Jimmy Chin: We Must Consider Climbing In the Context of the Great Environmental Challenges of Our Time

Categories: Perspectives

I’ve been an Access Fund member for over a decade, and I’ve seen firsthand how the fight to protect climbing has changed.

On the job in Yosemite National Park, California. Ancestral lands of Sierra Miwok. © Cheyne Lempe.

When I first ventured out on the rock, climbers were still fighting for legitimacy—for the right to climb on public lands. With Access Fund leading the charge, we’ve won that battle. Today, the question is whether climbing is sustainable into the future. Can we protect the lands we love and maintain sustainable access?

As a climber, filmmaker, and National Geographic photographer, I’ve seen the effects of more people out on the land. But overuse is just one piece of the puzzle. We must also consider climbing in the context of the great environmental challenges of our time—including climate change, resource extraction, and pressures from development. Wildfires are ripping through our forests, ice climbs are becoming more ephemeral, mountaineering routes are destabilizing, and the ecosystems that climbers cherish are fundamentally changing.

As climbers, our first-hand experience with these challenges also means that we’re uniquely positioned to help solve them. And Access Fund, as the country’s leading climbing advocacy organization, makes that change possible.

I’ve seen firsthand the work that Access Fund is doing to reinforce our climbing areas to help manage the exploding popularity of the sport, as well as the adverse effects of climate change and development. Conservation is central to their mission. They are working hard to protect not just the rock, but the large swaths of land around climbing areas. By protecting the landscape, we protect the climbing experience and we promote climate resiliency, providing a safe haven for the plants and animals that make these lands so special.

We must look at the big picture. Climbers have an opportunity to not only protect the areas we love but to make a real difference in the face of these big environmental challenges.

Will you join me as a member of Access Fund’s climbing advocacy network? When access threats or conservation opportunities come up, they’ll reach out with actions you can take to make a difference.