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The American Safe Climbing Association, Formation and Activity

The American Safe Climbing Association, Formation and Activity. It’s been a busy first six months for the American Safe Climbing Association. We have replaced about 500 old, unsafe bolts in Yosemite, half of the goal for this season. We’ve picked up support from a strong group of climbers ranging from John Middendorf to Jon Krakauer. We also are getting a boost from commercial sources such as Metolius, Patagonia and The North Face.

Though it now appears obvious that the ASCA’s mission is something that needs to be accomplished, we were far from clear about it when the idea first presented itself. In late July, 1997, Jason Smith and I set out to clean up Zenyatta Mondatta, removing superfluous bolts, rivets and fixed copper heads. Our intention was to restore the route to a more natural state. In the end, however, we spent most of our time making the anchors bomber for subsequent ascents by removing rusting quarter-inchers and placing new stainless steel 3/8” bolts. After the climb, we decided that although returning routes to their natural condition sounded good in theory, it was a far greater (and more practical) service to the climbing community to focus energy on making the anchors safer.

With this as our goal, Jason, Erik Sloan and I continued to replace anchors for the rest of the summer on El Cap as well as on several free climbs. Although we were able to replace more than 200 bolts in three months, we had just scratched the surface of what needed to be replaced in Yosemite. Clearly more help was needed. With the goal of getting more climbers involved, and the legal assistance of Armando Menocal, founder of The Access Fund, I moved to found the American Safe Climbing Association, a California non-profit organization. Our mission is simple: The ASCA wants to make America’s rock climbs safer by educating climbers about how to maintain safe fixed anchors, as well as to advance wilderness causes generally. To date, the ASCA has replaced over 500 bolts in Yosemite Valley, Indian Creek and Zion National Park. For more information about which routes have been replaced as well as how you can help, check out the ASCA website at www.safeclimbing.org.

Chris McNamara, American Safe Climbing Association