the anchor, clip into it with a munter hitch, then belay yourself back to your desired position. Once you are in position tie a BHK. This will lock you into place, but will also give you a powerpoint to work with. You can then belay off that powerpoint and when your partner gets up to you, you'll be able to use the munter hitch in the anchor to belay both you and your climber up to the anchor.

Smooth and elegant.

 In this photo, a climber clipped into an "anchor" to lower himself to the edge.  And before all of you jump down my throat, yes, it is a single cam.  I was trying to teach this quickly when I took these photos. So let's pretend it's a SRENE 12 point anchor.

 The climber makes his way to his stance and ties a BHK, thus securing himself and creating a powerpoint.

 He places his autoblocking device on the new powerpoint and belays.

 Once his climber gets to him, he can tie a catastrophe knot behind his autoblocking device.

 Now he's ready to transition.

 He belays both himself and his climber up to the anchor.

Once at the anchor, both climber and belayer can tie-in.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 14, 2014

Film Review: Whiteout

There's a place where people party like it's 1999. There's a place where murderers use technical ice tools. And there's a place where people make really dumb mistakes in a really cold environment. And no, that place is not called Vertical Limit...but the ludicrocity certainly seems Vertical-Limit-like.

No, instead, it is film called Whiteout.

U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is an isolated law enforcement officer. She works at a U.S. base in Antarctica. And she is a mere three days away from retirement when everything goes awry. There is a murder, the first murder on the continent. There is a wacko who wields an ice tool. There is a doddery old doctor (Tom Skerritt) who is far too easy to peg as being involved. And then there's the weather, which performs as a character in and of itself.

The piece opens with a Soviet plane going down over the arctic. Somewhere on-board there is some kind of valuable cargo, cargo that someone from a U.S. Antarctic base would be willing to kill for fifty-years later. The rest of the movie is a somewhat fast-paced ride into the antarctic wilds as Carrie Steko peels back the layers in order to find the murderer.

Unfortunately, the first time we meet Beckinsale's Steko, she is stripping down to take a shower. Apparently the filmmakers believe that the best way for an audience to take a female protagonist seriously is to get her to show some skin first. The filmmakers are, of course, wrong. An introduction to a strong female character like this is completely undercut by sexualizing her before we really get to know her.

The film just goes downhill from there. We know who the killer is because there are so few characters. There are no real surprises throughout the entire piece.

The story, which was originally a graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, isn't too bad. Instead, it was the way that the story came together that made the entire experience bad. Brothers and writers Jon and Erich Hoeber and Chad and Carey W. Hayes, took the graphic novel and created clunky dialogue and completely ludicrous situations. Director Dominic Sena (Swordfish and Gone in Sixty Seconds) didn't help.

It would have been good if someone in that very large crew had gone outside into a cold environment at least once...

Most of the shots in the film are like this. They look like they are all inside a studio.

There was one wonderfully ludicrous sequence that took place as the arctic winds rose. The team engaged in a pitched battle with ice tools and handguns while clipped to fixed lines. The winds were so extreme that individuals not clipped to the lines would be blown out into the whiteout.

It was odd that so many of the characters were so versatile in the action sequence wearing all of their "extreme" gear -- which in Kate Beckinsale's case, included a stylish fur-lined hat. And while they weren't moving like martial artists in the climactic scene, they were moving a lot more effectively than most mountain guides.

If you're looking for a good film suspenseful film about the cold places in the world, this isn't it. If you want to watch Antarctic schlock, check-out John Carpenter's classic The Thing. If you're looking for a great film about life in Antarctica, then try Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World.

It might be best to just avoid Whiteout.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, July 11, 2014

Leave No Trace: Leave What You Find

It's not especially intuitive...

You see a beautiful flower, a cool native arrowhead, a colorful rock, or something else that you just want to take home and keep...but you know what's going to happen to it. That flower will be destroyed in your pack. That arrowhead will just end up in a junk drawer. And who knows what you'll do with the rock?

In the fall of 2006, a friend and I were on our way out to climb Jackass Flats (II, 5.6) in Red Rock Canyon. The route is located in a part of the canyon that is not visited very often. Indeed, until a few years ago a heard of wild horses roamed freely in the desert there. Wild burros still make their way across the desert in this area with very little oversight by humans.

It was on this approach that we found it...the skeleton of a wild burro. The bones were a bit scattered, but they were all there. The most spectacular part of the skeleton was the skull, bleached white by the desert sun. It was an incredible find.

My friend indicated that he thought that he could sell the skull on Ebay for a fair bit of money. I didn't feel comfortable with this. Finding that skeleton made our day. Ultimately, we decided that it was best to leave the skull for the next visitor. We decided that the experience of finding something like that was one of the values of playing in the mountains.

A Burro Skull found in the shadow of Windy Peak in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

When we left the skull, we were adhering to the fourth of the seven principals of Leave No Trace, Leave What you Find. The following text about this principal is from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website:

Minimize Site Alterations

Leave areas as you found them. Do not dig trenches for tents or construct lean-tos, tables, chairs, or other rudimentary improvements. If you clear an area of surface rocks, twigs or pine cones, replace these items before leaving. On high impact sites, it is appropriate to clean up the site and dismantle inappropriate user-built facilities, such as multiple fire rings and constructed seats or tables. Consider the idea that good campsites are found and not made.

In many locations, properly located and legally constructed facilities, such as a single fire ring, should be left. Dismantling them will cause additional impact because they will be rebuilt with new rocks and thus impact a new area. Learn to evaluate all situations you find.

Avoid Damaging Live Trees and Plants

Avoid hammering nails into trees for hanging things, hacking at them with hatchets and saws, or tying tent guy lines to trunks, thus girdling the tree. Carving initials into trees is unacceptable. The cutting of boughs for use as sleeping pads creates minimal benefit and maximum impact. Sleeping pads are available at stores catering to campers.

Picking a few flowers does not seem like it would have any great impact and, if only a few flowers were picked, it wouldn't. But, if every visitor thought "I'll just take a few", a much more significant impact might result. Take a picture or sketch the flower instead of picking it. Experienced campers may enjoy an occasional edible plant, but they are careful not to deplete the surviving vegetation or disturb plants that are rare or are slow to reproduce.

Leave Natural Objects and Cultural Artifacts

Natural objects of beauty or interest such as antlers, petrified wood, or colored rocks add to the mood of the backcountry and should be left so others can experience a sense of discovery. In National Parks and some other areas it is illegal to remove natural objects.

The same ethic is applicable to cultural artifacts found on public land. Cultural artifacts are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. It is illegal to remove or disturb archeological sites, historic sites, or artifacts such as pot shards, arrowheads, structures, and even antique bottles found on public lands.

Ironically -- as stated above -- even trash that has been left for over fifty years could be considered a cultural artifact. Imagine the remains of a mining operation that are hundreds of years old or the vestiges of an old pioneer settlement...these items develop value by staying where they are. Indeed, in some National Parks it's actually illegal to pick up items that are over fifty years old.

Leave What You Find wasn't designed for outdoor educators to wag their fingers at people with, but instead was designed to give people an opportunity to relish in an outdoor environment that hasn't been impacted by modern people. Finding beautiful plants, beautiful trees, beautiful rocks, beautiful animals, beautiful artifacts and beautiful vistas are one of the main reasons that we visit the outdoors. If everybody takes a bit of that a way, there will be nothing left to look at...

--Jason D. Martin