Jemez (aka Crystal) Cave Closing
In the latest Vertical Times, we reported that the Santa Fe National Forest and local Pueblo are concerned about climbing impacts at Jemez Cave (aka Crystal Cave) in New Mexico. Access Fund Affiliate the New Mexico Climbers’ Resource and Advocacy Group (NM CRAG) worked with local climbers to take proactive steps to address these concerns, removed all the fixed draws from the cave, met with the Forest Service and local Pueblo, and got the word out to the local climbing community.
We just got word that the Forest Service plans on issuing a temporary closure of Crystal Cave in October in order to perform an archaeological survey. Impacts to the cave’s nationally significant archeological resources are the major concern. NM CRAG held a public meeting with the local climbing community yesterday to review the current status. While the official closure date is projected to be mid October, NM CRAG and the Forest Service are requesting that climbers voluntarily refrain from climbing at Crystal Cave at this time. The Access Fund continues to work with NM CRAG, local climbers, and the US Forest Service to address this issue.
Visit Mountain Project and watch e-news for future updates.
Trout Creek Closure Lifted
Back in February of this year, we reported that the BLM issued an emergency closure at Trout Creek, Oregon’s premier destination for pure crack climbs, due to golden eagle nesting activity in the area. After discussions with Access Fund, Friends of Trout Creek, American Alpine Club, Mazamas, and Crag Law Center, the BLM agreed to change the emergency closure to a voluntary closure and use local climbers in a monitoring program. We are happy to report that climbers complied with the closure, and local climbers helped monitor nest sites.
However, we are sorry to report that the nest site failed—through no fault of climbers. Access Fund Regional Coordinator Eric Sorenson was asked by the BLM to rappel into the failed nest to collect information that the BLM used to gain a better understanding of golden eagle mortality. The voluntary closure has been lifted, and climbers are once again able to access Trout Creek. A huge thanks goes out to local climbers who showed restraint by respecting the closure and volunteering as monitors, which helped to facilitate a solid working relationship with local BLM officials. The Access Fund continues to work with the BLM while an environmental assessment is developed, to determine the best strategy for managing climbing access and future golden eagle nest sites.
For local updates, visit Friends of Trout Creek facebook page.
Auburn Quarry Climbing Ban Nearly Lifted – Your Urgent Support Needed!
Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento (CRAGS) and the Access Fund are excited to announce the successful negotiation of an agreement with California’s Auburn State Recreation Area to lift a 9-year ban on rock climbing at the Cave Valley Climbing Area (the “Auburn Quarry”). Although the agreement must be approved by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, CRAGS anticipates that approval is imminent. Climbing access is now contingent on CRAGS providing critical services in the area to offset climber impacts. CRAGS and the Access Fund are working to raise $9,520 to provide these services and restore climbing access early next month! Please visit www.accessfund.org/auburn to make a contribution--100% of your donation will support the climbing area.
The Auburn State Recreation Area is a large public park on the American River, 35 miles northeast of Sacramento. The Cave Valley climbing area is an old limestone quarry near the river. Efforts to build a large federal dam there were halted in the late 1970’s. Quarrying and dam-construction activities left large features that are suitable for climbing. Over the years, climbers have established numerous sport routes of varying difficulty.
Photo by Jerry Dodrill
In April 2003 the California Department of Parks and Recreation issued an order prohibiting technical rock climbing in the park. Local climbers formed CRAGS in 2008, in affiliation with the Access Fund, to re-establish climbing access at Auburn Quarry. For four years CRAGS members have attended meetings and wrote letters arguing that rock climbers have been unfairly singled out. The park managers have now agreed to allow rock climbing at the Quarry, but due to budget cuts the park will require CRAGS to establish and maintain basic services there.
CRAGS has contributed funds and received a generous grant from the Access Fund to help meet the terms of the new agreement. CRAGS needs to raise additional funds by September 7th to open the Quarry to climbing. Your tax-deductible donation will help CRAGS pay for garbage and toilet service and informational signs at the quarry, plus volunteer supplies and park support services. Once CRAGS reaches this goal, climbing will be allowed at the Quarry on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. To maintain access, it is crucial for climbers to respect park rules, the environment, and safe climbing practices. CRAGS continues to work with the park to re-establish permanent climbing access every day of the week.
“CRAGS has worked for years to re-open Auburn Quarry to climbing, and the Access Fund is proud to see their hard work paying off,” says Access Fund Policy Director RD Pascoe. Please help in this final push to open Auburn Quarry by donating at: www.accessfund.org/auburn. Get involved as a volunteer by visiting www.norcalcrags.org.
Stop Vermont Fish & Wildlife Climbing Ban
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) is currently considering a rule that would ban climbing on all of their managed lands. We need your help to convince VFWD to add climbing as an authorized activity!
