Loc: High Falls, NY
How long would it take before the cliff top looked like the cliff base if your vision of a return to the old days were to come true? I value your wisdom enormously, RG, but I think that you are not factoring into this the sheer number of people climbing. If climbers did not rap and instead walked off of each climb there'd be tens of thousands of laps walked across the cliff top, hundreds, reasonably assuming that folks would be doing at least a couple of routes each visit. This would decimate the fragile environment atop the Trapps. There'd end up being a spidery network of social paths that would result in whole sale erosion of the thin matt of top soil and death of blue berries and trees and all else.
Short of the Preserve dramatically scaling back the number of climbers allowed in to pre 1980's levels, the cliffs are going to be chock full of climbers and our attendant impact. Frankly, to take the line of thinking further, it WOULD be best if people simply rapped right back to their packs after doing their climb. I mean this from a strictly environmental stand point. Rap anchors on "twigs" aside, I am saying that the more people's activities are focussed in areas where they are not creating new impacts, established climbs and trails, the more that the Preserve's mission is being fulfilled. I'd argue too (devil's advocate) that gang top roping, hang dogging and all sorts of other sport climbing accouterments are as much Gunks traditions as walk offs, painter's pants and swami belts.