09/09/2022

Advocate Spotlight: Ryan Kuehn

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If you’ve climbed at a crag in the Front Range in Colorado or Indian Creek in Utah, it’s damn near guaranteed you’ve stepped on a rock that Ryan Kuehn quarried, carried, or set into a stone staircase with the kind of care and precision that’s usually reserved for hitting razor-thin crimps on a boulder problem.


Ryan got his trailwork start in 2013 with the ACE Conservation Corps before joining the Boulder Climbing Community’s (BCC) Front Range Climbing Stewards in 2017. Through those experiences, he’s learned the ins and outs of building trails that can stand the test of time, ensuring that popular crags can sustain years of foot traffic and resist erosion from the elements for the long haul. Some of his most notable projects include a major trail reroute at Upper Dream Canyon in Boulder Canyon, a lot of rad work to access the Flatirons, and a completely new trail accessing Cynical Pinnacle in the South Platte. Ryan currently manages all of BCC’s stewardship programs as its Stewardship Director, where he splits his time at a desk writing grants and proposals for future stewardship projects and in the field working alongside the BCC’s Trail Crew, hauling massive rocks and building climbing access infrastructure that your greatest-great-great-grandkid-crushers will walk on a century from now.

5 Questions for Ryan Kuehn

What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now?
Stewardship and having sustainable climbing areas will always be a cause close to my heart—I was able to build a very fulfilling career out of it, after all. But what I’m most stoked on is all the groups like Cruxing in Color in the Front Range that are working to make climbing more accessible to everyone. Climbing has brought a lot of joy to my life, so if someone else can have a similar experience with the sport then that is awesome!

What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate?
For me, being a climbing advocate is to give back to the sport that has shaped my life and help build a welcoming community. I’m fortunate enough to be able to give back by building trails and engaging with people who come out and work with me. Part of the joy of climbing is the people you do it with, so building a community that’s invested in taking care of its areas and welcomes all climbers is really important work.

What’s your advice to new advocates?
Get involved! There’s a ton of work that needs to be done in the climbing community that doesn’t necessarily involve moving rocks all day. Something as simple as volunteering for your LCO’s table at an event to help spread the word goes a long way toward promoting the work of organizations that are helping improve climbing. Also, you don’t have to be a climber of any specific number of years or have climbed such-and-such hard grade—if climbing is something you care about and brings you joy then get involved.

What surprised/challenged/excited you the most about getting into the advocacy world?
It’s been exciting to see more and more climbing organizations grow their relationships with local land managers and become trusted partners. Climbers have a ton of various skills and experiences, and we can bring really valuable insight to the table when discussing how climbing areas are managed.

Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now?
I’m inspired by all of the amazing volunteers who give back to climbing. We have folks who single-handedly replace over 100 fixed anchors at various crags in the Front Range, become honorary trail crew members with how much they come out and work with us, and are just awesome representatives for our climbing community.