08/13/2021

Popular Crags Suffer As Climbing Grows Exponentially

I spend 365 days a year on the road, visiting crags and boulder fields from coast to coast, talking to land managers, assessing conditions, and sending in our Jeep Conservation Teams to protect as many areas as they can—building professional trails, removing graffiti, saving trees and native plants, building belay and pad structures, picking up trash, and training local volunteers.

And I'm concerned.

Severe erosion at Beacon Heights, a historic bouldering area on the Blue Ridge Parkway, NC. Ancestral lands of Cherokee, Yuchi, Moneton. © Shannon Millsaps

When I started this job in 2012, conditions like the ones in the photo above were rare. Today, I see this at nearly every popular climbing area I visit. Beaten-down, barren cliff bases and boulder landings. Tree roots that were never meant to see the light of day. Spiderwebs of trails. Toilet-paper flowers. Trash. The list goes on.

Climbing has gone mainstream, and with more people climbing outside than ever before, the impacts at our climbing areas are only going to get worse, threatening access and the climbing experience.

© Brett Protasiewicz

We have 6 professional trail-builders and conservation specialists out on the road, full-time, to restore climbing areas and install sustainable recreation infrastructure—and it’s not nearly enough. Something’s gotta change.

With your help, we can turn this around. Access Fund is working to build more sustainable climbing areas, spread Leave No Trace ethics, and work with land managers to prevent closures, but we need the climbing community to pitch in.

Act Now: Tell Congress to Support the Civilian Climate Corps

Right now, Congress is poised to make an unprecedented investment in recreation and public lands through the Civilian Climate Corps. Use our easy letter-writing tool to write your congressional representatives in support of the CCC—it takes less than 5 minutes!
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It’s not too late to turn things around. Just look at this transformation of Fun Rock in Washington. This is what we accomplish if we work together. This is a crag that is on its way to being able to withstand the dramatic increase in climbers. The belay area was supported by a set of rotting timbers, installed decades ago, which were collapsing and quickly destabilizing the hillside and threatening trees. The Access Fund Conservation Team restored this area last year.

These new stone steps reinforce the hillside, protect the trees, and give climbers a sustainable area to belay without damaging the surrounding environment. Ancestral lands of Okanagan and Nlaka'pamux.

Help us make this a reality for your crag, and for all of the climbing areas across the country that need our help—before it’s too late to make a difference. It’s time to invest in the future of our climbing areas.


Ty Tyler
Stewardship Director

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4 Easy Ways Create a More Sustainable Future for Climbing

  1. Become an Access Fund member and join the climbing advocacy movement. If you aren’t already a member, now is the time. Membership starts at just $20, and we have some of the coolest member t-shirts out there. Join today >>

  2. Be a responsible climber. Minimize your impact every time you go climbing by following the simple principles of The Climber’s Pact.

  3. Spread the word. Talk to your friends and climbing partners about the climbing advocacy cause and how to climb responsibly. Introduce them to Access Fund by encouraging them to sign up for The Climbing Advocate newsletter.

  4. Volunteer. Dedicate a few hours to help your local climbing organization or Access Fund’s Conservation Teams with crag stewardship work. It’s a rewarding experience and a great way to meet fellow climbers. Connect with your local climbing organization.