Take Action Now!
Access Fund and American Alpine Club Partner to Continue Legacy of the Hueco Rock Ranch
Access Fund and American Alpine Club Partner to Continue Legacy of Hueco Rock Ranch
The Access Fund and American Alpine Club (AAC) are pleased to announce that the iconic Hueco Rock Ranch will stay in climber-friendly hands with new ownership by the AAC. The Ranch is the primary lodging facility and guiding headquarters for climbers visiting the stunning bouldering and climbing of Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site outside of El Paso, TX.
The Hueco Rock Ranch has a long history—it was originally built as a personal residence by Todd Skinner in the mid-nineties with friends John and Carol Gogas and climbing stars such as Scott Milton and Fred Nicole. Rob Rice took ownership of the Ranch in 2000 and became the first commercial guide under the new set of climbing requirements, beckoning in a new generation of climbers to enjoy this historic climbing mecca. “The place was built by climbers—for climbers—and has been a hub for the climbing community since day one,” says Rob Rice.
Last fall Rice, now living in Arkansas full-time, reached out to Access Fund for assistance in finding a climber-friendly buyer who could manage the Ranch onsite. Working with Rice and fellow landowner Scott Rohde, Access Fund reached out to the AAC whose vision of supporting the climbing way of life by providing lodging facilities and logistical support seemed a perfect fit for the Rock Ranch.
“Not only is the Hueco Rock Ranch important historically, it has played an important role in climbing access to Hueco Tanks,” says Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. “Through the Ranch, climbers have fostered and maintained a positive relationship with Texas State Parks. Maintaining strong climber management of the Ranch is important for all climbers, even those who choose to stay elsewhere during their visit.”
Staff from the Access Fund and AAC worked closely together to make the purchase of the Rock Ranch possible. The Access Fund provided leadership and acquisition expertise, as well short-term funding from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign. Access Fund went under contract to purchase the Ranch in May, and at closing, assigned the properties to the AAC for long-term ownership and management.
“Lodging options within walking distance from great climbing supports the climbing lifestyle we all enjoy—and this purchase of the Hueco Rock Ranch can only expand the types of climbing that we’re able to support,” says AAC Executive Director Phil Powers. “We hope to create a facility that meets climbers’ needs and adds opportunities for climbers to gather and share their stories.”
This project has been a great partnership between the Access Fund and American Alpine Club. “Preservation of the Hueco Rock Ranch uniquely fits the missions of both organizations and we are glad to share this victory with the local, national, and international climbing community,” says Joe Sambataro, Access Director at the Access Fund.
The AAC is undertaking improvements to the Ranch this summer—committing over $15,000 to completely clean and renovate the structures and tent camping facilities. An AAC staff member will be onsite overseeing these improvements. Future plans include additional renovations and new structures like a shower house and community cooking pavilion in the style of the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch (GTCR) and New River Gorge Campground (NRGC). The AAC will also hire an onsite Hueco Rock Ranch Manager. The hiring process will begin this summer with the Job Description posted on the AAC’s Jobs page.
The Rock Ranch is also closely tied to Route Fitters (RF) guiding operation, which holds a concession to operate trips in the park. For the foreseeable future, Rob Rice and RF are prepared to continue operations out of the Ranch. The AAC plans to complete its improvements by early autumn of 2012. Campers will be able to make reservations online, and walk-in campers will always be welcome at the Rock Ranch. Both AAC and Access Fund members will receive discounted rates.
Special Edition Sterling Rope to Benefit Access Fund & American Alpine Club
The Access Fund, the national advocacy organization dedicated to protecting America’s climbing, is pleased to announce that Sterling Rope has just unveiled a special edition rope to benefit Access Fund and the American Alpine Club (AAC). The green 9.8mm Velocity rope from Sterling’s Evolution series is the company’s best-selling, high performance rope.
This special edition rope features a unique color pattern of bright green, gray, and black (colors of the Access Fund and AAC) to celebrate the two organizations that support the American climbing community, raising awareness and money to support their missions. The special edition ropes are available in both 60- and 70-meter lengths.
A long-time supporter of the Access Fund, Sterling will donate $10 from the sale of each special edition rope to both the Access Fund and the AAC. The ropes are available for purchase at www.accessfund.org/shop or form www.sterlingrope.com, as well as at participating retail stores.
“Sterling Rope has been a long-time supporter of both the Access Fund and American Alpine Club and believes strongly in the great work they do,” says Sterling Rope Marketing Director John “JB” Branagan. “Offering this special edition product form our top selling Evolution Velocity 9.8mm rope is a perfect way to support these organizations, helping to raise awareness of their dedication to the climbing community and to their complimentary missions.”
