Going Green in the Mountains
Keep the hills alive
Despite their impervious looks, mountains are as delicate as molehills. Their rocky slopes host sensitive undergrowths with shallow root systems that can be destroyed by a single careless footstep. And once stripped of vegetation, even the mightiest mountain will fail to nourish the wildlife that resides there. Also, waste left on slopes can contaminate water sources below.
To ensure we have living mountains for the next generation, the basics of green camping and hiking still apply. But climbers pose a unique threat to mountains. And the higher you go, the more you rely on environmentally damaging tools, like pitons and hammers. If possible, learn to climb clean.
Clean ascents reject the use of damaging climbing tools and opt for more mountain-friendly nuts and hexes . Even though the clean climb technique means acquiring a new skill set, they're common (and expected) on many American Southwest slopes, including Yosemite Valley and Eldorado Canyon .
To help prevent the environmental assault that befell Everest it's crucial you:
- Read up on the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging by learning how to use a map and compass.
- Bring sealable bags to remove your waste with you - human waste included.
- Minimize environmental impact by camping on rock, gravel, dry-grass terrains or established campsites.
- Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Look, but don't touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts you encounter while climbing.
- Don't collect rocks, plants and other natural objects you find.
- Do not build structures, furniture or dig trenches as you ascend.
- Do not follow or approach wildlife you encounter along the way, especially during mating season or if young are present.
- Don't feed the animals. Not only does human food endanger the health of wild animals, repeated feedings can alter their natural behavior, making them reliant on humans and vulnerable to predators.
- Store rations and trash securely. Not only will this protect you from unwanted visitors, it will protect your food.