The air is different on the top of Mount Lemmon crisper and cooler. It whistles through the trees, as if to sing a calming melody to the rock climber tied to the wall. It’s a song Emily Ellis has heard countless times as she makes the next move to climb closer to the top of the rock face. Her fingertips grip to the tiny ledge that juts out from the wall before she grabs her rope to snap into the carabiner attached to the cliff.

“There’s nothing that has really captivated me in the same way that climbing has,” she said.

Once she clips into the anchors at the top of the sheer rock cliff, she looks out at the mountain range and the sea of rocks that look like little pebbles from her current viewpoint.

“It really does feel significant to have pushed yourself that way and accomplished that.”

She said rock climbers, mountaineers, canyoneers fulfill the natural human thirst for exploration, to venture where no person has gone before. The rock climbing scene in Tucson has a rich history as many of the routes were established decades ago.

“It’s really nice to have these super accessible spots on Mount Lemmon that are safely bolted,” Ellis said.

The bolts and fixed anchors are the way that climbers have been able to explore the mountain safely. The anchors and bolts allow for a safe route, keeping the rope attached to the wall and climber.

The United States Forest Service and National Park Service proposed new guidelines that could make fixed protection illegal in certain wilderness areas. Those areas have established routes on Mount Lemmon but have more rules than regular forest service areas.

“It would preclude us from replacing known bolts and anchors if they are cracked or loose,” Nicki Manzanares, the president of the Climbers Association of Southern Arizona or CASA, said. “It prevents additional development. It’s not just bolts in anchors. It’s slings and webbing too, which is used in canyoneering.”

Manzanares said she doesn’t know why exactly this is happening, only what it will do to the outdoor recreation community across the country.

“In the Wilderness act of 1964, there were statements not prohibiting, but promoting outdoor recreation in wilderness lands with some restrictions,” she said. “This seems like a step further to try and change how climbing uses wilderness.”

The USFS told KGUN9 that it’s early in the process, so they can’t release much. But they released a statement that said “The proposed directive would provide guidance, as funding and resources allow, for development of a climbing management plan for climbing opportunities in wilderness and other areas, as needed, to protect natural and cultural resources.”

Local route setter, climber, CASA member and gym co-owner Luke Bertelsen has been working on Mount Lemmon for about 10 years. He said they have worked hard to cultivate a good relationship with the land managers and leave no trace in the outdoors. This new policy, he said, would be a big turn from that.

“Climbers have always had a good relationship with the land managers and being respectful of the wilderness so this is a big turn in policy,” he said. “If something like this is adopted, what’s next?”

Ellis and the other climbers argue that climbing isn’t very invasive and they do their best to be good stewards of the land.

“It’s already required that you have to hand drill in these areas so there’s no noise nothing like that,” she said.

The USFS said they will have more information after the public comment period is completed. The public comment period for people to let their voices be heard will continue through January 30th.