Guest Post by Katherine Tsai. Katherine Tsai is an attorney and moderate rock climber.
I’ve been mourning since the administration announced that he planned to reduce the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in early December. When the threat to our public lands solidified last year, I stepped up my political participation for the first time in my life. I’ve written and called my congressional representatives, urged my friends and acquaintances to contact their congressional representatives, and donated to nonprofits advocating to protect our public lands. The Bears Ears announcement came despite our efforts. I considered staying in bed for the rest of the year.
I’d just returned from a rock climbing pilgrimage to Indian Creek. This was my first time to pay respects at the mecca of crack climbing. Indian Creek was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Red cliff bands loomed above intimidating scree fields, with names befitting rock formations, like Cat Wall or Elephant Man. Cracks split the smooth sandstone as jagged lightning bolts or improbably perfect parallel lines.
It’s difficult to capture the full experience of Indian Creek. Shivering cottonwood leaves woke us up in the morning. We made coffee as North Six Shooter gleamed on the horizon. We huffed up scree fields with our gear and several cheese sandwiches, and spent the days climbing unnamed cracks that would warrant five star ratings anywhere else in the country. When the light and temperature cooled, we cooked chili and patched gear with the Milky Way arching brightly above us. We savored the silence of each day.
Other climbers came from all over the country and world. We saw Utah, Washington, Colorado and Nevada license plates. Many climbers hailed from Europe. Judging by the red dust saturating their hair, clothes, and cars, they had been climbing at Indian Creek for weeks. I can guess why. The landscapes that we have here are unlike any other landscape in the world.
On one gray day pregnant with rain, we drove out to visit Canyonlands National Park. I marveled at Wooden Shoe Arch. On our way back to camp, my partner pointed out The Cliffs of Insanity, radiant with afternoon sun. We pulled over to take pictures. I silently prayed to be strong enough to climb there one day.
I should have prayed that The Cliffs of Insanity would be protected forever. President Trump’s announcement would open The Cliffs of Insanity and other areas in Indian Creek to oil and gas extraction.
It’s so important now to get out of bed and continue fighting to protect our national parks. Our public lands belong to each one of us. Our wilderness defines the United States and who we are.
Tell your friends, family and colleagues about why all Americans need to fight for our public lands. Donate to the nonprofits that are suing the federal government to protect not only the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments, but all public lands across the United States. Support the companies that are fighting to preserve our public lands. Demand that your congressional representative to fight for us and for the generations that follow us.