Climbing on the iconic basalt columns of Armenia has now been closed, according to a recent press release issued by the local Armenian climbing club Up the Rocks. Several environmental and civil movements including the Pan-Armenian Environmental Front (PAEF) and the “Save Teghut," which typically target copper mining and deforestation, have joined Up the Rocks in shutting down the basalt-column climbing.
"The basalt columns of Armenia have a status of natural monuments and in their past there is no legacy of rock climbing on them so it can't be done," wrote Armenian climber Mkhitar Mkhitaryan in an e-mail to Rock and Ice. "So far we were 'trying' to find an acceptable way to get the permit but unfortunately all the efforts crushed down."
The decision has been made after several alternative anchor methods were explored. Since 2009, local climbers have been trying to minimize their impacts to the columns and the surrounding environment, first employing "clean climbing" tactics where bolts were only used for belay stations.
In 2012, however, it was decided that the rappel and belay bolts were also causing too much impact, and alternative methods such as gear protected belays and V-threads were tried. The climbing club considered the benefits of these alternative anchor stations stating: 1. These are eternal rappel anchors with single impact on the rocks, unlike the bolted anchors that require to be re-bolted every other 20-30 year. 2. Being challenging and not as much safe as bolted anchors are, it should make climbing on basalt columns non popular, allowing only very limited amount of skilled and experienced climbers to dare climb on them. Limiting this way the amount of climbers should also mean less impact on the sensitive rock formations and surrounding areas.
However, club Up the Rocks has deemed the use of these alternative methods futile, stating: "[E]ven world class climbers tend to skip the rules and use bolts and it is actually impossible to keep under control." They wish to inform climbers around the world that the basalt columns of Armenia are now off limits and all bolts will be removed from the crag. Watch video of climbing in Armenia here. See photo gallery of Armenian climbing here.
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