New Hampshire Lawmakers Sign In Protections for Landowners who Allow Climbing
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that New Hampshire lawmakers today passed legislation that bolsters landowner protections for people who open their property to climbing.
After a concerted advocacy effort by New Hampshire climbers, House Bill 1551 was signed into law today, expressly naming rock climbing as an activity protected under the state’s recreational use statutes affording landowners a measure of liability protection.
New Hampshire climbers became aware that HB 1551 passed the House of Representatives in May without climbing specifically named as an activity afforded protection. New Hampshire law previously protected landowners who opened their land "for hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, horseback riding, bicycling, water sports, winter sports, snowmobiling, hiking, sightseeing, or removal of fuel wood" from getting sued if someone was injured on their property. However landowners who opened their property to technical climbing were not explicitly protected.
Local climbers rallied to submit letters and make phone calls to their Senators, asking them to amend the bill to include technical climbing before passing it. With leadership from Access Fund NH Regional Coordinator, Erik Eisele, climbers were able to secure a time to provide testimony at a Senate hearing on HB 1551. Local climber and community leader Tim Kemple Sr. provided the testimony, advocating for the amendment. The Senate responded and passed HB 1551 with the climbing amendment on June 1.
And today it was signed into law by Governor John Lynch. “This is an important piece of legislation for climbers,” says Eisele. “With landowners protected from liability if someone is injured while climbing on their property, it makes it much more likely that a landowner would consider public access to climbing.”
AF Welcomes East Idaho Climbers Coalition as Newest Joint Membership Affiliate
The Access Fund is excited to announce that it has combined forces with the East Idaho Climbers Coalition (EICC) to offer joint membership. The EICC works to build grassroots support for climbers' concerns and promote outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship in eastern Idaho. By combining memberships, you can support climbing on both a national and local level as well as receive benefits from both organizations for the cost of one.
Membership starts at just $35!
Already an Access Fund member in Eastern Idaho?
Renew as a joint member today!
CRAG-VT Re-Pays AFLCC Loan
The Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont (CRAG-VT) made their final payment last week on their Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) loan.
The loan, given in July of last year, was for emergency stewardship action to repair the access road to major local crags (including Bolton Quarry, 82 Crag, and the recently acquired Carcass Crag) after it was washed out in a spring flood, blocking climbing access. The Access Fund amended its AFLCC loan policy last summer to allow for emergency stewardship funding, and CRAG-VT was the first organization to benefit from this amendment.
CRAG-VT is the fourth organization to fully pay back their AFLCC loan, returning funds to the revolving loan program where the Access Fund will loan the money out again to save another threatened climbing area.
Human Powered Recreation Gets a Seat at the Table in USFS Planning
We are happy to report that our very own Outdoor Alliance Policy Architect, Adam Cramer, has been appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee that will provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on the implementation of the new Forest Service Planning Rule.
“The new forest planning rule holds great promise, but success depends on how it will be implemented,” says Cramer. “Serving on this advisory committee will enable OA to channel the human powered outdoor recreation world's conservation values and perspectives and help set the stage for thoughtful planning to take care of our mountains, rivers and forests into the future.”
There is currently an unprecedented amount of Forest Planning in the works around the country that could affect important climbing areas like the Wind River Mountains, High Sierra, and Cochise Stronghold. “Having an Access Fund affiliated representative on this committee is a big victory for climbers,” says AF Senior Policy Advisor Jason Keith. “We now have an official seat at the table in Forest Service planning.”
Read more on the Outdoor Alliance website.
Backcountry.com lends support to the Access Fund - Jeep® Climbing Conservation Team
The Access Fund is excited to announce that Backcountry.com is supporting the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team in 2012.
The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team employs two, full-time conservation/trail building experts who travel the country in a new 2011 Jeep Patriot to help maintain climbing areas throughout the United States. The team works with local climbers to address conservation needs and provides training on planning and stewardship best practices. This year, the team will visit over 50 crags across the U.S.
“We’re honored to support the important work of the Access Fund,” said Jill Layfield, CEO of Backcountry.com. “We understand our obligation as an outdoor retailer to protect the places where our customers and employees play. The Access Fund does an exceptional job of engaging the public and building community support through their work. We’re proud to partner with them on this conservation initiative that will lead to healthier climbing areas for everyone.”
The majority of Backcountry’s corporate charitable giving budget goes to organizations whose missions are to promote environmental stewardship and protect access and responsible recreation in North America’s wild places.
The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team, launched in the fall of 2011, extends the success of the Access Fund’s existing Adopt a Crag and TeamWorks stewardship programs that help local climbers around the country take care of the places they play. The program provides climbing communities and volunteers with the training and resources they need to address conservation issues before they become dire.
