Breaks Interstate Park Rock Climbing Regulations
- Climbing is by permit only, and all climbers must complete a waiver, which can be completed electronically by completing the fields below or by visiting the Breaks Interstate Park Adventure or the Lodging Registration Area. The waiver must be completed every calendar year, regardless of previous permit/waiver completion date, and verification of completion must be available (digital or hard copy) while climbing at the Breaks.
- Climbing on moist, heavily vegetated cliff is prohibited, as these cliffs support a natural community that is known to harbor sensitive and endangered species. Climbing is restricted to dry, sparsely vegetated cliff.
- No "topping out."
- Stay on designated trails.
- Removal of vegetation from the base of climbs, belay ledges, or bouldering areas is prohibited unless approved by park staff.
- Using trees for natural anchors is discouraged. If using trees as natural anchors, care should be taken to prevent damage to the tree.
- The removal of rock from its natural position will be allowed only when the rock to be removed poses a significant risk to the climbing party or a future climbing party.
- Chipping, gluing, or attaching artificial holds is prohibited.
- Caching of climbing equipment at or near the base of a climb is not allowed.
- Be mindful of noise level so as not to disturb other park users and wildlife.
- Be aware of potential seasonal cliff closures due to natural resource concerns, such as nesting peregrine falcons (see information below).
- Climbers should abide by standard Leave No Trace practices for rock climbing: 1) Climbers should clean up after themselves and pack out all trash and garbage; 2) Packing out human and pet waste is encouraged, especially in areas with moderate to high levels of use, and where appropriate means of disposal (e.g., catholes, privies) are not available or appropriate.
- The climbing routes found within the gorge are maintained by volunteers and volunteer local climbing organizations. Climbing is inherently dangerous, and it is ultimately the responsibility of each individual climber to inspect all fixed hardware for soundness before using it. Any Fixed anchors and bolts in need or maintenance or replacement should be reported to the Breaks Interstate Park section of www.badbolts.com
- Climbing is open in the park from 30 minutes prior to sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Climbing is not allowed in low light conditions outside of these hours.
- Free-soloing is prohibited.
Rock Climbing Activity Release, Waiver of Right to Sue and Assumption of All Risks
The Rock Climbing Activity Release, Waiver of Right to Sue and Assumption of All Risks Agreement (“this Agreement”) is hereby given by the undersigned to the Breaks Interstate Park Commission, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky (collectively, “Owner”), the rock climbing activity sponsor (“Sponsor”), and each partner, officer, agent, employee, director, shareholder, member, heir, personal representative, successor and assign of the Sponsor and of each Owner (who shall be included within the words “Sponsor” or “Owner” as their relationships may determine) provides as follows:
In consideration for the opportunities provided by the Sponsor and each Owner to the undersigned “Participant” (including any minor participant for whom he signs this Agreement) for the enjoyment of rock climbing activities as a Participant, the undersigned Participant (including any minor participant for whom he signs this Agreement) hereby agrees as follows:
- This Agreement shall be so construed as to provide the Sponsor and Owner the fullest protection of a release, waiver of right to sue and assumption of all risks available to the Owner and Sponsor under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- All pronouns shall be construed to include the masculine, feminine or neuter as well as the plural or singular, as may be appropriate to facilitate the construction of this Agreement in the light of the facts presented.
- The Participant hereby acknowledges that he has full and complete notice and understanding of all risks inherent in rock climbing activities which may cause, contribute to or result in the death or personal injury of the Participant or damage to the Participant’s property (the “Risks”), including but not limited to:
(i) The propensity of rock climbing to be a dangerous activity resulting in falls and other injuries;
(ii) The inability of park staff to visually gauge a climber’s skill and offer recommendations based on skill level;
(iv) The hazards which rocks, cliffs, hills fences, trees, stumps, logs, bridges, ditches and other debris and obstacles, and any rock climbing activity in connection therewith, may foresee ably or unforeseeably present.
(v) The dangers and risks of becoming entangled in ropes, harness, or other gear used in a rock climbing activity for any reason whatsoever or for no identifiable reason and;
(vi) Any negligent act or omission by any guide or any Owner which causes or results in the death or personal injury of the participant or damage to the participant’s property.
