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It’s unquestionable that climbing chalk mars rock formations, and with more and more climbers coming into our nation’s natural spaces to climb, the problem is growing. There are many chalk substitutes, of course, designed to not leave blatant stains on the rocks like standard white chalk, but these substitutes are still foreign substances being coated onto the rock faces. Even if they aren’t leaving marks visible to the eye, they often degrade the rock over time, particularly in high traffic areas like Garden of the Gods, with lines that see multiple ascents per week.
Although traditional white chalk has been banned in the Garden of the Gods Park for some time, as of March 15th, the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department announced that the use of chalk substitutes of any kind or color is also prohibited.
The decision comes as the city of Colorado Springs hopes to reach Gold Standard Leave No Trace (LNT) designation in 2021, and amid growing numbers of climbers visiting the park. “Taking into account the number of rock climbers that scale Garden of the Gods each year, even the smallest of traces left behind from individual climbers, such as chalk marks or dust, can create monumental impacts,” said the announcement.
The decision to extend the chalk ban to cover chalk substitutes was also reached in cohesion with local climbers from the nonprofit Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance, which released a statement in support of the ban:
We support a ban on chalk use on climbing routes to make sure that its iconic cliffs are used by climbers with a sustainable Leave No Trace ethic. As local climbers, most of us learned how to climb on the Garden’s red rock formations and we love the place. A no-chalk ethic goes a long way to preserving the Garden of the Gods and our climbing freedoms.
It’s unclear exactly how far the term “chalk substitute” extends in the eyes of the law, but it’s safe to assume that if you’re heading to climb in Garden of the Gods, packing a simple towel to dry your hands is your best bet.