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Cave Rock Closed Permanently

A climbing ban has been enforced on Cave Rock, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, on February 28, 2008, after ten years of access negotiations. So far the bolts that were put up on this sport crag remain unchopped. [Photo] Abel Jones

Over ten years of battles and negotiations came to a close on February 28 when US Forest Supervisor Terri Mason signed an order to enforce a permanent climbing ban at Cave Rock on the shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The volcanic rock is home to many steep sport routes mostly in the 5.12-5.13 range.

The dispute started in 1997 with complaints from the local Washoe Native American tribe. The Washoe’s complaints sparked controversy because they included an objection to women touching the rock. Access Fund marketing director Robb Shurr explained, “The actual rock is considered holy by the Washoe tribe. They originally wanted to ban women entirely from the area, but the Forest Service would obviously not allow it.”

There also were protests to the amount of trash left around, the bolting of the rock and the heavily chalked holds that supposedly altered the natural state of the rock. These complaints had more traction, and the Forest Service enacted a climbing ban that was upheld in court in 2003.

In 2005, members of the Access Fund decided to appeal the decision on the basis that the climbing ban was unconstitutional. “The closure was first based on a cultural belief which is why it went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Shurr said, “but the judge upheld the closure on the grounds that Cave Rock has historical significance.”

Hiking, fishing and picnicking are still allowed on and around the paved floor of Cave Rock. U.S. Highway 50 runs through a dynamited tunnel a few feet away from the climbing area.

As of now the bolts remain unchopped, and there are no formal plans to remove them. Angry climbers via internet forums vow to increase their climbing activity in protest to the ban despite the consequences. However, Shurr and the Access Fund urge climbers to heed the closure because “it is in our long term interests that climbers be agreeable and respectful.”

Sources: Robb Shurr,,