There are a number of issues related to the use of crags by rock climbers: Trampling of vegetation, erosion on paths to crags and at the base of climbs, loss of ancient seed banks on ledges during “cleaning” of routes, damage to plants and lichens growing on the cliff face, disturbance of nesting birds, disturbance and displacement of animal species in the vicinity of the crag, and damage to the rock face through bolting and erosion. In addition to the considerations listed in 'walking, hiking and picnicking - enjoying the countryside' section, in order to be a responsible climber, you should also consider the following.
In most countries, birds are protected by law. In the UK for example, all birds, their eggs and nests are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), and certain rare and endangered species such as the peregrine falcon are further protected by increased penalties. It is a climber's responsibility not to disturb crag nesting birds. In some countries, crags carry ‘Bird Restrictions’ in the spring (typically from 1st March to 30 June). Climbers should make efforts to find out if there are any birds nesting on the crag they intend to visit and whether there are any restrictions on the right to climb on those crags. Usually restricted crags will be signed but this is not always the case. In some countries, websites list the latest restrictions ( For example, the Regional Access Database in the UK can be accessed from the British Mountaineering Council HERE, or the Fell and Rockclimbing Club HERE).
Having checked on the law and any lists of crag restrictions, you should then choose a route. Even if there are no restrictions listed on the crag you head for, when approaching the crag look out for any signs of birds nesting, or being disturbed by your presence. If you do find birds are nesting on the crag, the best choice is to move to another area. If you do decide to climb on the crag, ensure that you are at a distance that can be tolerated by the bird without adversely disturbing them, particularly at times when they are most vulnerable, namely when they are about to or have just laid their eggs, or when the eggs have just hatched. Common indicators that birds are being disturbed include alarm calling, visibly agitated birds, or mock or actual dive bombing. For further and comprehensive advise on birds and how to avoid causing disturbance to them, visit the website of Fell and Rock Climbing Club HERE, or the British Mountaineering Council HERE.
For more information:
The British Mountaineering Council have produced a comprehensive 'Green Guide to the Uplands' which can be found HERE • The BMC have also produced a Crag Code to encourage the sustainable use of crags in England and Wales which contains good advice wherever you may climb. It can be found HERE