Look for the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team at a climbing area or event near you. You can follow the Conservation Team on www.facebook.com/conservationteam and find out their latest location by visiting www.accessfund.org/whereisct.
Action Alert: Stop the Sale of Chilco Falls
The Kootenai County Commissioners are considering the sale of county property that includes Chilco Falls, the only accessible ice climbing in the area.
County officials argue that the site is inaccessible, not maintained, often unused, and that its sale could fund a more useful county effort. In February, Commissioner Jai Nelson suggested selling the property at public auction to use the funds for other properties. At an April meeting, Commissioner Nelson reported that a county attorney had been authorized to move forward with selling the property.
While the property does not feature park improvements, it has legitimate public access. After the County tried to dispose of the property in 1998 for similar reasons, the title was cleaned up and access was solidified. Fortunately, Commissioner Dan Green said that the commissioners are open to other suggestions for the site and your input is needed to present alternative solutions. “If these people are using it and we can create access for them, and find some funding mechanisms, I think we're all open to ideas," said Green.
The Kootenai Environmental Alliance has received several calls from concerned climbers and is willing to provide volunteers and help fundraise to improve access. Members of the Spokane Mountaineers and Kootenai Climbers join us in opposition to a sale.
Take Action Now!
Climbing at Utah’s San Rafael Swell Potentially Threatened by Energy Extraction
Last week the Access Fund and Outdoor Alliance (OA) defended recreation lands in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new, far-reaching oil shale and tar sands development plan on 2,431,000 acres of public land in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. One area being considered for development hosts the popular and unique climbing resources in Utah’s San Rafael Swell.
The OA argued that while the human-powered recreation community supports the prudent development of energy resources on public lands, there are great risks, and these world-class recreation resources are not the place to experiment with new industrial technologies. The OA advocated for the BLM’s Alternative 3, which outlines a cautious approach that requires adequate research and leaves an appropriate amount of land available for this crucial step. This alternative correctly weighs the experimental nature of the technology against the internationally significant outdoor recreation areas that sustain local economies and promise long-term economic benefits.
Read more on the OA website.
Managing Bouldering Impacts at Stone Fort
As one of the three locations known for hosting the Triple Crown Bouldering Series, Stone Fort boasts some of the best boulders in the southeast. And its growing popularity has led to an increase in user impacts.
But thanks to the proactive efforts of two local groups—Rock/Creek gear shop and the non-profit Wild Trails—local climbers and volunteers have rallied to mitigate these impacts. Wild Trails and Triple Crown funded an environmental impact study of the area and used the results to target several spots for improvement.
With help from the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, volunteers gathered this past March to plant trees in the Genghis Khan, Wave, Fire Crack, and Crescent areas. In all, 45 trees were planted, and green spaces were defined in the Wave/Fire Crack Area, Crescent Area, Space and Odyssey Area and the hillside below the Cable Route.
A huge thanks to all of the volunteers and businesses who donated their time and resources to mitigate these impacts.
Read more on the Rock/Creek website.
NRAC and Access Fund Secure Access to the Bubba City in the New River Gorge
The New River Alliance of Climbers (NRAC) and the Access Fund are pleased to announce an access easement has secured the public parking area and approach trails to the extensive cliff line of Bubba City in the New River Gorge. In partnership with the Wild Rock West Virginia community, NRAC and the Access Fund co-hold the easement to protect climbing access for the next five years, with the option to later renew or make it permanent.
Located off Chestnutburg Road, the 15-car parking lot serves as the trailhead for access to more than 340 sport and traditional climbing routes of high quality Nuttall Sandstone. Bubba City is one of the most popular crags in the expansive New River Gorge region, and the trail network sees high and growing use.
The easement agreement provides legitimate access for the climbing community across Wild Rock—a growing 150-homesite community perched atop the New River Gorge. The existing parking area and trailhead will be maintained by NRAC and its committed group of local volunteers. "Climbers here are psyched,” says NRAC President Gene Kistler. “Wild Rock has delivered on a promise to help preserve public, recreational access through their land and into the gorge. This is a big first step toward securing long-term access to the climbing at Bubba City and sets a great example for park-adjacent development. Thanks to everyone that helped bring this together."
For Carl Frischkorn, founder of Wild Rock West Virginia, the easement represents an important aspect of the mountaintop community’s sustainability outlook. “We view sustainability not only in terms of light touch building and living practices, but also in how we are partnering with our neighbors to promote access to the outdoors,” Frischkorn said. “We are proud to partner with NRAC and Access Fund to help ensure that visiting and local climbers have unfettered paths to Bubba City.”