In consideration for being allowed to become a Participant in the activities noted above, and to the fullest extent permitted by Virginia law, the Participant hereby forever releases, indemnifies and agrees to hold harmless the Owner and Sponsor from any and all liability, claims, demands, actions, causes of action, suits and proceedings whatsoever, known or unknown, whether at law or in equity, now or in the future, arising in strict liability, breach of warranty, breach of contract, negligence or gross negligence or under any other theory of recovery, for or by reason of any matter, cause or thing, including but not limited to any and all claims for any loss or property damage or personal injury of any kind, nature, or description, including disability or death, that may arise out of or relate to the Risks and hereby expressly assumes all risks and dangers of death, personal injury and/or property damage which are in any way associated with the Risks. In no event shall any act taken or omission made by the Owner or Sponsor in any way limit the scope of this Agreement without written agreement of the parties.
- The Participant hereby authorizes and consents to any emergency medical care, which may at the time, appears reasonably appropriate under the circumstances as a result of injury or sickness caused by or incurred in the course of a rock climbing activity.
- The Participant agrees to abide by all the rules of the Breaks Interstate Park Commission. The Participant understands and acknowledges that rock climbing involves being in remote areas for extended periods of time, far from communications, transportation, and medical facilities; that these areas have many natural and man-made hazards, which facility management cannot anticipate, identify, modify, or eliminate. The Participant agrees to take full responsibility for himself and his actions.
- This Agreement shall remain valid and in full force and effect from and after the date opposite the signature of the Participant until expressly revoked by the Participant in a written notice personally delivered to the Sponsor and Owner and must be completed every calendar year, regardless of signature date.
- To the extent possible, this Agreement shall be construed in such manner as will render it, and each provision of it, fully enforceable; but if any provision of this Agreement shall be unenforceable, such provision (or so much thereof as in unenforceable,) shall be deleted and the remainder of this Agreement shall continue in full force and effect.
- If this Agreement is executed by the undersigned Participant for and on behalf of a minor Participant named below, the undersigned Participant hereby warrants and represents that he is in fact the legal parent or guardian of such minor, with full rights of custody and control; that this Agreement is given on behalf of and is intended to be binding upon said minor Participant, his heirs, personal representatives, successors and assigns, and the undersigned Participant as if it were entered into solely on his own behalf.
- This Agreement shall be binding upon the heirs, personal representatives, successors and assigns of the Participant, and shall be construed in accordance with Virginia law, without regard to any conflicts of law provisions thereof.
- I have fully read and fully understand the foregoing Rock Climbing Liability Release, Waiver of Right to Sue and Assumption of All Risks. I have consulted and relied upon my own advisors on all questions in connection therewith, and I have not relied upon the Sponsor or any Owner for advice or explanation in connecting therewith. Furthermore, I have read, understand, and agree to abide by the policies and regulations outlined in the climbing policy document and the Climbing Management Plan.
Peregrine Falcon Information
Peregrine Falcon Recovery Efforts in Virginia
Nesting peregrine falcons in Virginia were historically found on natural cliff faces in the mountains, and to a lesser degree used old osprey nests in the Coastal Plain. Like many other raptors, peregrines were persecuted in the United States, but it was the widespread use of the pesticides such as DDT in the post-World War II era that had population-level effects, leading to the effective extirpation of the bird as a breeding species east of the Mississippi by the mid-1960s. As a result, the American and Arctic peregrine falcon subspecies were listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1970. Along with the banning of DDT, a well-coordinated reintroduction effort began across the East in the mid-1970s and rapidly yielded results; the breeding falcon population rebounded and was removed from the federal list of Threatened and Endangered species in 1999. In Virginia, reintroduced peregrines nest on bridges, buildings, and other artificial structures in the Coastal Plain – in recent years this segment of the population has hovered between 20 and 25 pairs. The recovery has been much slower in the mountains of Virginia, where peregrines had once been documented to nest at over 20 sites; as a result, the peregrine falcon remains a state-Threatened species in Virginia. The current objectives of the VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and its partners are to maintain a stable coastal peregrine population and to continue efforts toward recovery of the mountain breeding population.
