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Climbing ban to be appealed

by Gregory Crofton
Nevada Appeal News Service
U.S. Forest Service heritage resource manager John Maher, left, discusses the Cave Rock closure order with rock climber Chip Snyder.
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A rock climbing group says it will continue its fight to oppose a U.S. Forest Service order that bans climbing at Cave Rock, an old volcano held sacred by the Washoe Indians that straddles Highway 50 between Zephyr Cove and Glenbrook.

The Access Fund, based in Boulder, Colo., and representing more than 1 million climbers nationwide, said it will argue to the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit that closing the area to rock climbers, but allowing hiking, fishing and picnicking, is a violation of the First Amendment.

The Forest Service says the order is needed to protect the historic and cultural resources of Cave Rock, which include the interests of the Washoe tribe. The Access Fund said it wants to reach a compromise with the Forest Service that respects historic and cultural interests but allows some climbing.

The agency closed Cave Rock to climbing at the end of February after a federal district court in Reno ruled against a lawsuit filed by The Access Fund. No date is set for when the case will be heard by the appeals court.

On Tuesday afternoon, Chip Snyder, 24, from Incline Village, hiked up a rock path that leads from outside the southbound tunnel of Highway 50 to the main climbing area – a cathedral of rock in a shallow cave above the road.

Snyder was greeted by John Maher, a heritage resource manager for the Forest Service. He was in the area to post for a second time a copy of the federal order (the first was torn down) that explains what parts of Cave Rock are open, and which are closed.

The walls of the cave, cherished by expert climbers for the technical, inverted climbing they provide, are part of the closed area.

“You know this is closed to climbing?” Maher said to Snyder. “If you’re on the sides of the cave, you’re in violation of the closure.”

Snyder, climbing shoes in hand, told Maher he did not know climbing is restricted.

“What’s the degree of difference between hiking and climbing?” Snyder said. “It seems silly to not allow people to worship their own separate ways.”