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Rock climbers lobby lawmakers

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jan 28 2013 06:15:00 PM HST

The state banned rock climbing at several places on Oahu after a child was injured last summer by a falling rock at Mokuleia. That closure brought rock climbing enthusiasts together to find a way to strike a balance between access and risk.

HONOLULU -

Last year, the state banned rock climbing at popular sites on Oahu’s north and east shores after an incident where a child was injured at Mokuleia.

Rock climbing is not for the faint of heart.

But more thrill seekers are eyeing Hawaii's mountains.

"We wear safety equipment harness and ropes we learn how to protect each other. We have probably 500 climbers here and about 200 that go out at least once a month,' said Mike Richardson of Climb Aloha.

The climbers say Hawaii is behind the times.

Forty-five other states already allow the sport on state-owned land.  Hawaii doesn’t.

Climbers point out the state's recreational laws haven’t changed in 40 years.

Limiting liability is key.

The state's land department thinks if it can get past those liability issues, climbing can resume at the popular spots on the north and east shore.

"We don't want to regulate rock climbing or bouldering as long as there is no cultural or environmental damage to the area, it's okay to do so,” said Curt Cottrell, deputy administrator for the State Parks Department.

Cotrell likens the sport to big wave surfing.

"Typically what we have seen is that folks who rock climb know what they are doing. They have training, they have equipment. Like surfers who go out at pipeline on a big day, they self-regulate themselves.  We don’t think we have to be involved in this one," Cottrell said.

Richardson offers a diving analogy.

"Consider scuba diving. It can be extremely safe and rewarding and fun but everyone knows you need instruction, same thing with climbing," said Richardson.

Richardson says the climbers use national and international standards and equipment and hope state lawmakers will keep an open mind about equal access to a treasured resource.

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