2018 Access Fund Sustainable Climbing Workshop: Conference Proceedings

Over the weekend of April 14, 2018 we hosted the Sustainable Climbing Workshop at Breaks Interstate Park, VA-KY. To get fresh motivation for climbing advocacy and stewardship, there's nothing quite like an Access Fund gathering of great people who are passionate about climbing advocacy and conservation. Over 50 people from across the region attended, representing a diverse stakeholder group: local climbers, LCOs, climbing guides, town managers, rangers from the National Park Service and US Forest Service, cliff ecology and salamander biologists, route re-bolters, and more. Day one of the workshop included a host of presentations on various climbing management topics, and day two involved in-the-field discussions of stewardship solutions for climbing sites. A big thanks to our partners Breaks Interstate Park, Central Appalachia Climbers Coalition, Petzl, and our all workshop presenters who helped make this event a reality.

View photos of the event here.

Below are the events' proceedings with viewable presentations for individual workshops.

Summit Welcome
Austin Bradley, Superintendent, Breaks Interstate Park; Bradly Mathisen, Central Appalachian Climbers Coalition; Zachary Lesch-Huie, Access Fund SE Regional Director

Community Roundtable: Local Reports, Networking, and Planning
Facilitated by Mike Morin, Access Fund Northeast Regional Director; all attendees participating.

Taking It All In: Managing a Sustainable Climbing Area
Ty Tyler, Stewardship Director, Access Fund; Aaron Parlier, Central Appalachia Climbers Coalition

What does it mean to sustainably manage a climbing area? What are some of the ingredients of a sustainable climbing area? Ty Tyler led a discussion, using a wide angle lens, of climbing area attributes and use patterns. We highlighted effective strategies, social aspects and organizational essentials for ensuring our climbing areas can handle the love climbers bring.

View Tyler's presentation here.

Economic Impacts of Climbing: Tennessee and Kentucky Case Studies
Dr. Andrew W. Bailey, UC Foundation, Associate Professor, University of Tennessee Chattanooga; Dr. Brian G. Clark, Assistant Professor, Department of Recreation & Park Administration, Eastern Kentucky University

Climbing’s positive economic impacts are real and growing, and especially important to understand in the Appalachian region. The two presenters for this workshop discussed two recent studies from TN and KY. Both studies show significant economic benefit from climbers, and reveal helpful and sometimes surprising demographic information about climber behaviors, attitudes and preferences. How much money do climbers spend on an average weekend? Do climbers care about Leave No Trace practices? Is the climbing “dirtbag” reputation accurate?

View Bailey's presentation here.
View Clark's presentation here.

Sustainable Fixed Anchor Replacement Regional Roundtable
Mike Morin, Northeast Regional Director, Access Fund; Local and regional bolt replacers and LCO reps

More than ever, local climbing organizations and volunteers are tackling the problem of ageing bolts and fixed anchors. This roundtable discussion fleshed out the variety of anchor replacement practices, approaches and experiences from first-person accounts of workshop attendees. This was a great opportunity to hear and learn from folks who are in the trenches of fixed anchor replacement at their home crag.

View Morin's presentation here.

Climbing and Liability: Risk Management Overview and Proven Strategies for Climbing Management
Joe Sambataro, Access Director and Northwest Regional Director, Access Fund

Liability and risk are one of the most common concerns for landowners and land managers of climbing areas. Whether you’re a private landowner, or the manager of city, county, state or federal public land, it’s important to be informed about risk management strategies for climbing and any other outdoor recreational activity. Joe gave an overview of existing and available layers of protection, and discussed a number of regional and national examples.

View Sambataro's presentation here.

Tools of the Trade: Sustainable Fixed Anchor Replacement Best Practices
Mike Morin, Northeast Regional Director, Access Fund; Greg Kuchyt, Vermont Anchor Replacement Initiative

Greg Kuchyt from Vermont Fixed Anchor Initiative (http://www.vtboltreplace.org/) taught about the tools and techniques for replacing fixed anchors. Participants had an opportunity to experiment with some of the more basic techniques currently being employed by volunteers around the country including spinning wedge bolts, tapping sleeve bolts, and using the Hurley Jr. bolt removal device.

Managing Climbing to Protect Sensitive Resources: Plants, Peregrines and Salamanders
Laura Boggess, Cliff Ecologist, Biology Instructor, Mars Hill University; Dr. Brian G. Clark, Assistant Professor, Department of Recreation & Park Administration, Eastern Kentucky University; Wally Smith, Department of Natural Sciences, University of Virginia's College at Wise; Chris Kelly, Mountain Wildlife Diversity Biologist, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

The climbing environment is home to important and even rare or endangered vegetation and wildlife. Balancing climbing access with natural resource protection is critical to managing climbing sustainably. Two regional biologists discussed common and uncommon natural resource issues related to climbing and bouldering areas. They covered interesting regional findings and suggested successful strategies for minimizing user impacts and protecting plants and wildlife.

View Boggess's presentation here.
View Clark's presentation here.
View Smith's presentation here.
View Kelly's presentation here.

Sustainable Solutions in the Field & Climbing Demonstration
Ty Tyler, Stewardship Dir.; Mike Morin, NE Regional Dir.

Attendees broke into two groups to tour, discuss and brainstorm on the intricate and complex environment at climbing areas. Participants gained perspective in ways to prevent excessive impacts & erosion, control user traffic, mitigate existing impacts and leverage community skills.