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Dru

Lower Malemute closed down

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This Bulletin Was Written by Anders Ourom:

As of today (29th), it appears that climbing at the lower Malemute at Squamish is no longer permitted by B.C. Rail. Climbers there were asked to leave by B.C. Rail police. CASBC is working on this issue, but in the meantime it seems best to assume that access to the lower Malemute is not permitted, and that B.C. Rail may actively enforce this.

Some background:

1. Climbing at the lower Malemute began in the mid-60s. It offers a fine variety of excellent climbs. Until the mid 80s, climbers going to the cliff parked at the log sort yard, then walked along the tracks. There was then a brief flurry - the company (Triple C?) closed the parking lot to outsiders, and installed a gate. At the same time B.C. Rail temporarily closed access to the cliff. They were concerned about climbers on the tracks, trespassing, and liability. The closure ended when climbers built a new access trail, which avoided the log sort, and posted a sign (now rather weathered) regarding the access problem, and climbing on/near the tracks.

2. The cliff is entirely on B.C. Rail property, and they have the legal right to prevent climbers from going on the tracks or climbing beside the tracks, and to escort people off their property. They need not call the RCMP - B.C. Rail police are armed, and can arrest trespassers. It would be possible for them to stop anyone from going to the cliff - there is only one access point.

3. A walker and his dog were killed on the tracks near Shannon Falls in June, and soon after B.C. Rail started leaving a leaflet ("BC Rail Police - Trespassing on the Railroad") on cars parked for the lower Malemute.

4. There appear to be more climbers at this cliff than in the past, and some at least seem to have less awareness of train safety. Groups of climbers near the base of Clean and Crescent Cracks, for example. The suggested code of behaviour appears in the Climbers Guide to Squamish at page 141.

5. B.C. Rail may have been turning a blind eye to the situation, as long as it didn't perceive a problem. Increased numbers, or decreased attention to rail safety, could easily be perceived as problems.

6. I was at the lower Malemute last Sunday (27th). I talked with several groups about rail safety. At one point, someone in the log sort yard shouted "You can't climb there" - I'm not sure why. A few minutes later, someone from the log sort yard came to the base of Clean Crack. Someone (he thought a climber) had parked in the log sort yard. He was going home and locking the gate, and wanted the car removed.

7. Today, Andrew Querner reports that he and some friends were climbing near Clean Crack, when B.C. Rail police appeared and asked them to leave, which they did. Andrew provided the name and phone # of the officer involved.

8. As a result of what I observed Sunday, I e-mailed a number of Squamish climbers and activists, asking what to do. My suggestion was that CASBC and Squamish rockclimbers (at CASBC expense) jointly place new signs with information about access to the lower Malemute, and train safety, on the trail just before the tracks, as well as near the base of Clean Crack and Crescent Crack. Response so far has been in favour.

9. Officially, B.C. Rail will never agree to climbing at the lower Malemute. We can't know whether keeping climbers off is a priority for them, if they just want to make a point, or what resources they might put into this. CASBC's strategy will likely be to

- upgrade the signage, asap,

- post information on the situation to our website and in the next Access News (mid September), and

- seek out an off the record meeting with B.C. Rail, to discuss the issue and see if it can be resolved.

Please forward this as you deem appropriate. I will provide updates as/when necessary. Any suggestions on next steps are also welcome.

Anders Ourom

aiourom@telus.net

 

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Dru,

If you can think of ANYTHING I might be able to do to influence thought on this unfortunate development, please let met know.

Thanks for the bad news, Pope.

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(I'd like to point out that the free camping/squatting area on the Mamquam River was also closed down Sept 6th by District of Squamish - plan accordingly)

 

This Bulletin Was Written by Anders Ourom:

Several representatives of the climbing community met with B.C. Rail on Tuesday (4th) to discuss climbers' access to the lower Malemute. We opened communications on an issue which is important to both parties. It appears that there may be possibilities for climbing on the lower Malemute in the future, although any solution will take some time to implement. We ask that in the meantime all climbers respect the voluntary closure on climbing on the lower Malemute, starting immediately. B.C. Rail is considering some suggestions we made which might address its concerns, and this may take a few weeks. Please don't climb at the lower Malemute until there is clear information that it is allowed again. This will show our good faith, and show that climbers can be self-policing when necessary. If you climb at the lower Malemute during this time, you may jeopardize any future for climbing there!! We will publicize any developments by broadcast e-mail, as well as in the next Access News (late September) and in the Access Alerts section of the CASBC website (www.bivouac.com/casbc). In the meantime, B.C. Rail has no immediate concerns about climbing on the upper Malemute (i.e. anywhere more than one pitch off the tracks), and climbing can continue there.

Kris Wild (Squamish Rockclimbers' Association)

Kevin McLane (guidebook writer)

John Howe (Squamish Search & Rescue, S.R.A.)

Brent Mathieson (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides)

Anders Ourom (Climbers' Access Society of B.C.)

Climbing at the lower Malemute began in the 1960s, and there are many popular, excellent climbs there. Its popularity seems to have recently increased. The lower cliff is entirely on the B.C. Rail right of way, which may extend for 50 - 100 feet from the tracks. The cliff was briefly closed in the late 1980s, which led to construction of the current access trail, and a sign being posted. Access and train safety information was also prominent in the 1992 and 1999 guidebooks.

