Colorado Park Bans Climbing Chalk and Chalk Substitutes as Sport’s Popularity Rises

As the popularity of rock climbing continues to grow in Colorado, the sport’s environmental impact has become more apparent. From unofficial trails that lead to remote rocks to concerns about human presence in protected bird nesting areas at the edge of the cliffs, the question of whether or not more restrictions are needed continues to arise. Another common rock-climbing complaint that often comes up is the appearance of chalk left behind by climbers on rock faces in otherwise untouched terrain.

The Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, Colorado has taken a big step towards preserving the natural look of their iconic rock formations by banning the use of all chalk and chalk substitutes in the park. The use of chalk was previously not permitted in the park, although chalk substitutes were permitted. According to City of Colorado Springsthis change has become necessary due to an increase in the number of climbers using the area in recent years.

A favorite spot for rock climbing, the Garden of the Gods is also a major tourist attraction for all thanks to the views of the unique sandstone and limestone towers found in the park. The formations are the park’s main draw, with the marks left by climbers seen by many.

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According to the city, “By eliminating the use of chalk and chalk substitutes, park climbers will play a part in preserving and stunning the garden’s extraordinary rock structures for years to come.”

Chalk is generally used by climbers to keep their hands dry and sweat-free while climbing. Routes with thick chalk can also be easier to follow, with chalk-covered holds acting like breadcrumbs guiding the way.

The chalk ban includes all rock formations in the park, including those used for bouldering.

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The City of Colorado Springs also manages rock climbing in nearby Red Rock Canyon, Cheyenne Canyon, and Ute Valley Park, in addition to the Garden of the Gods. While a a permit is required to climb at any location, a chalk substitute is permitted at other locations provided it does not discolor the rock face being climbed. White chalk is prohibited on all spots.

The decision to ban chalk in the Garden of the Gods is in line with the City’s goal of earning Leave No Trace Gold Standard Site designation this year. Additional efforts at the site include ongoing maintenance of the park, increasing trail durability, reclamation and restoration of disturbed lands, and removal of noxious weeds, among others.

Climbers – it’s no secret that having no chalk can be a pain, especially on a long route on a hot day. Another technique often used to dry hands is to quickly pat the back of the pants instead of reaching for the chalk bag. It works surprisingly well and gives the rock face a natural look.

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Virginia F. Goins