Access Fund offered its transactional expertise, provides an additional layer of risk management, and strengthens the commitment of all partners involved. “As the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign’s ninth project since its 2009 inception, the Bubba City Access Easement serves as a great template for how climbers and private landowners can partner to protect public access,” says Access Fund Access Director Joe Sambataro.
The National Park Service is committed to providing legitimate public access points to the New River Gorge National River. "In a park like New River Gorge, having partners willing to collaborate on access is a critical piece of the puzzle. We're delighted to work with NRAC, the Access Fund, and Wildrock on this important public access,” says Superintendent Don Striker. In addition, all the parties would like to thank Nathan Fetty, managing attorney at the West Virginia University College of Law’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, for donating his time and legal expertise to facilitate the project.
NRAC and the Access Fund ask the climbing community to follow the simple set of rules and requirements, which are outlined at the trailhead, and include limiting use to daytime hours and keeping your canine friends leashed on the trail. Compliance and education of others will help make this five-year agreement extend into a long-term partnership that provides climber access for generations to come.
Access Fund Hires Arizona Policy Analyst to Advocate for Climbers on Oak Flat Land Exchange
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that Curt Shannon has recently joined the organization as Arizona Policy Analyst. Curt will represent climbers and the Access Fund in their current opposition to HR 1904, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act—more commonly known as the Oak Flat Land Exchange Bill.
Curt was a founding member of The Friends of Queen Creek, The Queen Creek Coalition and The Concerned Climbers of Arizona and has been working closely with The Access Fund since 2004 in their efforts to maintain recreational access to the Oak Flat area and to prevent the ultimate destruction of this unique area.
The Access Fund and Arizona climbing community have been working for nearly a decade to save climbing at Oak Flat, which is at risk under the proposed Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011. The Act aims to exchange approximately 2,400 acres of public land for 5,300 acres held by a multi-national mining company for the creation of a massive copper mine. The public land to be exchanged includes the Oak Flat campground and a popular climbing area with hundreds of existing roped climbing routes and thousands of bouldering problems, which for years was home to the historic Phoenix Bouldering Contest.
Curt will work to increase recognition of the recreational value of Oak Flat in the minds of decision makers and the general public. At this point the land exchange bill must still be passed by the US Senate and then be signed by the President in order to become law.
Access Fund Awards Round One of Climbing Preservation Grants
The Access Fund is pleased to announce the awardees of round one of the 2012 Climbing Preservation Grants Program. Once again, Access Fund members were given the opportunity to rate grant projects, helping the Access Fund decide which projects they were most interested in funding. In this round of grants, the Access Fund awarded over $26,000 to support local climbing activism and conservation of the climbing environment. Presented two times annually, the Climbing Preservation Grant program provides financial assistance to the grassroots network and land managers across the United States. During this first round of grants, the Access Fund is supporting nine worthy projects.
BLM Bishop Field Office - Bishop Educational Climbing Kiosks
The Access Fund is pleased to award a grant to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bishop Field Office, which manages the world-famous Bishop climbing destination. As the area grows in popularity, climbers have unintended impacts on the sensitive landscape of natural and cultural resources. The Bishop Field Office will use the grant money to mitigate these impacts through climber education by installing kiosks at the trailheads of the Happy and Sad bouldering areas on the Volcanic Tableland. The trailhead kiosks would be built and maintained with volunteer hours and will address issues such as social trails, damage to cultural resources (rock art), improper fires, natural history of the area, and climbing ethics.
Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition - Hueco Educational Brochures
A grant was awarded to the Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition (CHTC), who have been working closely with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to ensure that access to this climber’s paradise remains open for years to come. The grant will fund educational brochures to be distributed by Park staff to visitors of this sensitive area. The brochure will educate climbers and additional user groups about the rich history and significance of rock climbing and bouldering in Hueco Tanks State Historical Park, including a code of climbing ethics. Further education of all visitors will help protect park resources and ensure future climbing access.
Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento - Re-Establish Climbing in Auburn Quarry
The Access Fund is pleased to present a grant to Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento (CRAGS), who are working to reverse the current climbing ban in the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA). After 10 years of closure, the State and Federal agencies that operate ASRA have agreed to lift the ban on climbing as long as CRAGS can assist with climber education and site improvements. The grant will help fund toilet facilities, a kiosk with educational signage, and animal-resistant garbage disposal containers. Future phases in 2013 will install permanent improvements at the crag to service climbers in the long term. After 4 years of advocacy by CRAGS, this is the first opportunity to re-open a great low-elevation, moderate crag in Northern California.
