03/25/2022

Access Fund Expands Climber Steward Program to New River Gorge

Following on the success of the Indian Creek Climber Stewards, Access Fund is excited to announce it will deploy two Climber Stewards on the ground in the New River Gorge region of southern West Virginia this summer. The Climber Stewards will help provide visiting climbers with information and resources to help minimize their impacts at this heavily visited climbing destination.

Climbing in the New River Gorge. Ancestral lands of S’atsoyaha, Tutelo and Moneton. Photo by François Lebeau.

With an endless supply of bullet sandstone, classic routes that ascend it, and a spectacular forested setting, the New River Gorge area is a bona fide mecca for climbing east of the Mississippi. Already well known as some of the best climbing in America, the park has seen a surge in traffic with a new National Park designation and the increased popularity of climbing.

“The New River region is one of the most visited climbing destinations East of the Mississippi,” says Ty Tyler, Access Fund’s stewardship director. “Climbers flock to the area for sport climbing, bouldering and traditional climbing.” While the dense forest there might appear to rebound quickly from climber impacts, increasing visitation is taking its toll and needs to be addressed. “Climbers can be better informed about Leave No Trace ethics, land management issues, and respecting private land and the local community,” says Tyler. “That’s the knowledge gap the Climber Stewards are out to fill.”

Of course, with increased popularity comes increased impact. No climber is perfect—we all leave some kind of trace behind despite our best efforts. “Each pack placed on the ground, each rope bag dropped at the crag, each cathole dug, each plant crushed by a tire all leave an impact,” says Tyler. “But we can take an active role in mitigating these impacts and protecting the places we love.”

Climbing in the New River Gorge. Ancestral lands of S’atsoyaha, Tutelo and Moneton. Photo by François Lebeau.

The Climber Stewards’ chief goal is outreach, connecting with climbers in the field where education takes on a different dimension when it’s easy to see real-life examples of impact. Two key components of the Stewards work will put them in touch with climbers:

  • Climber Coffee: Morning events that provide free coffee to climbers at popular locations on a rotating basis, where the Stewards can connect with climbers on the latest access issues and best practices when it comes to climbing, camping, natural resources, and cultural resources.
  • Crag Chats: Visits to crags to engage with climbers where they are, while they’re climbing, to help facilitate a richer and deeper understanding of the region as well as talk about crag-specific access issues and best practices.
The Indian Creek Climber Stewards at one of their Climber Coffee morning events. Photo by Brittany Hamilton.

There’s no question that land managers across the country are struggling to bring on permanent staff to help educate and manage impacts on the ground. Access Fund sees this as a critical gap that our community can help fill. Modeled on other Climber Steward programs in Joshua Tree and Yosemite, every new area Access Fund can expand the program to is another step toward taking a more active role in managing our own impacts and creating a culture of conservation within the climbing community.

“This is just the beginning,” says Chris Winter, Access Fund’s executive director. “We’re taking what we learned from Indian Creek, and the visionary programs at Yosemite and Joshua Tree, and expanding this program to other popular climbing areas from coast to coast.”

Access Fund has posted openings for the New River Gorge Climber Stewards. See the details below.

We're Hiring: New River Gorge Climber Stewards

Access Fund is seeking two Climber Stewards to connect with and educate visitors—especially climbers—throughout the New River Gorge area.
Read the Job Posting