Access PanAm Gets Off to a Good Start

Date: 9/15/2009

Access PanAM / Acceso PanAm, the first ever hemisphere-wide access group, met for the first time at the Squamish Mountain Festival this past August. Led by Access Fund founder Armando Menocal, climbing activists from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, and United States (including Access Fund Policy Director) met to discuss the problems faced by climbers in the Western Hemisphere.

The initial sessions revealed the breath of access problems across Latin America—from gang members with machine guns blocking climbers in Brazilian favelas, to Cubans being arrested at their crags even though climbing is permitted by foreigners, and even Mexican villagers accusing local climbers of stealing a mythical golden dog perched on their cliffs. The issues vary, but they have a common core: No one solution fits.

It will be up to local climbers to solve local problems, but the basic mission of Access PanAm will be to support the locals in these initiatives. Access PanAm’s goal will be to create and sustain local, regional, and country-wide access organizations that keep climbing areas open and protect the mountain environment. La unión hace la fuerza – In unity there is power.

The new access organization made several achievements at the August meeting, including the appointment of a part time Executive Director, Kika Bradford, founder of Brazil’s first access organization and selection of a steering committee made up of activists from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, USA, and Spain.

Access PanAm also launched its first campaign, to save one of Latin America’s biggest and most endangered climbing areas, Valle Cochamó. Situated in Chile's Patagonia, this alpine wilderness has some of the longest ice-free granite routes on earth. Cochamó is legally unprotected, and local utility companies have applied to dam the valley for its water and hydro-power. The effort to save this spectacular area includes Daniel Seeliger, one of Access PanAm’s initial organizers and a resident of Valle Cochamó.

The founding meeting of Access PanAm was funded by the Petzl Foundation, helped by air tickets from Mountain Gear (U.S.A.), and hosted by the Squamish Mountain Festival.

For more information, visit accesspanam.com.