Park tweaks rules after Delicate Arch climb
MOAB - Rock climber and "slackliner" Dean Potter may have had his moment high atop famed Delicate Arch. But the National Park Service says no one better do it again.
Officials at Arches National Park on Tuesday issued a statement reinforcing the park's long-standing rock-climbing ban on all named arches after Potter announced that he had successfully "free climbed" the nearly 50-foot-high southeast Utah icon using no protective equipment.
Arches acting Chief Ranger Karen McKinlay-Jones believes Potter's actions on Sunday violated the intent of park regulations but said the park's solicitor advised that Potter cannot be prosecuted because the regulation "was not worded well."
"It was always our intent that all named arches . . . are closed to climbing," McKinlay-Jones said. "That was clearly understood by the climbing community in Moab as well as by climbers who come here from other places."
The park's newly worded climbing ban, which went into effect Tuesday, leaves no room for doubt:
"All rock climbing or similar activities on any arch or natural bridge named on the United States Geological Survey 7.5 minute topographical maps covering Arches National Park are prohibited."
The park also has banned "slacklining" - defined as walking on flat nylon webbing or rope anchored between rock formations, trees or any other natural features.
Earlier this year, Potter participated in slacklining at the Three Gossips, another well-known Arches rock formation, park officials said. The feat highlighted the fact that the practice was not addressed in existing regulations.
Potter was unrepentant Tuesday, saying he is "not sorry for my actions at all."
He said he did not read the regulations before Sunday's climb but did ask several rangers about the park's regulations. He said now that the wording has been changed, he will follow the rules.
"I didn't want to break the law, and I didn't break the law," he said. "The suggestion that I did something illegal causes harm to me and my reputation. I'd be surprised if anybody would find anything wrong if the story had just been 'man climbs rock,' or 'man communes with nature.' "
News of Potter's ascent also caused headaches for outdoor-clothing and gear manufacturer Patagonia, where Potter serves as a "climbing ambassador."
A member of Patagonia's marketing staff had alerted the news media about the successful climb Monday. When the story appeared Tuesday, customers contacted the company to complain about Patagonia's perceived role.
Spokeswoman Jen Rapp said via e-mail Tuesday that the company "was unaware of the legality issues surrounding the climb" when the media contacts were made.
"As a policy, Patagonia neither endorses nor condemns our [ambassadors'] individual activities. We trust that our athletes are the best judge of their own actions, and rely on them to act with care for themselves and the natural environment," she said, emphasizing that "Patagonia had no prior knowledge of Dean's intent or plans to climb Delicate Arch.
"We are currently looking into the situation and working with Dean to make sure we come to a reasonable resolution."
"Effective May 9, 2006, under the authority of Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1, Section 1.5(a)(1), all rock climbing or similar activities on any arch or natural bridge named on the United States Geological Survey 7.5 minute topographical maps covering Arches National Park are prohibited.
"In addition, 'slacklining' in Arches National Park is prohibited. Slacklining is defined as walking on a rope or other line that is anchored between rock formations, trees, or any other natural features. Height of the rope above the ground is immaterial.
"These closures are based upon a determination that such action is necessary for the maintenance of public health and safety, protection of environmental or scenic values, protection of natural resources and avoidance of conflict among visitor use activities."