As most of you know, last week several climbers at the lower Malemute were asked to leave by B.C. Rail police. As a result, several climbers contacted B.C. Rail and arranged a meeting to discuss this. The climbers who met B.C. Rail on Tuesday believe that they are broadly representative of the climbing community, and of all climbers' groups with an interest in this issue. We believe climbers and B.C. Rail can resolve this matter themselves. There is no need to involve other groups, politicians, or the media, the general media especially. We met to plan, then met Constable Andy Thom of B.C. Rail Police.

Constable Thom was quite informative and helpful. We met with him for an hour, then went on a tour of the lower Malemute together. B.C. Rail is well aware of climbing at the lower Malemute, and has gradually become more concerned about this, as well as other activities on and near the tracks. The incidents last week were not the result of any one event - B.C. Rail has intended to address this issue for some time. Their concern, ultimately, is safety - both for trains and their personnel, and for people on or near the tracks. They are also concerned about legal issues, including the Railway Act, trespassing, and potential liability. Constable Thom was open in discussing possible solutions which would address B.C. Rail's concerns, although these would have to be approved by management. Some of the possibilities (we emphasize that they are possibilities only at this stage):

- regular, open dialogue between climbers and B.C. Rail (this e-mail is being copied to Constable Thom)

- education of climbers about train safety

- new, punchier signage at all access points

- zoning areas, depending on proximity to the tracks

- closure of Penguins in Bondage and climbs at Slopers (south of Murrin Park)

- establishing access routes from above, by rappel and perhaps a trail and ladders at the north end of the rockfall area, just south of Chasing Rainbows

- building foot paths along the base of the cliff, as far away from the tracks as possible, with a fence in between, about 2 metres from the side of the tracks (this may involve several hundred metres of chain link fence = $$$)

- possibly filling in some of the depressed areas between the tracks and the base of the cliff, to provide more room away from the tracks for belaying and walking

In the long term, the area in front of the Malemute will be used for expansion of the port of Squamish. A great deal of fill will be used to make a solid strip of land about 100 metres wide in front of the cliff. There would be increased industrial activity in the area (log sort, loading and unloading ships, construction...), but there is a slight possibility that the tracks may be relocated away from the cliff. Other consequences remain to be seen, and the port expansion may not happen for a few years.

It seems certain that any solution will take:

- time

- good faith negotiations

- fundraising (signage, fences, ladders...) Ultimately, if climbing is to resume and continue at the lower Malemute, climbers have to show that they can be good neighbours. This will take effort from every single climber - there may be zero tolerance for transgressions. Please stay away from the lower Malemute until further notice, and ask other climbers to do likewise!

Anyone contemplating climbing at the lower Malemute, despite the voluntary closure, should be reminded that the tracks and cliff are entirely on B.C. Rail right-of-way. B.C. Rail police have the legal right to arrest and remove anyone found there. Even if they're not physically there to kick you off, they may be watching. If you do climb there and get away with it, it doesn't prove you're clever, or that you can ignore reasonable rules. It just proves you're a selfish idiot.

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR CO-OPERATING. WE'LL KEEP YOU POSTED.

Anders Ourom (CASBC) (604) 228-1798

 

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Dru, thanks for relaying information on these developments. I'll try to get the word out to some folks who don't visit this site.

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Sorry to hear about this problem. If there anything we can do to help out I'm sure you will have a large group for support. My guess is it's a liability issue.

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More from Anders:

Hello everyone! As with previous messages about the lower Malemute, this is being sent to 140+ climbers. Please feel free to forward it - hopefully its not unwelcome!

 

We continue to ask that climbers refrain from climbing at the lower Malemute (anywhere less than one pitch above the tracks) until further notice. We will notify climbers immediately if climbing becomes permitted there, and if so under what (if any) conditions. Observant climbers in Squamish report that few if any have been climbing at the lower Malemute over the last few weeks, and we thank you for your co-operation.

 

Representatives of various climbers' groups met with B.C. Rail Police on 4th September. Constable Thom, who we met, has considered the situation, and is waiting to meet a manager to discuss it. We hope this will occur soon. Management must ultimately decide what might be acceptable.

 

It appears that any solution acceptable to B.C. Rail may take some time to implement, and involve fundraising. We have been putting some thought into the latter. Anyone with ideas, or contributions, should contact us.

 

Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Squamish (Murray Sovereign) is sponsoring an awareness/fund raising event on Tuesday 9th October. 8:00 PM at the Brew Pub in Squamish. $8.00. Speaker Sean Isaac, one of the world's leading mixed climbers. Proceeds will be donated toward whatever we must do at the Malemute.

 

Please call or e-mail if you have any questions or ideas. Thank you!

 

John Howe (climber-activist, Squamish Search & Rescue)Kris Wild (Squamish Rockclimbers Association)

Kevin McLane (guidebook writer)

Brent Mathieson (Ass'n. of Canadian Mountain Guides)Anders Ourom (Climbers' Access Society of B.C.)

(604) 228-1798

 

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