Access Fund Acquires Holy Boulders – Asks for Further Support

The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Holy Boulders in Southern Illinois. However, more help is needed from the climbing community to fundraise and transfer the property to a long-term owner.

While private landowners have historically allowed climbing access at the Holy Boulders, known for its Fontainebleau-like perfect sandstone friction and aesthetic lines, they decided to sell the property, putting the boulders at risk of indefinite closure.

With a narrow window of opportunity to protect the Holy Boulders, local climbers Dave Chancellor of Climb So Ill and Leif Faber of the Illinois Climbers Association reached out to the landowners and the Access Fund to help protect this hidden gem of the American bouldering community. After months of working with the landowners and local climbers, the Access Fund reached an agreement to protect the Holy Boulders through a multi-phased conservation project.

The Access Fund has secured temporary ownership of the Holy Boulders using funds from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, a revolving loan program designed to quickly save threatened climbing areas. However Access Fund now needs help from the climbing community to raise an additional $185,000 to secure permanent ownership of Holy Boulders and transfer it to a long-term owner that will keep climbing access open for future generations. Suitable long-term owners might include the Illinois Climbers Association or Shawnee National Forest, however more work is needed to identify long-term ownership and management of Holy Boulders.

“The climbing community must now come together to protect one of Illinois’ best climbing resources,” says Chancellor. “The Access Fund has stepped up and now we need your help to raise $185,000 to put the Holy Boulders in climber friendly hands forever.”

Please make a donation to the Protect What’s Holy campaign today to ensure long-term access to the Holy Boulders (! With your support, we can protect and steward the Holy Boulders forever.

Holy Boulders History
The Holy Boulders have attracted professional climbers and strong athletes from around the country. The area features 150 developed problems and potential for hundreds more that climbers of all abilities can enjoy. “My first impression of the Holy Boulders was incredible,” says professional climber Jimmy Webb. “The rock quality is second to none and is probably some of the best sandstone I’ve ever climbed on.”

The Holy Boulders sits on a 78-acre tract of farm and forestland that the Tripp family has owned for over 47 years. In 2004, local climber Aaron Brouwer discovered the Holy Boulders from aerial photographs and introduced himself to the landowner. After initial concerns of liability, the family gave climbers verbal permission to climb at the boulders. For eight years climbers maintained a positive relationship with the Tripp Family, offering small tokens of appreciation and keeping information word-of-mouth so as not to jeopardize access. In May of 2012 climbers spotted For Sale signs on the property and learned that the landowners were planning to sell the property.

“Climbing is a finite resource,” says professional climber and Holy Boulders regular Matt Segal. “Especially areas like the Holy Boulders that are so special. It’s really important for us to take initiative and try to protect these areas for future generations.”

Access details
The existing parking area and approach off Macedonia Road remains the current point of access for the Holy Boulders. Please remember that parking and the initial approach are on Shawnee National Forest. Do your part to keep the Holy Boulders area beautiful by following Leave No Trace principles. The property still bears windfall damage from an inland hurricane in 2009 and volunteer help is necessary to improve trails and install a new trailhead in the near future. View a map of the property and stay tuned for updated access information at

Without the local expertise, passion, and dedication of climbers Matt Bliss, Phillip Carrier, Dave Chancellor, Leif Faber, Jim Thurmond, Jason Kehl and many others, this victory for the climbing community would not have been possible. 

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Anonymous @ 10/15/2012 12:47:16 PM 
I don't understand what you mean when you say you plan to "transfer" the ownership to someone else after the Access Fund completes the purchase? Can you please explain further?
Anonymous @ 10/16/2012 10:12:55 AM 
The Access Fund has limited resources and capacity for land management and conservation easement monitoring across the nation. It is our first priority to support and empower local organizations to protect climbing areas by providing short-term capital and transaction expertise. Naturally, local organizations are better adept at monitoring and stewarding local properties. For Holy Boulders, suitable long-term owners might include the Illinois Climbers Association or Shawnee National Forest, however more work is needed to identify long-term ownership and management.
Anonymous @ 4/4/2013 12:20:23 PM 
Just heard about the acquisition. Kudos! This land is contiguous with the Shawnee and would do well to be in Forest Service hands. Climbing is allowed on Shawnee F.S. property but not allowed in designated natural areas.
Anonymous @ 5/21/2013 8:04:44 AM 
What is the timeframe in which this money needs to be raised?
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