Portola and Castle Rock Foundation - Keep Castle Rock State Park Open
A grant was awarded to Portola and Castle Rock Foundation to assist with keeping Castle Rock State Park open. In May 2011, the State of California announced that 70 of its State Parks, including Castle Rock State Park, were slated for permanent closure as a budget saving measure. The Park has long served as an important crag for Bay Area climbers, with its numerous sandstone boulders. The Foundation is entering into an operating agreement with State Parks to keep Castle Rock State Park open for all visitors, climbers included.
Rocky Mountain Field Institute - Blue Grama Trail Construction Project
The Access Fund is pleased to award a grant to Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) to help construct a new trail to the Blue Grama area in Indian Creek. Indian Creek has become a world renowned crack climbing destination, and needs trail work to withstand its growing use and preserve climbing access. The lack of established, sustainable trails in certain areas has caused widespread undesignated social trails, vegetation loss, and erosive gullies. RMFI will build the new Blue Grama trail with help from an estimated 75 volunteers. Its expert trail design will require minimal future maintenance and ensure long-term access to the Blue Grama area.
Safe Harbor Climbers Coalition - Safe Harbor Trailhead Improvements
A grant was awarded to Safe Harbor Climbers Coalition (SHCC) to assist with trailhead facilities at this newly resurrected Pennsylvania crag. After being closed for almost twenty years, Safe Harbor “South” was reopened to climbing in November 2011. With no facilities within walking distance, and limited space between the cliff line and railroad bed, the area is in dire need of a restroom facility. The SHCC will use the grant money to help install a portable toilet, information kiosk, and signage at the trailhead. SHCC is working with Conestoga Township to install permanent parking and facilities as a second phase of this project. With climbing popularity on the rise at the newly reopened crag, improvements and education are critical to reduce user impacts and build positive community relations that may lead to opening Safe Harbor “North” in the future. This grant only covers a portion of the funds needed to make these trailhead improvements, and the Access Fund and Safe Harbor Climbers Coalition are actively fundraising for this project. To contribute, visit www.accessfund.org/safeharbor.
Salt Lake Climbers Alliance - Lower Parley’s Access Trail
The Access Fund is pleased to award a grant to the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) to help construct a new sustainable climbing access trail at the base of Parley’s Canyon. The popular and highly visible crag at the base of Parley’s Canyon is heavily used and impacted by the population of Salt Lake County. With help from volunteers and trail building experts, SLCA will construct a new access trail and close the old, unsafe approach. Staging areas will also be improved to reduce impacts at the base of the cliff. Lastly, SLCA will construct two kiosks and add signage to illustrate the new trail and communicate LNT ethics to the climbing community.
Southeastern Climbers Coalition - Boat Rock Toilet Construction
A grant was awarded to the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) to help with a permanent vault toilet at Boat Rock. The current portable toilet in the parking lot has been ineffective at managing human waste and, due to Boat Rock’s rising popularity, the boulder field has recently been plagued with “land mines” and littered with toilet paper. This grant will match American Alpine Club funds for a new, permanent, vandal-proof vault toilet to meet the needs of the Georgia climbing community.
Yosemite Climbing Management Team - Yosemite Climbing Stewardship Program
The Access Fund is pleased to award a grant to the Yosemite Climbing Management Team, which will help fund a new program that will provide weekly stewardship of climbing areas in the valley during the climbing season. Four climbers will serve 32 hours a week performing trail work, trash removal, and education of visitors and climbers. These projects will help foster a positive relationship between the Park and the thousands of climbers that travel there every year. We hope that this program will serve as a great example for other major climbing destinations around the country.
Conservation Team Tours Tennessee
The Conservation Team just wrapped up a tour of Tennessee, working alongside the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) at T-Wall and Leda, outside of Chattanooga.
The base of the popular T-Wall cliff was showing signs of heavy impact—the access trail led directly below the main staging area and climbers were cutting across the slope, exposing tree roots and causing severe erosion. The Conservation Team worked with volunteers to build a retaining wall to prevent further damage to the base and staging areas. The team’s new grip hoist allowed them to maneuver some gigantic rocks. The wall will also protect the trees, which provide much needed shade.
From T-Wall, the team headed out to Leda, where the SCC and its volunteers were out in full force for an Adopt a Crag on April 7th. The Conservation Team worked with over 30 volunteers to install stairs and build a small footbridge over a drainage along the access trail to help prevent the trail from washing away. The steps were constructed alongside a popular climbing spot, as large platforms to replace several small, inadequate steps. These new steps will provide a solid means of moving between staging areas and slow erosion concerns.
The team also made a stop at Climb Nashville and hosted a climb-a-thon to rally local support. After quick site visits at Deep Creek and Obed to identify future projects, the team was off to Alabama for projects at Steele and Moss Rock.
Thanks again to the SCC and all the great volunteers for their hard work and contributions to these climbing areas!
