Newhalem

Luke Distelhorst on Luna Park, 5.11a/b, Newhalem.
Photo by Kris Taylor.

Since 2003, climbers have been adhering to a voluntary “moratorium” on the development of new climbs and new bouldering areas in the Skagit Gorge and other parts of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.  One area in particular, just outside the town of Newhalem, has high quality sport climbing and extensive bouldering.  Unfortunately, much of the bouldering requires extensive cleaning of moss and lichen and climbers were engineering landing zones in a fashion which caused the Park Service to worry whether they might damage cultural resources (native people may have  took shelter beneath these overhanging cliffs because this was a common trading route).

The moratorium was supposed to remain in place until the Park Service could complete a climbing management plan for this area. However, the National Park Service was unable to complete a new climbing management plan that might allowed new route development, largely because this matter was overshadowed by other priorities.

In September 2007, representatives of the WCC and the Access Fund met with North Cascades National Parks new Superintendent and Chief Ranger to discuss the ongoing new route ban. The parties agreed to a compromise that would allow new climbing routes on cliffs that already experienced climbing traffic prior to 2003, while the balance of the Skagit River Gorge could be reopened following the completion of an ongoing general management planning process for the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. This climbing access success is a result of patience and perseverance on our part and a willingness in the Recreation Area management to employ some flexibility towards balancing recreation and resource protection.