The beauty of wild places could be their undoing as they attract us to them—leaving them touched by human hands and eventually less than wild. We are consuming wilderness at an alarming rate, using it and changing it as we do so.
Though we sometimes act otherwise, the mountains don't exist for our amusement. They owe us nothing and they require nothing from us. Hudson Stuck wrote that he and the other members of the first party to climb Mount McKinley felt they had been granted "a privileged communion with the high places of the earth." As mountaineers traveling in the wilderness, our minimum charge for this privilege is to leave the hills as we found them, with no sign of our passing. We must study the places we visit and become sensitive to their vulnerability, then camp and climb in ways that minimize our impact.
The privileges we enjoy in the mountains bring responsibilities. Therefore, the facts of mountaineering life today include permit systems that limit access to the backcountry, road and trail closures, environmental restoration projects, legislative alerts, and the clash of competing interest groups. While we tread softly in the mountains, it's also time to speak loudly back in town for support of wilderness preservation and sensitive use of our wild lands. As mountaineers, we need to be activists as well as climbers if we want our children to be able to enjoy what we take for granted.
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