Back whenever I first moved to Chattanooga, I was totally unfamiliar with the concept of a "secret stash." Back in Franklin, the problem was more about finding the rock than keeping it a secret. Also there weren't enough climbers around to have to worry about access being ruined by the community. Now that I'm in Chattanooga, it seems I hear about a new secret boulder or project just about every time I go to the climbing gym.
So what is a secret stash and why is there a debate over them?
Well a secret stash is a climbing area kept secret by those who know about it for a few reasons. Usually the main reason is that the climbers understand that if hoards of gumbies* attacked the climbs access would very quickly become an issue. That means secret stashes are often times on private property. I've heard that out west this isn't as much of an issue because the boulders are in non-wooded areas and everyone knows where they are. Well in the southeast, our boulders and crags are neatly tucked away into the forested landscape surrounding the cities. As they said in Heart of Stone, you can literally walk off a trail and find a brand new boulder field no one's ever climbed before.
Another reason boulders are kept secret is so that the climbers themselves can work their projects or develop climbs without having to worry about someone else coming along and sending their project. I know it sounds somewhat selfish and immature, but it happens all the time.
Before I had climbed at secret boulder fields I thought they were dumb. I thought that climbers were selfish little kids with a toy they were unwilling to share. I wanted that toy. Then I climbed at a place most people don't know about, and it totally changed my mindset. Instead of waiting my turn amongst throngs of people, I climbed whatever I wanted. Instead of looking at rocks so covered in chalk that it might as well be route tape, I saw boulders that had never been touched! It was a really awesome experience and it's funny that I'd never had that feeling before. Being able to develop and climb boulders no one has ever seen is a special sort of thing. It's way more mental than the purely physical pursuit of hard climbing.
Before climbing invaded the internet, (I'm kind of assuming here) people didn't find out about secret stashes unless they were physically taken to the crags, meaning they were personally invited and therefore understood whatever sensitive issues the area faced. Nowadays all it takes is one sick picture on deadpoint or 8a to bring the climbers a running. I'm not so sure that's a good thing.
What do you think? Are secret stashes good for the community, or stupid and selfish?
This is your chance to weigh in. I created this blog so that we, the community could talk about this stuff without having to worry about pissing each other off. There's no right or wrong answer, like your high school English teacher, I just want to know what you think.
*Gumby here meaning a climber noob. Someone who doesn't understand the etiquette and it's painfully apparent in the way they act.