Access Fund Announces 2011 Adopt a Crag and TeamWorks Awards
It was another good year for the Adopt a Crag program, with over 5,700 volunteers who amassed over 27,500 hours of work to improve and steward crags around the country. Since its inception in 1999, Adopt a Crag has been the largest climbing community volunteer initiative in the nation. Adopt a Crag events show land managers and the public that climbers take care of the places where they climb. These stewardship efforts not only conserve our climbing areas, but also strengthen the reputation of the entire climbing community.
Each year, the Access Fund and its sponsors honor those organizers who went above and beyond. We are excited to present the 2011 Adopt a Crag awards to a deserving group of volunteers. We want to thank everyone who hosted or participated in an Adopt a Crag this year—it starts on the ground with your commitment and dedication to make this program a success. Whether you or your local climbing organization have hosted an Adopt a Crag in years past or hope to organize your first event, we are here to help. Register your Adopt a Crag for 2012 at www.accessfund.org/events and share this call to action for an Adopt a Crag at your local crag.
Stewardship Award – Tyler Hoffart
REI, CLIF Bar, and the Access Fund are proud to present the 2011 Stewardship Award to Tyler Hoffart, team coach of the St. Paul, MN Vertical Endeavors Mountain Goats. Tyler’s enthusiasm and leadership have created a “culture of stewardship” among the members of the VE youth teams. The Mountain Goats hosted or participated in every Minnesota Adopt a Crag that took place in 2011, plus one in Wisconsin – 8 events in all. Activities ranged from massive garbage cleanups to tree and brush removal, trail maintenance, trail building, graffiti removal, dirt work for foundation of a shed, and assisting with setting up an ice-farming system. Tyler himself worked on bolt replacement at some of the events, setting an example for the future leaders on his team. The Access Fund is happy to give this award to someone whose leadership teaches youth team members that climbing and stewardship go hand in hand, and whose enthusiasm makes working hard and taking care of crags fun.
Adopt a Crag of the Year Award – Eldorado Canyon Adopt a Crag hosted by Mike McHugh
REI and the Access Fund are proud to present the 2011 Adopt a Crag of the Year Award to Eldorado State Park Resource Technician Mike McHugh who, despite a recent injury, hosted the Eldorado Canyon Adopt a Crag on October 1 in Boulder, CO with organizational support from the REI Boulder store. Mike organized volunteers on multiple projects, including: the decommissioning of an unsustainable social trail; rebuilding steps and re-opening a trail from streamside to the main lot; building water bars on the Redgarden Wall/roof route trails; placing posts for climbing access signage; and building a gabion on upper Redgarden Wall. The initial expectation was for 30 or so volunteers, but the event grew to over 75 volunteers, including the Spot Climbing Gym’s climbing team. Congratulations to Mike, and special thanks to REI Boulder store and The Spot Climbing Gym Team for their support!
Conservation Team Partner of the Year
The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team is pleased to award the very first Conservation Team Partner of the Year Award to the BLM’s Bishop Field Office for their ongoing conservation work in the volcanic Tablelands in Bishop, CA, and for their continued partnership with the climbing community. When our Conservation Team arrived in Bishop, the BLM provided them with all of the tools, equipment, man power, and educational resources needed to successfully preserve historic artifacts in the Tablelands by directing campers to the Pleasant Valley Pit Campground and closing down a new, illegally developed camping area within a cultural resource site. The BLM then turned the Conservation Team loose on the Sad Boulders lower approach, giving them the freedom to utilize their expertise and coordinate their own volunteer project. The Bishop Office also hosts monthly “Climber’s Coffee” gatherings, where BLM officials and climbers can discuss conservation and climbing issues in an informal setting. We are proud to present this award to the Bishop BLM Office for their ongoing efforts and cooperation to provide sustainable recreation opportunities in the volcanic Tablelands.
League of Their Own Award – Ken Yager and the Yosemite Facelift
Once again, the League of Their Own Award goes to Ken Yager and Yosemite Climbing Association (YCA) for the Yosemite Facelift. Ken and YCA have been setting the standard for climbing land stewardship for several years now. At this year’s Facelift event, 1,350 volunteers amassed an astounding 8,680 hours of work on a host of projects around the Valley, including the cleaning of roadways, river corridors, campgrounds, lodging and commercial areas, trails, climbing areas, and a variety of restoration and trail projects with the help of National Park Service. Yager reports that the Valley is getting cleaner and cleaner every year, and that over 95% of the debris gathered was recycled—way to go YCA! We would also like to recognize the NPS for their continued assistance and partnership with climbers in Yosemite. This landmark event is truly setting a benchmark for others from around the country to follow!
