Access to the Motherlode is Secured!

The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC) and Access Fund, with assistance from Trango Climbing Gear, are thrilled to announce the purchase of the Bald Rock Recreational Preserve in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. This acquisition secures access to a popular set of world-renowned climbing areas—including the Motherlode, the Chocolate Factory, the Bear’s Den, and the Unlode. The 102-acre acquisition secures access to these areas for climbing and land conservation.

Climbers discovered the Motherlode over 25 years ago, developing some of the stiffest and steepest lines in the Red River Gorge, capable of testing the sport’s elite. Today, the Motherlode and adjoining areas offer routes that climbers of all abilities enjoy. The acquisition of this property secures access to 226 routes ranging from 5.2 to 5.14c.

In early July, the private landowners (who historically allowed climbing access) decided to sell the property, putting access to the Motherlode and surrounding crags at risk of indefinite closure. The RRGCC approached the landowners and began negotiations to purchase the property to prevent it from falling into non-climbing friendly hands. The RRGCC approached Access Fund for a loan of $225,000 to cover the majority of the $235,000 purchase price. In 2011, the Ventura Family (owner of Miguel’s Pizza) purchased the land above the cliff line, and now the RRGCC’s purchase of the land beneath the cliff line and the surrounding areas ensures that these iconic crags are climber-owned.

“I think we’ve all woken up before and had things taken away from us,” says Paul Vidal of the RRGCC. “And for us to be able to secure and know tomorrow morning that we’ll be able to go climb at the Motherlode and Chocolate Factory—that is arguably one of the most important things we can do here in the Red River Gorge.”

Access Fund provided the RRGCC with transaction expertise and financing through its Climbing Conservation Loan Program. “It’s always an honor to work with the RRGCC,” says Access Fund Access Director Joe Sambataro. “We are thrilled to have helped secure access to climbing at one of the country’s most iconic crags.”

This purchase marks the third project for which the RRGCC and Access Fund have partnered to secure climbing access, adding to a long history of collaboration. In 2013, the organizations teamed up to purchase 309 acres of new climbing at the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP). And in 2010, Access Fund provided a loan to re-finance 750 acres of climbing at the Pendergrass-Murray Recreation Preserve (PMRP), which the RRGCC paid off in 2012.

The Bald Rock Recreational Preserve adds to a growing legacy of climbing area protection and economic growth in the Red River Gorge. Over the last 12 years, the RRGCC has secured 1,161 acres of land, rich in climbing resources, across the hills of Lee County, Kentucky. The economic impact that rock climbing has had on the area is vast and lasting. A recent study indicates climbers contribute $3.6 million annually in the Red River Gorge region with climber-spending adding to the local and state tax base and creating jobs.

While access is secured, the RRGCC needs the climbing community’s help to ensure it stays in climber-friendly hands forever by paying back the Climbing Conservation Loan, allowing Access Fund to re-invest that money into other threatened climbing areas. Donations can be made to the RRGCC at www.rrgcc.org/brrp.

Trango, Title Sponsor for this project, is making sure the RRGCC starts off on the right foot with a generous donation of $10,000 in merchandise and cash to fuel the fundraising campaign and encourage donations.

“It’s too much of a risk to leave routes this beautiful and this popular up in the air and not in climber hands,” says RRGCC President Yasmeen Fowler. “If you love these areas as much as we do, we are asking you to please donate today.”

Photo courtesy of © Elodie Saracco