Climbing involves more than just rocks. The areas we climb in are important too. Climbers can make a significant impact to help preserve the areas we climb in.
On October 31st, the Bureau of Land Management reported that vandals removed four petroglyphs from a sacred Paiute site in the Tablelands area of Bishop, California. The vandals defaced a fifth with deep saw cuts, removed and broke a sixth petroglyph during the theft and scarred other ancient Indian art with hammer strikes and saw cuts.
Extraction of the petroglyphs required ladders, electric generators and power saws. Thieves sheared off sections of rock approximately 15 feet above the ground and 2 feet wide.
“The individuals who did this were not surgeons, they were smashing and grabbing,” said U.S. Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Greg Haverstock.
For many, the theft prompted serious concern about the area, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Local Paiutes use the area for ceremonies. The area sits close to the climbing in the volcanic tablelands of Bishop.
“Bishop has always been a very powerful place for me,” said MaryKate Meyerhoffer, who has climbed on the east side of the Sierra for the past 12 years. “For me, like so many others through history, it’s been a very spiritual place.”
The vandalism struck Meyerhoffer. “It just seemed so tragic,” said Meyerhoffer. Beyond the desecration of ancient Paiute history, the vandalism prompted Meyerhoffer and other climbers to show support for the areas that they climb and enjoy. “When I read the article about the Petroglyphs thefts, it just seemed critical that the climbing community show that we understand the history and spiritual relationship of the Paiute Tribe in this area,” said Meyerhoffer. “I wanted our community to show stewardship of this sacred land, rather than being the ones that are destroying it. “
Meyerhoffer created a fund and raised nearly $1,700 to support a reward for information regarding the theft. The BLM, the Bishop Paiute, and other East side residents raised $9000.
On February 1, the BLM received an anonymous tip and recovered the panels. Suspects have not been identified.
“Recovery of the petroglyphs was a priority from day one. I am pleased that they were returned. Now we need the public’s help to identify the vandals responsible for damaging the site,” said Bernadette Lovato, BLM Bishop Field Office Manager.
The funds raised for the recovery will be used to find the people responsible for the theft. The monetary incentive helped provide the anonymous tip, which climbers were a big part of. Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact BLM law enforcement at (760) 937-0301 or (760) 937-0657.