First Year of Climbing Stewardship Training Series Wraps Up

In 2015, the Access Fund kicked off a new Climbing Stewardship Training Series to increase the skills and capacity of local volunteers and land managers to sustainably manage our climbing areas. In this inaugural year, Access Fund hosted the training series in three climber-dense population centers—Yosemite Valley, Red River Gorge, and Little Cottonwood Canyon outside of Salt Lake City.

It is no secret that our climbing areas are feeling the impact of more climbers and increased use. This training series focuses on giving local volunteer leaders and land managers a sophisticated set of tools to evaluate and mitigate impacts across the entire climbing system—from parking areas, to approach trails, to staging areas, and descent routes.

A mix of 80 participants took part in the training series, including climbing stewards, local climbing organizations, local municipalities, other non-profits, and land managers from the National Park Service and US Forest Service. The diverse mix of participants meant ample opportunities for climbers to form relationships and partnerships with land managers and community members, and for everyone to share different perspectives and come together over the common desire to protect our cherished resources.

Site-specific brainstorming sessions gave everyone the chance to think and visualize solutions to climber impacts. The groups focused on two key questions. First, “What will this climbing area look like in 5-10 years?” And second, “What do we want it to look like in 5-10 years?” This lens allows us to envision the future. We must then spend the time to analyze use patterns. How climbers move about? Where do they go? Why? This analysis provides the framework for long-term planning.

And no stewardship training would be complete without playing in the dirt. The groups learned various rock-work techniques, including the importance of creating a solid foundation using large stones and building the structure from below. They also learned the key to a sustainable climbing area is water management. Whether in a desert or a dense eastern forest, it’s critical to understand how and where water travels to ensure sustainability of the area.

We hope that this series has armed participants with the tools to look at the long-term sustainability of their climbing areas, begin implementing strategic solutions and continue to further engage their volunteer communities.

Access Fund will continue this training series next year, with a special focus on National Park Service climbing areas, in celebration of the NPS Centennial. Plans are currently in the works for Mt Rushmore, New River Gorge, and Yosemite.