Environmental Impact of Rock Climbing at Castle Hill.
All bolting is currently banned in the DOC reserve and on Flock Hill. The bolts leave large white streaks and even stainless bolts leave a streak (though not as visible).
Brushing is currently banned in the DOC reserve. I believe the only impact of brushing is a visual one. Far more damage to lichen is done by people walking across the rocks in dirty shoes. Also I do not believe the lichen is rare, in fact it appears to grow on all limestone in this country. From what I've seen even the most obvious brush marks (made on a heavily lichen covered wall, i.e. one that gets little sun) become indistinguishable from natural lichen patterns after 1 ½ to 2 years, and after 3 years, if left untouched, are completely regrown.
The reason for brushing the rock is so purchase can be made, otherwise it is like climbing on ball bearings. Repeated brushing is not needed. When holds (brushed patches and smears) are used frequently, there is little regrowth in the area used, but the parts brushed where contact is not generally made regrow and the hold appears to be a natural pattern. Looking around Quantum Field will confirm this. Only recently brushed climbs (1-2 years old) could be spotted as ever being brushed, yet nearly every problem there would have been brushed in the past. With development of new climbs in Quantum Field slowing down rapidly (because most climbs have been done already) only about another 50 climbs will be added in the next 3-5 years and after this not much more will be added. Most of these new problems are projects that are already cleaned and the others are obscure and undiscovered lines.
What little brushing will be needed in the future can be done in such away as to not be visible to the untrained eye. Admittedly there are some very bad eye-sore brush jobs out there, but these are caused by careless people not taking time and considering the visual impact. If the brushing is done on any rock that gets sun (so is very lightly covered in lichen naturally) then brushing will not normally be noticed after one rain. On other faces (more heavily covered) if the brushing is made to look natural by following natural contours and fading out the brush marks it can be unnoticeable at best and certainly if it is noticed it will not be obtrusive.
Some brushing is unpleasing to the eye, but most new brushing I see is not noticeable to non-climbers and is inspiring as a sign of others out there finding new climbs and putting the effort in to clean it properly so it may be enjoyed by others.
I am not aware of any damage chalk can cause to limestone or the lichen, so it is simply a visual impact. Chalk washes off completely in the rain. Chalk is used in rock climbing to dry out the skin on hands by absorbing sweat. The chalk that comes off the hands while climbing is normally small and not very noticeable. Chalk lines are often drawn on the rock to mark out holds that are hard to see, especially foot holds which could be a mere rough patch. These lines are normally noticed but more in curiosity than in offence. Still it is common practise at overseas areas to wipe/wash off chalk marks afterwards, which is a practice that could be adopted here. I use a small plant spray bottle to wash off chalk which works well. Another option for climbers is to use liquid chalk so there is no excess chalk and far less is left on the rock.
4. Tracks/ area below climbs
Track erosion and damage to the grass below popular climbs is a problem but not something unusual for a reserve. Currently only a problem in quantum field as sheep/cattle do far more damage in the other areas than the small number of climbers. It has been suggested that climbers voluntarily avoid a certain field for 2 months of the year to allow regeneration. At quantum field the main track to walk in gets very muddy in winter and continues to expand. This track should be built properly like any doc walkway.