Leave No Trace bouldering ethics: Transitioning from the gym to the crag

F. Schwartz, B. D. Taff, B. Lawhon, D. Pettebone, S. Esser, A. D'Antonio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Participation in bouldering has increased substantially over the past two decades, with indoor (gym) climbing and bouldering identified as the fastest growing sector of the climbing industry. Thus, for many, their experience with bouldering begins in the gym and then progresses to climbing outdoors. This raises questions regarding the extent to which those who initially learn in a gym setting are making a responsible transition to the outdoors by adopting behaviors that protect and preserve ecological and social conditions, thus ensuring the future of outdoor bouldering access. This article reports on bouldering research conducted in Rocky Mountain National Park, USA in the summer of 2015. The authors conducted an on-site visitor survey that examined attitudes, knowledge, and perceptions of Leave No Trace-related bouldering practices, specifically comparing and contrasting indoor and outdoor learners, as well as self-reported ability, across these measures. A total of 227 boulderers completed the survey, the majority of which initially learned to boulder indoors. Indoor learners and those of novice ability reported less knowledge of Leave No Trace and generally held attitudes and perceptions less congruent with Leave No Trace recommendations. The authors recommend continuing and expanding minimum-impact outdoor bouldering programs designed to educate boulderers making the transition from the gym to the crag to support the long-term viability of outdoor bouldering on public and protected lands. Management implications: ● It is essential that recreation managers work in collaboration with emerging user-groups, such as boulderers, in developing management strategies that protect resources while maintaining quality recreational opportunities.● These findings confirm and provide support for continued and expanded efforts for collaborative work among the gym climbing industry, public land agencies, and bouldering interest and advocacy groups in the development and delivery of minimum-impact bouldering information and educational resources● This study identified significant differences in attitudes toward, and knowledge of, Leave No Trace practices depending on whether one initially learned to boulder indoors in a gym or an outdoor setting

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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