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5 Reasons Why your Local Crag is the Most Important Crag out there

There are two kinds of climbers that frequent their local crag – the ones who think their crag is climbing’s best kept secret, and the ones who think the climbing at their crag is complete low-ball choss. Chances are, it’s all low-ball choss and your crag sucks – go climb at Red Rocks, or the Gunks, or Whitehorse, or in the Valley.

No matter what you think of your local crag and no matter what quality the rock actually is, maintaining and being a steward of that small piece of climbing land has huge impacts on the climbing community at large. Here’s why:

It helps develop local feel that is absent at large/famous crags.

I grew up learning to climb at the Gunks, so those ethics are instilled in me. But what about the personality, the feel of a crag? For those big famous ones, the questions we ask ourselves are not, “I wonder if any new routes were put up” or “Has anyone else tried my project?” but “Will I find parking?” or “I wonder what the line is going to be on that moderate, ultra-mega-historical-classic.” And thus the personality becomes overridden by the quantity of people, not the quality. When you change the subject of the question, it sounds like you’re going to a mall or an amusement park, not participating in the sport and adventure of rock climbing.

Local crags have a distinct personality that you’ll learn to cherish. You may not be able to climb 200 feet in the air, or get a beautiful view of a valley or range – but you’ll be out there, with a couple of friends, having a good time, not worrying about other parties/dogs/kids/food fights/music etc. You’ll get to know the rock better. You’ll know the paths and trails blindfolded. It will create a sense of ownership.

Setting up good relationships with LCOs is good for everyone

You may not personally know the landowner of your local crag – but by climbing on his/her/their land, you are in relationship with them. Leave trash and dirty the place – you’ll be told by someone to leave and not come back. Make as if your presence was never there – you won’t hear a peep, and if anything you’ll get a thank you from others for being such a good ambassador for the area. The point is, climbing relationships aren’t often spoken relationships. Many times you communicate through the impact and trace you leave on a certain area.

In many local crags, there are rocks and boulders and routes crossing all sorts of property lines. For instance, at our local area (the Powerlinez), we are allowed to climb on PIPC property, but not the town of Ramapo’s property. This creates a lot of invisible fences, leaving otherwise stellar climbs off limits. Yet as we develop one area with respectful climbers, practicing Leave No Trace principles and respecting the property we’re climbing on; that just sets climbing up with more of a stance to convince adjacent land owners to let people climb there.

You (and others) learn what crag development really means

For those of you who have read “Yankee Rock & Ice: A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States”, you know how far crags like the Gunks or Whitehorse Ledge have come. Even now, take a look at sections of the Trapps cliff that don’t have routes, or seldom climbed routes. I remember climbing Ruby Saturday Direct and having to fight through some lichen at a certain point. Unheard of on many of the classics.

Well, before your friend rips you apart for your crag being overridden with plants, lichen, loose blocks and more; quiet yourself and think about the legends of history that first developed the famous crags. They went through the same thing, and fought the same feelings you’re probably feeling (like “Is it worth it?”). They never imagined their crags would become popular, and they had to clean many a hold to find the crux sequence. Even climbing at places like Millbrook have lichen on classic routes. In the end, development creates a sense of stewardship and ownership over a little slice that plays into the global climbing community.

Draws people away from the overpopulated, polished holds at the famous crags

Sometimes, even if the crag is empty that day, you’re still climbing routes that have been climbed so much, the rock has wear marks. For those of you who have climbed in the Frog’s Head area at the Trapps recently, jump on City Lights. It’s always been known as a polished first couple moves, but in the last couple years, that first move to the good pocket, seems more sketchy than usual! Beta spray: there’s a less polished way to escape to the left and then back right, still hitting the pocket and avoiding the sketch. Or take Laurel for instance – so polished!

There are days you just don’t want to deal with that. You don’t want a well worn path, you want to worry about how hard the moves are, not will you slip off that overly-chalked hold. There are more times (coughMadameGscough) where it feels like you’re climbing in a gym. Just follow the chalk and you’re done! Sort of takes away any sense of adventure, doesn’t it?

At your local crag, you get to show people a more intimate view of climbing, your life and what you care about. Your projects are more meaningful because they are yours!


Bonus: You are making history.

Who knows what your crag is going to be like in 20 or 30 years. Frankly, who cares! You’re out there now and enjoying it, making the most of it – keep climbing.

I want to finish off with a quote from a local climber, who I asked his opinion. He sent me this quick e-mail. He also happens to be a riot.

> “I grew up a short bike ride from my local crag. It was illegal to climb there. However, my friends and I didn’t figure that out usssntil after the internet age besieged us. It was no flowerbed of cragging but did provide us with a unique opportunity to grow up climbing and develop in earnest as future rock stars. We came away from those years with a sense of ownership that I believe many current climbers lack. Even decades later, if we were to return, it would be like visiting an old girlfriend. One that you bumped around in the dark with and learned how to love. Trial and error style.
> The benefits of a local crag are that the climber takes with him, that mindset to every other crag he visits and pays it forward. If you grew up “doing it” a certain way…then when you travel, you will inquire and respect how it’s done there. If you feel ownership of your local place and regularly carry out litter, you will be less inclined to leave it behind when your the visitor. If you appreciated solitude once, you’ll do your best to keep your voice down and not be an annoying neighbor.
> Just this one guys opinion. I’m sure I could explain it a bit better. But like they say in Kazahkstan…my drip you catch? yes?
> …out”


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