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Climbing Higher in NW Washington

September 12, 2008

Newhalem, WA – For the first time in five years, a hallowed piece of Washington wilderness will be open to the public. Rock climbers and conservation groups on Saturday will join the National Park Service to build and restore access paths to Newhalem Crags, the sheer rock walls in North Cascades National Park. The new Park Service plan will add marked trails and climbing routes that can be used without disturbing plants and wildlife, such as the peregrine falcon.

Charles Beall, from North Cascades National Park, says climbing and conservation groups will celebrate on Saturday by building a path to the climbing area.

"This work was rescheduled around the falcon mating season. You have this bird species that uses the rock face for its nest; you also have species of rare plants and lichens that use those rock faces for habitat."

Saturday's event should be exciting for kids from the "Vertical World" youth climbing team. Beall says they'll get their first chance to climb on a real rock face, rather than on a wall in a climbing gym.

"This really is a success story. The National Park Service, working with the climbing groups and other partners, has found a way to accommodate this recreational use, while balancing our mandate to protect park resources."

In past years, climbers have used the area without Park Service knowledge. The new access plan was developed with input from the Washington Climbers Coalition, Washington Trails Association and The Wilderness Society, among others. The "Adopt a Crag" weekend is one of North Cascades National Park's 40th anniversary events.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA