10/07/2020

Icicle Canyon Climbing Area Protected as Public Land

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Access Fund are pleased to announce that 11 acres in Icicle Canyon outside Leavenworth, Washington, are now permanently protected as public land. This conservation project is the result of a collaboration between Access Fund, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and local partner organizations.

Katherine Vollinger leading Meat Grinder, Alphabet Rock. Ancestral lands of Yakama and np̓əšqʷáw̓səxʷ (Wenatchi). Icicle Canyon’s native name is Nasikelt, meaning “narrow bottom canyon.” © Kurt Hicks

The parcel includes popular climbing areas known as Alphabet Rock and Icehouse Boulders, as well as the initial access path to the historic crag of Givler’s Dome farther uphill on adjacent USFS lands. Together, this critical inholding features more than 40 historic cracks, slabs, faces, and hueco-filled roofs, as well as dozens of boulder problems.

“Access to these iconic climbing areas could have been lost forever if the property had sold to a new private landowner,” Access Fund Executive Director Chris Winter says. “Now that they are protected as public lands, local residents and visitors can enjoy these areas indefinitely.”

To prevent the potential loss of access, the private landowner, Scot Brower, agreed to a two-year option agreement, giving the local climbing community and USFS time to secure funding and sever mineral rights, which were held by a separate party. Access Fund purchased the property using funds from its Climbing Conservation Loan Program (CCLP), and it has now been transferred to Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest for long-term conservation and climbing-friendly management.

“The acquisition of this inholding is a great example of what we can accomplish by working collaboratively with partners,” Forest Supervisor Kristin Bail says. “The successful partnership with Access Fund and numerous local organizations has resulted in securing recreational access for the American public to enjoy these lands into the future. Acquiring the inholding also allows for more effective land management by eliminating potential for incompatible uses and improving our ability to manage resources at a landscape level.”

This is another success story for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which was permanently funded through the Great American Outdoors Act, signed into law earlier this year. The LWCF program is a primary funding source used to acquire and conserve important lands for resource protection, recreational opportunities, and public access. The USFS was able to obtain LWCF funds to acquire the property for long-term protection, enabling Access Fund to reinvest CCLP dollars to save other threatened climbing areas.

“We’re excited to see climbers’ efforts to advocate for permanent, dedicated funding for LWCF put to good work,” says Tom Vogl, CEO of The Mountaineers. “Along with other historic crags in Icicle Canyon, our volunteers use Alphabet Rock to teach new climbers how to climb safely each year. Our members are proud to support a project that contributes to recreation opportunities, access protection, and conservation goals.”

Special thanks to all of the partners and climbers who helped make this conservation victory possible, especially Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Leavenworth Mountain Association, The Mountaineers, Northwest Mountain School, and Washington Climbers Coalition.

Access Fund and the USFS will continue to work with local climbing organizations to steward and manage the area for sustainable climbing. There’s already a strong spirit of collaboration between these partners—just last year, Access Fund, the USFS, and partners teamed up to restore the Snow Lakes Trail into the Enchantments, as well as Fun Rock in Mazama and Liberty Bell spires at Washington Pass.

“We are so happy to see a local landowner, the USFS, and the climbing community all come together on this one,” says John Race, IFMGA certified guide and co-owner of Northwest Mountain School in Leavenworth. “It would have been impossible without the guidance of Access Fund. Incremental, sustained effort can lead to watershed change. Let’s get some kids out climbing!”

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
© Austin Siadak

Protect Icicle Canyon Climbing

Some of the most coveted climbing areas in Icicle Canyon are located on unprotected, privately owned land where residential development is butting up against recreational use. We are actively working to protect these threatened climbing areas, but we need the community to come together to help.
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