As with any outdoor adventure activity we all need to be aware of the environment and, even with the best of intentions, we are all susceptible to having a detrimental impact upon the environment often without us even realising. Therefore, it is important that we don’t take our enjoyment of the great outdoors for granted, that we educate ourselves about the environment and learn how to minimise the effects that our outdoor activities have on our natural surroundings so that they can be enjoyed by ourselves and by others for years to come, whilst simultaneously caring for the environment and the inhabiting wildlife so that they both continue to flourish.
Remember, it’s only by knowing and understanding the land and its inhabitants that we can learn to love and care for it. All outdoor adventure activity pursuits have the potential to cause damage to the environment unless we take extreme care and each individual activity will have its own specific guidelines to help participants to minimise their impact upon the environment so this article should be used simply as a general overall guideline.
Leave no Trace
A good principle that has been adopted over recent years to incorporate most outdoor activities is the one termed ‘Leave No Trace’. It adopts simple principles to help outdoor enthusiasts enjoy their activities whilst enabling them to preserve the environment in which they practice them.
A few simple guidelines include, minimising your activity to not include too many people in the same area at once. Heavy use by many people in the same area at the same time can cause the erosion of land and disturb natural vegetation and wildlife. Take your litter with you and dispose of it correctly. Nothing is more unsightly than to see beautiful countryside spoiled by people’s thoughtlessness in dropping litter and, even if it’s not your litter, pick it up.
Although it’s not always possible, try to select a site for the activity that is not over-exposed to visitors and traffic but make sure you have permission from the relevant authorities first.
If you’re on a mountain trail with a group of people, walk in single file to avoid widening the trail. This will help to prevent erosion and the loss of vegetation which is vital to the survival of wildlife. If you see trail damage or the results of other environmental impact and have time to repair it, do so, or at least inform the relevant authorities so that they can repair it.
Rock Climbing and Mountaineering
If you’re a rock climber or mountaineer and you’re using ropes and anchors to climb, use the holes that have been used previously. Chipping new handgrips and footholds destroys the rock face. Even if you think that drilling a hole will make your climb easier, you must refrain from doing so. Use anchors that can be removed wherever it’s practical to do so. Pitons and bolts damage the rock face so avoid placing permanent protection wherever possible.
In general, observe your surroundings firstly, before you begin your activity ‘On Rock’. Look for clearly marked paths, trails and routes and stick to them to lessen the impact upon vegetation.
Be considerate to other users and to wildlife. Wildlife should be treated with the utmost respect – remember, it is THEIR home and you’re simply a ‘guest’.
In adopting a ‘low-impact’, ‘leave no trace’ mentality and putting it into practice, we can all protect the natural environment we have all come to love spending time in and preserve it for many generations that come after us.