Climbing Conservation Loan Program Celebrates 10 Years and 26 Climbing Areas Saved

This year, Access Fund is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Climbing Conservation Loan Program, which has helped purchase 26 climbing areas across the country, turning the original $1.3 million fund into $2.8 million worth of conserved land across 17 states.

Hell's Kitchen in Tennessee, ancestral lands of Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East) and Shawnee, was purchased with Climbing Conservation Loan Program funds in 2018. | Photo by Shannon Millsaps

Access Fund established this program in 2009 to respond to an urgent threat: protect privately owned climbing areas from being lost to private sale. Over the years, climbing advocates around the country were witnessing more and more private climbing areas changing hands—some of them lost to cash-ready developers.

Local climbers rarely had the money or expertise to save these threatened areas. However a handful of local climbing organizations were stepping up to tackle this issue—including Carolina Climbers Coalition’s acquisition of Laurel Knob and the Red River Gorge Climber’s Coalition purchase of the Pendergrass Murray Recreational Preserve—but they were reliant on risky seller or bank financing, forcing them to scramble for grants and outdoor industry support to chip away at the debt.

To address this challenge, and better support local climbing organization’s efforts, Access Fund established the first-ever revolving loan fund for climbing areas. The Climbing Conservation Loan Program was designed to help local communities quickly buy at-risk or new climbing areas before they were lost or closed indefinitely. With this revolving loan program, Access Fund loans out money that is repaid over time, allowing us to reinvest those same dollars again to save even more threatened climbing areas.

“This program is a success because of the dedication of local climbing organizations and volunteers, who are the real heroes. We’re proud to support their efforts with funding and transaction expertise,” says Joe Sambataro, Access Director.

26 Climbing Conservation Loan Program Saves

Since 2009, Access Fund has worked alongside local climbing organizations and other partners to permanently protect these amazing climbing resources through the Climbing Conservation Loan Program:

2019: Hanging Mountain, Massachusetts
2018: Dogwood Boulders & Hell’s Kitchen, Tennessee
2018: Bolton Dome, Vermont
2017: AVP Boulders, Virginia
2017: Buckeye Knob & The Barn Boulders, North Carolina
2016: Bald Rock Recreation Preserve, Kentucky
2016: Rumney’s Northwest Crags, New Hampshire
2016: Denny Cove, Tennessee
2016: Pinnacle Boulders, New York
2015: The Homestead, Arizona
2014: Unaweep Canyon, Colorado
2014: Hidden Valley, Virginia
2014: Eagle Bluff, Maine
2013: Castle Crags, California
2013: Miller Fork Recreational Preserve, Kentucky
2012: Hospital Boulders, Alabama
2012: Holy Boulders, Illinois
2012: Hueco Rock Ranch, Texas
2011: Bolton Quarry Access Road, Vermont
2010: New River Gorge Climbers’ Campground, West Virginia
2010: Jailhouse, California
2010: Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve, Kentucky
2009: Farley Ledge Refinance, Massachusetts
2009: Rumbling Bald West Side Boulders Refinance, North Carolina
2009: Steele, Alabama
2009: Lower Index Town Wall, Washington

Access Fund also holds elite land trust accreditation status from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, and helps protect other climbing areas through permanent conservation and recreation easements with local climbing organizations, land trusts, and private landowners. Learn more about our land acquisition and protection work.

A special thanks to the founding partners and donors who invested in the Climbing Conservation Loan program to help secure the future of climbing on private lands: Black Diamond Equipment, Mammut, MSR, Mountain Gear, Outdoor Research, Petzl, Prana, The North Face, Thermarest, Metolius, Paul Fish, McKibben/Merner Family Foundation, Dan & Amy Nordstrom, Beaver & Pam Theodosakis, Doug & Maggie Walker, Naoe Sakashita, Cindy & Kyle Lefkoff, Rob Price, King & Tracey Grant, and Dirk & Nancy Tyler.