Updated: Jul 13

In a recent social media poll, Boulder Planet asked, “Can our love for climbing help save the planet?”

74% of those who answered said yes, and 26% said no. Several shared about how they aspire to climb outdoors and how that keeps them connected to environmental issues and inspires a strong sense that we should all do what we can to preserve nature.

In this article, we’ll explore various perspectives on how our love for climbing really can inspire us to save the planet together. Climbing is an activity that can create communities of people who are connected to their natural environments, and it can be a positive model of sustainable development. Many climbers have also channelled their love for the sport to be influential advocates for the planet, whether by responsibly stewarding their local crags, by using their voice, banding together to take collective action, or even using climbing itself as direct action (as in the case of action climbing)!

Positive impacts of climbers (and climbing) in Southeast Asia

We spoke with several people who have worked to develop outdoor climbing areas across Southeast Asia, asking them about their environmental ethos and the positive impacts they think climbing (and climbers) can have. Read on to hear more from:

  1. Aswadi Noor (Adi), in Nyamuk, Malaysia

  2. Fai Kanita in Thakhek, Laos

  3. Panitan Jutaporn in Khon Kaen, Thailand

Aswadi Noor (Adi) is a climber who has helped develop climbing areas in Nyamuk, Malaysia, since 2002. Adi’s responses reflect how love for climbing can inspire us to love a place and how our love for that place can then inspire a sense of responsibility and stewardship.

Adi said: “We climb outside on the natural rock because we want to experience what nature has to offer: the beauty, the adventure and self-growth. And by doing so, we need to appreciate and respect what it has to offer. To do so, we need to leave as minimal impact as possible. That means everyone needs to be responsible for their crag.”

Some of these principles Adi mentioned are:

  • Not over-bolting the routes.

  • Climbing routes within your capability and not any harder to prevent the rock from getting over-chalked or polished from imprecise footwork.

  • No littering.

  • Staying on the trail

  • Building permanent trails with as much of the natural resources available

  • Maintaining the trails.

  • Caring for the forest to be a healthy forest by trimming, planting, etc.

Adi also shared an anecdote of how he and the climbing community have cared for their local crags:

“In the beginning, Nyamuk was quite shady. There were major trees that were casting shade. Then about 5 to 6 years later, 3 of the major trees died from illness. So they fell and exposed the soil to the sun, which stimulated the growth of weed and parasitic plants. After a few years, these plants would consume the majority of the space for sunlight and soil. This would cause the small forest of Nyamuk to become unhealthy due to lack of shade, humidity and diversity. It was only three years ago when I started climbing outdoors seriously again and realised what had happened. I also realised that Nyamuk had been neglected during the few years that I hadn’t climbed there. Everything had become overgrown, on the trail and on the rock. So because of my love and passion for climbing and for Nyamuk, I started clearing and gardening. I did this alone in the first year. Then friends and other climbers started to get interested in helping out, and in the third year, we managed to organise a small event with more than 20 people strong.”

We also spoke with Fai Kanita from Green Climbers’ Home (GCH) in Thakhek, Laos. Since GCH’s early beginnings, they have practised a philosophy of environmental protection and social responsibility. They also try to live harmoniously with nature as much as possible by following Leave No Trace and other principles of environmental stewardship and promoting proper waste management both within their facilities and around the area (you can read more about their philosophy here).

From what she has experienced, the climbers that Fai sees coming through GCH are mostly “an environmentally conscious bunch”. We asked Fai what she would like to see the climbing community do more of. She mentioned that the climbers who come to stay at GCH could play an essential rol