The two faces of rock climbing

Lees dit in het Nederlands

Other than my posts about specific climbing destinations I never wrote about the rock climbing I do. I’ve been introduced to the sport when I was about 18 years old. Due to the lack of a climbing partner it took some time before I started climbing regularly. Since my country is as flat as a pancake (yeah, that’s our most prefered expresion), the only place I could climb was on artificial rock in a gym. When I went on an outdoor introduction course in Belgium I really was hooked (no pun intended).

I love how climbing clears my head. How I need to completely focus on what I’m doing and how my whole body needs to work together to get all the way to the top. When climbing out on the real rock I also feel as a part of nature.


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Only later I found out that climbing is also destroying nature. Besides that bolts are placed in the rock surface for safe climbing, the rock is also cleaned. Plants and loose rock are removed for safe climbing and creating space to climb. Often these plants are “just” weeds, but also rare plants live on these rocks. Most people that open new routes have no knowledge about plant species and might destroy unique habitat. Also the rock is full with animal life.

I’ve heard of owls nesting and I’ve seen many lizards and insects on that rock when climbing. A rock surface is often a very delicate environment. Small alterations might have a big impact. The climbing sport is becoming more and more popular, resulting in more people using the crags. Walking, belaying, relaxing and storing gear can lead to plant life disappearing under the crags as well. When there are no plants then there’s also no space for animal life.

So what do I do?

I don’t want to quit climbing. The sport has turned into a lifestyle for me. So if I’m not going to quit there might be something else I could do. Fortunately many people who climb are interested in nature and environment. What I could do is raise awareness about the things living on the rock, that we should be careful to not damage more than necessary.

We’re just visitors and should leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures.

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