It is refreshing to see some considered debate over the climbing ethics of arguably one of Australia’s most underrated climbing regions – the Western Australian South Coast. Indeed, some would argue, it is the scarcity of ‘consumer friendly’ climbing along the coast & it’s hinterland that has kept it this way, this point may have some validity.
But within this climbers perspective debate, I feel some important points around conservation & natural values are being missed.
* As already eluded to, the South Coast is neither Europe, the east coast, nor Wilyabrup or Mountain Quarry, & hopefully will never see the volumes of traffic or dubious practices which occasionally raise their unsightly heads at these last two locations. The South Coast Region as a whole, represents extremely high conservation values of international significance, as well as being a wild & atmospheric area to climb with many large & varied cliffs often in superbly beautiful locations.
* The actual physical act of bolting has little substantial environmental impact, as previously noted, it is the other associated activities of human visitation that impact more significantly affect the environmental integrity of an area. Bolting style is probably less relevant to these impacts, although potentially making climbs more user friendly could be perceived to encourage more climber visitation.
* This argument could then be distilled down to centering around the impacts on less tangible, but also important values such as visual & spiritual amenity, local climbing styles & ethics. The values, as mentioned, are not so readily assessable & will frequently be not considered or discredited in discussions like this, but are very much a part of contemporary land management.
* The South Coast is an extraordinary place to climb, where for many like myself, the importance of the natural environment should always precede the actual climbing. It is also blessed with a huge amount of beautiful rock, many superb faces curiously or frustratingly devoid of natural protection features & this along with the size, remoteness, wild ocean & weather create climbing much more serious than many other areas.
* Bolting styles are contentious, especially when concerning a special region like this, but GIMB’s should not be ruled out just because things are done differently elsewhere, we should not blindly seek a homogenous, sterilized climbing experience. From what I’ve seen the recent bolting efforts have attempted to respect this while still using P-bolts. Many of the South Coast cliffs attracting attention are slightly off vertical, with thin balancy climbing the norm, GIMB’s are suitable for this type of climbing. The structural integrity of well placed GIMB’s also shouldn’t be questioned in the intrusive igneous geology of the coastal cliffs. The points mentioned previously about the ‘dangers’ of GIMB’s also seem to relate to human error rather than the actual bolts, given the serious, committing nature of many off these cliffs, is this relevant.
* Various misguided points have been made about visual impacts. Firstly climbers & non-climbers alike do spot bolts, it is faciscious to consider that ‘lowly’ non’climbers will not spot bolts. Many won’t, but also a large number of hawk eyed naturalists will. Many potentially bolted climbs will certainly be in locations only safely accessible by those with strong roping skills, but again here I raise the intangible natural values flag. Secondly, like Wilyabrup & MQ, one cannot compare the Promenade with the South Coast. Off course a majorly overhanging cliff in a sheltered gorge with low rainfall will see white chalk marks against oxide stained sandstone on heavily ‘worked’ climbs.
In summary, I seek not to antagonize people but simply raise valid points from a perspective well outside the ‘mainstream’ climbing community that may not have been considered. Personally, I see a place for some limited bolting on some of the bigger cliffs of the South Coast, but it must done with strong consideration for the integrity of the area. Maybe we’ll see GIMB’s with ring bolt belays, maybe some widely spaced P’s mixed with natural pro, but I pray we don’t see ‘consumer friendly’ classics peppering these wild places & keep the unique ‘out there’ climbing atmosphere of our special South Coast.
When I’m not in the dust, water or snow I might see you down there some time.