Update on recent events at The Works

Posted by Dave Turnbull on 07/05/2013
ice axes or rock climbing tools?

Over the last few days the BMC has been contacted by the climbers who removed the fixed equipment from the Works dry tooling venue. The reaction of the climbing community has been well documented in the media but the underlying reasons for the de-bolting have not yet been explained.

The BMC has been asked to shed some light on this and the explanation given by the climbers is that their actions stem from a deep-rooted concern about the development of the Works and the resultant spread of dry tooling in the Lake District; to the best of our understanding the specific concerns of the climbers relate to:

  • the damage being caused by dry tooling on high quality rock climbs elsewhere in the Lake District;
  • the potential for further damage if dry tooling on out-of-condition winter routes or established rock climbs continues to grow in popularity; and
  • the prospect of crags being banned or restricted for climbing if the trend continues.

In a statement to the BMC the climbers said:

“There is a serious concern amongst a group of longstanding climbers in the Lake District that the spread of dry tooling is going unchecked.  The Lakes is one of the premier and most historic climbing areas in the UK and dry tooling is starting to cause noticeable damage to high quality rock climbs in the region.  By its very nature the use of ice axes and crampons can cause irreparable damage to established rock climbs through scratch marks and damage to crucial gear placements or handholds.  The recent events at the Works were intended as a statement to make people sit up and think about the implications that popularising dry tooling could have on our mainstream crags, on the crag environment and for future access.  This isn't just about The Works as a venue – it’s about the well-being of our crags as a whole and to encourage people to think about what is / isn't acceptable practice on established rock climbs.”

The growth of dry tooling is a relatively recent phenomenon and the BMC does not yet have a formal written position on the ethics surrounding it; the general understanding however is that it should only be carried out on agreed crags with little or no value for conventional rock climbing. 

The BMC's role in all this is to facilitate discussion and agreement amongst climbers through the Area Meeting structure; the next BMC Lakes Area meeting is in Langdale on 4 June and this will no doubt be a central point for discussion.



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08/05/2013
That statement is far more coherent than the initial and somewhat ill thought out email that Rob got, so that's progress of sorts. Will these climbers (their "longstandingness" is an irrelevance in my opinion) be at the Lakes Area meeting? If there's to be a cohesive move forward, then they need to stand up and be counted. The issue of the extensive (and probably unnecessary) criminal damage they perpetrated undermines their "moral ground" to some extent, but it's done now.
There's no question that axes and crampons cause damage to rock, and the possibility that popularising dry tooling might mean clueless individuals might go onto trad crags and ruin them. Education and conversation, rather than criminal damage and confrontation is the better way. Hopefully the 4th June should sort things out.

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