Peregrine Falcons at Breaks Interstate Park
Peregrine falcons have a long history at Breaks Interstate Park. The Towers rock formation within the Park is the last documented historic breeding site for the species in Virginia – peregrines last nested here in the early 1960s. In 2007 and 2008 the Park, DGIF and partners undertook reintroduction efforts at Breaks through the hacking of young birds obtained from Virginia bridge nests, where they had a high probability of not surviving their first flights. Hacking involves placing 28-30 day-old birds into a protective box at a release site. Food is provided daily in the form of domestic quail or chicken, and interactions with humans are kept to an absolute minimum. Ten to 15 days later, when the young falcons are able to fly, the box is opened and the birds released. Food is provided until the birds are able to hunt successfully on their own. As a result of hacking, a potential peregrine pair was first sighted at the Park in 2009 and was confirmed in 2011. Since then the Park has been monitored annually, and peregrines have been documented to breed successfully in several of those years – this marks the first nesting of peregrine falcons at the Park in nearly 50 years!
Peregrine Falcon Nesting
The peregrine falcon breeding season in Virginia typically runs between mid-February and mid-July, although there is variation in the exact timing of nesting among individual pairs. Female peregrines lay 3-5 eggs at 48-72-hour intervals, and both the male and the female incubate them. Peregrines will raise only one brood per season but may renest within a season if the eggs are lost during incubation. Incubation lasts 33-35 days. Chicks generally hatch within 24-48 hours of one another. When young hatch they are covered in white down. Within 5 days of hatching their mass has doubled, and they are almost fully feathered within 40 days. During this time, they are cared for by the parents, who will brood them for up to 20 days and feed them. Chicks begin to fly when 40-45 days old.
Peregrine falcons nesting on natural cliff faces will locate their eyrie (nest) on rocky ledges. No sticks or other building materials are used; instead, the birds will ‘scrape’ a depression in substrate such as dirt, sand, fine gravel, or debris. Eyrie sites generally have sparse or no vegetation and may or may not be located under overhangs or be recessed within crevices. Although peregrines generally have a primary eyrie which they will use across years, they also make use of alternate eyries within a cliff complex, so that the location of their nest may shift between years.
Detecting Peregrine Falcons
Detectability of peregrines falcons at cliff sites varies throughout the breeding season. They can be highly visible ahead of egg-laying, when they engage in courtship displays both in the air and on potential nest ledges; this behavior is typically seen into March. Once incubation begins the birds are much harder to find, as eggs are incubated virtually around the clock; during this period, the incubating bird lies still and is well camouflaged against the cliff rock. Females do the majority of incubation, with the male sharing in those duties but also hunting for both himself and the female. While either adult may be visible for short periods during the incubation phase, the male’s hunting forays may take him well away from the nest site, such that an active nesting cliff may appear unoccupied. This pattern continues for the first 2-3 weeks after the chicks are hatched, with an adult actively brooding them on the nest. There is more activity at the nest site during the chick phase, as more trips to the nest are necessary to feed the growing chicks. As the chicks develop, they become able to stand on their own and to move around, exploring their surroundings on the nest ledge. It is at this point that they may be visible for short periods, especially when they are still covered in bright white down. They are almost fully feathered within 40 days of hatching, and as their brown, streaky juvenile plumage develops, they become harder to see against the façade of rock. At around 6 weeks of age, they will take their first flights. Once they have begun flying, juveniles can be seen on the wing interacting with one another and their parents as they practice and perfect their flying, landing, and hunting skills.
Identifying Peregrine Falcons
You may hear a peregrine before you see them. Their loud, distinct call makes it possible to identify them even when they are not visible. When agitated they give a loud ‘kek-kek-kek’ alarm call. Please take some time to familiarize yourself with this vocalization at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/sounds.
