For 13 years, one of Southern California’s premier and most popular climbing destinations, Williamson Rock, located 20 miles northeast of Pasadena in the Angeles National Forest, has been off-limits to climbers. Why, you ask? An endangered amphibian, the diminutive mountain yellow-legged frog, writes Adventure Journal.
In recent decades, the frog’s population had dwindled to roughly 100 individuals. As climbers began their ascent at Little Rock Creek below Williamson Rock, they unwittingly disturbed the frog’s habitat, ruining egg clutches and presumably stepping on tadpoles and adult frogs. The frogs were placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act and Williamson Rock was closed to all climbing to help bolster the little frog’s numbers.
But now the Forest Service is reviewing options to re-open Williamson Rock to climbing. A small section of the Pacific Crest Trail that crosses Little Rock Creek, and which had been rerouted, may also be reopened, according to the Forest Service, if a bridge is built across the creek.
Since the closure, biologists have succeeded in breeding the frogs in captivity and have released nearly 4,000 tadpoles and young adults into waterways throughout the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s also thought that the native population rebounded to as many as 200 individuals just doing what frogs do naturally after Williamson was declared off-limits to human activity.
There are actually several plans in place to reopen Williamson Rock, taking into account the sensitivity of the frog’s habitat, as well as peregrine falcons, which nest in Williamson’s granite crags. The Forest Service favors an option that would allow climbers to access Williamson after securing a paid permit (between $10 and 12 per climber), and even then, only through the dates of August 1 through November 15. This brief window is timed with the goal of interfering as little as possible with the falcon chicks.
The Forest Service last week held two meetings in Southern California to invite public comments on the proposal to reopen Williamson. Climbers turned out in significant numbers, enthused at the reopening potential of one of California’s best climbing options. Williamson Rock is crisscrossed with some 300 sport routes rated from 5.6 to 5.13, offering options for all skill levels.