7 Unforgettable Climbing Access Saves in California

California is home to some pretty spectacular climbing areas. And behind the scenes, there is a network of talented and dedicated local climbing advocates and conservation organizations working to protect our climbing areas for not only California climbers, but all climbers. We’ve had the pleasure of partnering with many amazing volunteers over the years. Here are 7 of our most memorable saves in The Golden State.

  1. El Capitan’s World Class Viewshed Preserved
    Climbing El Cap is perhaps the greatest achievement for any climber. In 2013, Yosemite park planners proposed a large parking lot and new campground in the undeveloped meadow beneath El Cap and Cathedral Rocks—the most iconic view to rock climbers in the world. For years, Access Fund has collaborated with Yosemite National Park to help manage this world class climbing destination. But this new proposal would have brought campfire smoke, noise from campers, rumbling garbage trucks, and hundreds of glinting windshields to the experience of climbing El Capitan and dozens of other iconic climbs. Access Fund joined forces with Yosemite Climbing Association and Bay Area Climbers Coalition to encourage park planners to pursue alternatives that would keep camping, development, and parking a few miles east to ensure climbing El Capitan would remain preserved. Through dogged advocacy and a collaborative spirit, we worked together to preserve the El Capitan climbing experience, improve Valley camping opportunities, and minimize the impacts of a woodcutting lot beneath El Cap’s Salathe Wall that bothered climbers with constant buzzing of chainsaws. We continue to partner with California climbers and Yosemite National Park officials on stewardship efforts and development of the new Yosemite Wilderness and Stewardship Plan.

  2. Access to Jailhouse Rock Saved
    In 2010, an impending subdivision threatened to block access to Jailhouse Rock in California. Arguably the best winter stamina sport climbing in the West, Jailhouse is a major resource for Bay Area, Yosemite, and Sacramento climbers. Local climber Tom Addison came to Access Fund for help, and we approached the landowner to discuss options. After months of negotiations, Access Fund reached an agreement with the landowner to protect Jailhouse Rock through a complex conservation development partnership. A short-term Climbing Conservation Loan secured conservation and access easements, ensuring permanent protection and access to Jailhouse Rock. Check out the video of this project. Once access was established, the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team worked with local climbers to build a new parking area and trailhead for climbing access.
  3. Auburn Quarry Re-Opened
    In 2012, Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento (CRAGS) and Access Fund re-opened Auburn Quarry (aka Cave Valley) outside of Sacramento, California after a 9-year climbing ban. With limited budget, the California Department of Parks and Recreation would only agree to allow climbing if CRAGS and Access Fund entered into an agreement with them to provide liability protection and critical services to offset climber impacts. CRAGS agreed, and Access Fund granted funds to help meet the terms of the new agreement and launched a fundraising campaign to raise the remainder of the money. The climbing community responded quickly and generously, and in just under two weeks the California climbing community raised nearly $10,000 to provide services and restore climbing access.

  4. Donner Summit Saved
    Climbers have been scaling the walls on Donner Summit for over 50 years. But in 2013, the private landowners expressed concerns about liability, putting access to the historic climbing area at risk. In 2015, a local conservation organization, Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT), partnered with Access Fund and local climbers to conserve a significant set of climbing areas on Donner Summit, including the historic 400-foot Black Wall, Peanut Gallery, Road Cut, and access trails to the popular Space Wall and Stealth Wall. TDLT owns the 11.9-acre property and Access Fund holds a permanent conservation easement to back up TDLT’s long-term commitment and ensure climbing access in perpetuity. The world-class climbing at Donner Summit is set amidst some of the most dramatic terrain in the Truckee-Tahoe region, boasting stunning vistas that California climbers can enjoy for years to come.

  5. Partnering to Protect Bishop’s Delicate Landscape
    The Bishop area sees more climbers every year, and the increased use has caused concern for sensitive cultural and natural resources. In 2012, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) called on the climbing community to help protect these resources and ensure continued climbing access. Over the next 5 years, a coalition of partners have come together to protect this unique high-altitude desert climbing area. The Friends of the Inyo joined us to design and install kiosks at Pine Creek and Tablelands to educate climbers on responsible use. Access Fund also supported Bishop Area Climbers Coalition and the American Alpine Club in installing a toilet at the Buttermilks to help address human waste issues. And the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team visits regularly to provide ongoing stewardship to help California climbers sustain this California favorite.

  6. Access to California State Parks
    California State Parks are home to some popular climbing areas, like Castle Rock State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, and Stony Point State Park. Access Fund has been working with local advocates since the early 1990s to address the state’s ongoing liability concerns and help individual parks create plans to protect cultural and natural resources and still allow climbing access. Over the years, the California State Parks Department has proposed various regulations that would impact rock climbing access, such as higher entrance fees, a ban on rebolting existing climbing routes, and closure of some climbing access trails. Access Fund works regularly with the Bay Area Climbers Coalition, Allied Climbers of San Diego, and local climbing advocates to successfully negotiate with the Parks to ensure long-term, sustainable climbing access.

  7. Castle Crags Protected
    Long owned by a local timber company, the northern reaches of Castle Crags near Mt. Shasta, California are home to over 20 challenging climbing routes, but the area has never enjoyed permanent protection. In 2013, California climbers reached out to Access Fund with a unique conservation opportunity to join an alliance between a land trust, three timber companies, and the Forest Service to permanently protect the climbing area. The Wilderness Land Trust purchased the 360-acre property with funding from the Access Fund Climbing Conservation Loan Program, The Conservation Alliance, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The property is currently being transferred to the USDA-Forest Service for inclusion in the adjacent Shasta-Trinity National Forest, ensuring long-term protection for Castle Crags.

Special thanks to photographers, listed top to bottom: Jimmy Chin, Joe Sambataro, Eric Whalen, Sam Okamoto, R. Tyler Gross, Mark Weber, and Roseburg.

You're Invited: Annual Dinner

We are bringing the climbing community together in the Bay Area on September 9th to connect with friends, celebrate our access and conservation successes, and support the fight for America’s public lands.
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