Webinar: Joshua Tree Wilderness Climbing

Have questions about the proposed Joshua Tree Climbing Management Plan and how it impacts climbers? Submit the form below to watch a webinar recording featuring a panel discussion with Access Fund, Friends of Joshua Tree, Cliffhanger Guides, Vertical Adventures Rock Climbing School and longtime local climber advocates on Joshua Tree National Park’s (JTNP) recently proposed climbing management strategy. The strategy gets a lot right—cultural resource protection, trail maintenance, and more—but misses the mark on one critical aspect: fixed anchors in Wilderness areas.

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After submitting this form, you will be directed to the recorded webinar on Vimeo.

Contrary to longstanding National Park Service policy, practice, and federal law, the JTNP proposal asserts that bolts and other fixed anchors are fundamentally prohibited in Wilderness areas, and will be allowed only through specific administrative exceptions. Fixed anchors have been allowed in Wilderness areas as a critical tool for climber safety since Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964. JTNP is now proposing to prohibit them 60 years after the Act was passed by Congress.

Access Fund believes that climbing must be carefully managed in Wilderness areas to preserve the solitude and sense of adventure that can be found in these special places. We also believe that climbers should have reasonable access to experience and enjoy these incredible places as they have for generations. Working together, we can achieve this balance between sustainable recreational access and conservation through the NPS’s existing and well-established policies to properly manage Wilderness climbing. Instead, JTNP is proposing to classify fixed anchors as “prohibited installations.” If the park’s current proposal is integrated into the final Climbing Management Plan, we believe there will be long-term negative impacts for Wilderness climbing not just in JTNP but nationwide.

In this webinar, we cover the following topics:

  • The details of the proposal itself, specifically around the use of fixed anchors in Wilderness, the NPS’s criteria for the classification of climbs as “bolt-intensive” or not, and how the proposal threatens anchor maintenance and climber safety.

  • Background on the Wilderness Act, and management of Wilderness climbing in Joshua Tree and other places, and the proposed prohibition on fixed anchors.

  • The potential for long-term negative impacts on Wilderness climbing nationwide.

  • Q&A session with questions collected from climbers.

If you’re interested in a deep dive into the history of climbing at JTNP and its climbing future please watch this unique and informative webinar.


Chris Winter
Executive Director, Access Fund

Chris Winter is Executive Director of Access Fund, the non-profit advocacy organization that protects America’s climbing. Access Fund represents more than 7 million climbers across the country, in all forms of climbing. Chris has more than twenty years of experience as an environmental attorney working to protect public lands for outdoor recreation and conservation, and he has litigated cases at all levels of the federal court system. For several years he taught public lands law as an adjunct professor at Lewis and Clark Law School.

Bob Gaines
Owner/Director, Vertical Adventures

Bob began climbing at Joshua Tree in the 1970s. Since then he's established over 500 new routes in the Park. Bob is an American Mountain Guides Association Certified Rock Instructor and the Owner/Director of Vertical Adventures Rock Climbing School, based at Joshua Tree. Bob has replaced hundreds of unsafe bolts in the Park with stainless steel bolts and hardware donated by the American Safe Climbing Association.

John Lauretig
President, Friends of Joshua Tree

John Lauretig is the President of Friends of Joshua Tree. After 5 years as Executive Director, the Board of Directors felt he was ready to meet the enormous challenges—and opportunities—of the role of President. He started climbing over 40 years ago in Cleveland, OH, and worked for the National Park Service for 15 years, including five at Joshua Tree National Park as their only Climbing Ranger at the time. John has been climbing in Joshua Tree since the mid ‘90s and cares deeply about the climbing management strategy in the park.

Sabra Purdy
Co-Owner, Cliffhanger Guides

Sabra Purdy grew up in the Sierra outside of Yosemite where her family has lived for seven generations. She and her husband, Seth Zaharias, own and operate Cliffhanger Guides in Joshua Tree. Sabra also works as a restoration ecologist in the Sierra and has decades of experience working on federal lands, particularly in designated Wilderness areas. She brings policy expertise and a vast experience in federal land management, the NEPA process, and conservation, as well as representing the interests of climbers as an important and historical user group. Sabra strives to help build consensus through clear communication and structured decision making with transparency and practical solutions that have a real impact on thorny land management issues.

Donette Swain
Longtime local climbing advocate

Donette first climbed at Joshua Tree in 1979 and moved there in 1986. She has worked as an instructor and program director for both Outward Bound (PCOBS & COBS) and the Boojum Institute. In 1993, she represented Outward Bound on the advisory committee and as a signatory for the Joshua Tree Climbing Management Plan, the first attempt in the federal government to regulate climbing as a legitimate historical activity. Now, she’s a retired school principal who spends her time climbing internationally with a focus on leaving behind safe, moderate routes that serve local communities.

Katie Goodwin (moderator)
Policy Analyst, California Regional Director, Access Fund

Katie is part of the Access Fund’s national policy and advocacy program and serves as California Regional Director. Katie works with public land managers to address access issues and develop and implement management plans as it relates to climbing. She also supports the stewardship program and local climbing communities by providing assessment tools to protect and conserve the climbing environment.