“He said he mistook the rock art for graffiti when he placed the bolts used by climbers to anchor their clips. When he realized what he had done, he said he reported to a ranger at Moab’s Bureau of Land Management field office.”
Federal public lands officials are investigating after climbing bolts damaged a 1000 year old petroglyph site near Moab, Utah. The line of bolts in question was inserted into the middle of a large rock-art image left by Indigenous people.
Colorado Springs Gazette reports climber Darrin Reay saw the bolts last week on the outcrop known as Sunshine Wall north of Arches National Park. Reay was “horrified and angry.” The bolts have since been removed, but the damage to the petroglyphs is irreparable. Archaeologist for the Utah State Historic Preservation Office, Elizabeth Hora, said this type of damage is heartbreakingly common around the state where Ancestral Puebloans and Fremont people left their marks. Vandalism has increased over the last year, as more people flocked to the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
36-year-old Colorado Springs resident, Richard Gilbert, came forward and owned up to placing the bolts. He unfortunately mistook the rock art for graffiti. When he realized what he had done, he did the right thing and turned himself in to a ranger at Moab’s Bureau of Land Management field office. The agency hasn’t yet confirmed he was the culprit and is still calling it an active investigation. Under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, first-time violators could be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for up to one year.
Gilbert said he typically puts in climbing bolts to help young climbers or those with disabilities. Bolting for low-grade routes is generally frowned upon in climbing circles. Truly unfortunate circumstances, lets hope people learn from this and don’t repeat his mistakes:
“Mistakes are made, and that doesn’t make it any better, I know. It’s not. I made a mistake.” –Richard Gilbert