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North America, United States, Nevada, Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park: Unlike the friendly attitude of the Utah State Park rangers in Snow Canyon an hour away, the Nevada State Park rangers in Valley of Fire have for years outlawed the use of chocks, crampons, petons (their spelling) and other “related climbing devices” in order to “protect the sandstone from defacement”. However, this has not been a problem until recently. Over the years I have established a number of very enjoyable routes on the countless Aztec sandstone crags in the park. In May, Joy Ungritch and I repeated Spontaneous Combustion, a one-pitch crack climb in the Mouse’s Tank area. As we returned to the car we were confronted by an unfamiliar ranger who quoted the regulations. Joy smiled broadly and lied, “Oh, that’s OK. We don’t use chocks or ‘petons’; just Friends,” holding up a 3 1/2 for inspection. He left confused but that was the last time the tactic worked. In October, Serge La Rochelle and I put up an excellent beginner’s route on a twenty-meter face near the Atlatl Rock campground. The protection consisted of two drilled angles placed from stances. As I was completing installation of the second we were accosted by a ranger who demanded that I stop “doing that” and “traverse off!” I pretended that I was unable to and continued to finish the climb, but not before we were informed that now Friends and chalk had been outlawed as well. He mistakenly insisted that I was using chalk even after it was explained to him that what he saw was a bit of drill dust. The route, Bonehead Ranger (I, 5.5) was completed and when we descended the ranger demanded a $4.00 campground fee from each of us.

The following morning Serge and I were completing a three-pitch ham- merless route nearby, but as we were finishing, the rock was surrounded by armed rangers. When we descended, we were ordered to “remove the petons”. I insisted that it was impossible but did later discretely haul two gallons of water up Bonehead Ranger and washed off the drill dust. Six weeks later the first drilled angle was gone and the second had the eye hacksawed off (it can still be tied off). The beautiful desert varnish around both placements had been very extensively scarred in the process (the scars were up to a half meter wide!). Credit for these actions was proudly assumed by the ranger that had insisted that I had used chalk. Subsequently there have been numerous confrontations between rangers and climbers with no productive results. Nonetheless several more climbs have been established including an outstanding two-pitch route near the Mouse’s Tank. Over two warm days in December Pat Miller, Paul Van Betten, Sal Mamusia, and I put up Star Performer (5.9R), a steep face climb on dark varnished rock entirely protected by drilled angles placed purely. The crux was a seriously run-out series of moves on the second pitch led by Sal. although we all contributed on lead. The rangers will have to improve their skills considerably to reach the first angle.

Whether or not the Nevada State Parks Division adopts more rational policies regarding “defacement” of their rocks is open to speculation. Comments and inquiries can be addressed to Roy Orr, District Ranger, Nevada State Parks Division, 4747 Vegas Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada 89108.

Ron Olevsky