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In Ontario where I live and do most of my climbing the routes are not clearly marked. Guide books also lack clear approaches and thus it just turns into a big guessing game of what route you're on and what grade it is. With a new guidebook for Ontario in the works I was thinking I may approach the authors and suggest we mark the routes more clearly.

I have climbed at crags that have numbers written with what appears like black paint or tar on the rock face; another example is at Muir Valley in Red River Gorge, Kentucky they use engraved coins at the base of each route. Some Spanish crags have a loose rock engraved and placed at the base of the route.

What is the most eco-friendly/sustainable approach to marking routes with the least impact to visual scenery...I personally do not like painted numbers as it ruins the view, the silver coins used in Muir Valley are much less noticeable by hikers.

What are some other ways of marking routes?

I'd like to consider:

  • Initial/Maintenance Costs
  • Visual Impact
  • Environmental Impact
  • Durability
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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

How about if you just take photos and post them on mountainproject or summitpost, along with verbal descriptions and UTM coordinates? Physically marking the starts of the routes is not compatible with a leave-no-trace ethic.

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Even better, draw the line of the route on the photo. –  requiem Aug 13 '14 at 0:07
This is the general UK approach. Routes are rarely marked here, you have a photo with lines on it. In france they tend to draw lines and arrows all over routes (Well in Fontainbleu they do). But they also use Poff (and eat frogs legs) so who'd pay attention to that :P –  Liam Aug 13 '14 at 8:05
I Don't want to start a big back and forth here, but how is this question any different than THIS...I can just as easily say to hikers get a map and compass or google earth and draw lines. To me trail signs are just as bad of a "Leave No Trace" breach as a sign with ten climbs and their grades. –  AM_Hawk Aug 13 '14 at 14:14
And yes thecrag.com, summitpost and mountain project are great but not everyone is always as willing to post routes and pics, they are generally very incomplete or dated for the area of Ontario. There is a lot of retro bolting happening and none of the sites, specifically thecrag.com, have been updated so it can get quite confusing real fast when you thought there were 5 bolted lines and you show up to 15 bolted lines. –  AM_Hawk Aug 13 '14 at 16:18
@AM_Hawk: I don't think it is very different from the case of putting up trail signs. If it's public land, or privately owned land that isn't mine, then I wouldn't take it upon myself to put up trail signs. Even when a forest ranger puts up a trail sign in a national park, they're balancing environmental impact against the benefits of having the sign. –  Ben Crowell Aug 13 '14 at 17:23

Muir Valley is a privately owned area, so presumably the coins are acceptable to the retired couple that owns it. Don't know about Ontario, but in the US (the Red River Gorge aside) most climbing areas are owned by federal or state governments who may likely have regulations against physically marking the starts of the routes (this is in addition to any leave-no-trace or environmental concerns). You should probably work with a local climbing groups (who have contact with the land owners) to address this issue, rather than risk alienating the government agencies that control the land.

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