TeamWorks Golden Toothbrush – Urban Core Climbing Team
We are pleased to announce that this year’s TeamWorks Golden Toothbrush award goes to Urban Core Climbing Team of Atlanta, Georgia. The Urban Core kids “cleaned up” the competition—and many of the Southeast’s prominent climbing areas. Under the leadership of Coach Emily Taylor (and with the assistance of other local organizations like the Southeastern Climber’s Coalition, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Georgia Tech Outdoor Club), the Urban Core team cleaned up trash, did trail maintenance work, and had a hand in the removal of some invasive species at some of the premier climbing destinations in the Southeast, including: the Red River Gorge in Kentucky; Little River Canyon and Foster Falls in Tennessee; and Boat Rock and Rock Town in Urban Core’s home state of Georgia. Congratulations Urban Core! Honorable mentions for the 2011 competition include 2nd place finisher the Vertical Endeavor Mountain Goats (last year’s winner) and 3rd place team the Tennessee Bouldering Authority Ballers. The Access Fund would like to thank each and every one of the TeamWorks members who participated in the 2011 program. We are immensely proud to be involved with such a great group of kids from across the country, and we’re all excited to see what the next year has in store.
Cuba Closes All Access to its Mountains, Climbing Access Lost
Our peers at Access PanAm, the western hemisphere climbers’ access organization, report trouble in the Cuban climbing paradise.
Cuba has been become a booming winter climbing destination, drawing US, Canadian, and European climbers to its vast and overhanging limestone walls. And its home to a developing community of local climbers. Cuba also has become a favorite destination for many other adventure travelers. For now, it is all over. An unexplained edict of the Cuban government has closed its western mountains, not only to climbers, but all visitors, climbers, hikers, and birders a like. This report is provided here because of the many U.S. climbers who ignore the lightly-enforced U.S. travel ban to climb in Cuba.
In January 2012 the Cuban authorities closed almost all access to the mountains in Western Cuba. The closure does not apply only to climbers, but all visitors, from cavers and mountain bikers to hikers and bird-watchers. In Viñales National Park, home of about 80 percent of the established climbing routes, access is limited to walking with official guides on the few trails long ago “authorized” by officials for tourism. The authorized trails reach about one percent of Viñales Valley, and go nowhere near any of the climbing sites. The rest of this World Heritage site is off-limits to all visitors.
“No one has seen a written decree, so the full scope, rationale, and penalties are unknown,” says Access Pan Am Founder Armando Menocal, who also founded the Access Fund twenty years ago. “Local officials themselves can’t say why the policy on access has changed. The best guess—and it’s all a guess—is that the closure is an instance of Cuba’s obsessive and domineering state security.” Caves are part of Cuba’s civil defense, and the army continues to excavate (and destroy) many of Cuba’s natural caves. One Cuban blogger attempts to make sense of what is going on.
According to Menocal, some climbers are still going and climbing, but rangers sit at a couple of obvious climbing/hiking venues and tell visitors that they cannot enter, or if caught in the act of climbing, to stop. Climbers and others have figured out the rangers’ routines and enforcement. Rangers quit at 3 pm, don’t work Sundays, and don’t walk to most of the climbing walls in the valley. Climbers report that they were able to climb every day, but with difficulty and, probably, some anxiety.
The impact on the Viñales Valley and its almost 30,000 people, however, could be devastating. When Cuban and foreign climbers first began to explore the Valley in the late 1990s, it was not a well-known World Heritage Site. Tourists did visit, but they came mostly in tour buses, and stayed only in the two hotels on the rim of the valley. The official version of eco-tourism was limited to a single day in the valley, long enough to enjoy the spectacular views from the hotel, see the garishly painted wall called La Mural de la Prehistoria, tour the paved, lighted Cueva del Indio, and lunch at a thatched-roofed restaurant. If they stopped in town, it was to buy bottled water and post cards.
Viñales is now a completely different place. The town and trails are busy with visitors. Hundreds of Cuban families have turned their homes into small hostels and private restaurants to host the thousands of visitors who come to explore the Valley’s exceptional natural beauty and to walk among the valley’s traditional tobacco and coffee farms, where ox-drawn plows and horse-backed farmers still mark its agriculture. Individuals and groups come for climbing, hiking, birding, biking, and caving. Climbers stay for a week and more. There is a national park visitor center, two museums, botanical gardens, cultural center, and live music venues.
"As we understand it, no one has been cited for climbing, nor for simply wandering into the country-side," says Menocal. "Repeat offenders have been threatened, but to our knowledge, no one has been fined or sanctioned." Still, in this authoritarian country, we do not encourage anyone to challenge the rules, however inexplicable or unintelligent.
Lacking government “authorization”, the local climbers have not been permitted to organize. The Cuban climbers are working with Access PanAm. Check with Access PanAm and www.cubaclimbing.com for updates.