Peregrines are medium sized raptors with long pointed wings and a long, narrow tail. They are easily recognizable through the characteristic dark hood and "sideburns", which are features of all plumages. Adults have blue-gray to brown- gray upperparts and barred belly and legs. Underparts vary from bright white to buff. Young birds have dark brown upperparts and dark, vertical streaking across a buffy breast and belly. Its flight paths are typically direct, with rapid wing beats; you may also observe them diving at prey at high speeds. Sexes look alike, but the female is roughly 1/3 larger than the male.
Avoiding Disturbance to Nesting Peregrine Falcons
Peregrine falcons are sensitive to human disturbance in their general nesting area. Excessive and sustained noise in the vicinity of the eyrie, as well as visual contact with people in the general nesting area, can agitate peregrine falcons such that they will come off the nest to respond to the perceived threat. This can happen at sensitive times during their nesting cycle, including during incubation of the eggs or when recently hatched chicks are present. Adult falcons spend the majority of their time on the nest when eggs or young chicks are present in order to regulate the temperature of the eggs or chicks; if a parent responding to disturbance is away from the nest for long enough periods during these critical phases, eggs may subsequently fail to hatch or young chicks may die. Sustained or frequent disturbance can even lead the falcons to abandon their nest altogether.
Seasonal Cliff Closures
To prevent disturbance to peregrine or other cliff-nesting raptor nests, land managers and climbers may implement temporary seasonal closures of climbing routes or sections of cliff, creating a “buffer zone” around a nest site. The time period for these seasonal closures varies, and is adapted to climbing use patterns, site layout, and bird behavior. Generally seasonal climbing restriction dates from February or March to July or August. Restrictions may be lifted on a particular nest site with previous history by mid-season (usually mid-May), if the peregrines fail to nest. Alternatively, because peregrines may change their nest site within the same cliff complex, a new temporary restriction may be put in place immediately, where the peregrines have created a new nest site with no previous history. Access Fund and local climbing organizations work with city, county, state, and federal land managers across the country to ensure these temporary seasonal closures are successful.
Seasonal Peregrine Cliff Closures at Breaks
Breaks Interstate Park currently closes one section of cliff for seasonal peregrine falcon nesting. This closure area is located southeast of the steep, switchbacking section of the River Trail and contains an important nesting site. See description and depiction below.
Please also note that climbing is allowed in approved cliff areas only. Not all cliffs in the park are open to climbing. Refer to Breaks Insterstate Park on mountainproject.com for latest climbing and closure information.
Seasonal Closure Area - The northern boundary of the closure area is located climbers’ right (facing the cliff), or south, of the section of cliff known as “The Pavilion,” approximately 150 yards climbers’ right of the route “Blockbuster (5.12a).” The closure area’s southern boundary is marked by a perennial water drainage flowing down the cliff and slope. The closure area is bounded by the top of the cliff band downslope of Prospector’s Trail and the bottom of the lowest cliff, upslope of the river.
No climbing, hiking, or other public access is allowed while the closure area is in place. Climbers, hikers, and other park users should not walk past the posted closure signs near the River Trail and climbing area known as The Pavilion. Keep noise to a minimum when in this area.
Reporting Peregrine Falcon Sightings
Please report any peregrine sightings prior to leaving the Park to Park Superintendent, Austin Bradley (email@example.com). When reporting your observation, please note the date, time, approximate location (as detailed as possible), number of birds seen/heard (including any details about age [adult, juvenile, chick]), and behaviors noted. If you think you may have located a peregrine nest and it is possible for you to do so, please take coordinates and photos (do not approach or climb to the nest) and note any information relating to the nest’s location.
Please familiarize yourself with the peregrine falcon’s alarm call. If you should hear this alarm call while climbing, look for the vocalizing bird(s). If the alarm call appears to be directed at you (falcon(s) circling in the vicinity, sustained calling, falcon(s) dive bombing/flying close to you), you are most likely being perceived as a threat by the falcons. Immediately descend and report your observations to Park Superintendent Austin Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org). as soon as possible
For additional information on peregrine falcons in Virginia, please visit http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/birds/peregrine- falcon/
I acknowledge that this agreement limits my ability to sue and recover against the owner and sponsor in the event of any future injury to me
Today's Date: January 29, 2023