Weathering 2020, Climber Style

2020 has been one long year of suck. A pandemic, racial injustice, fires, and hurricanes. We were locked down for weeks or months on end, unable to spend time with the people who we care for the most. And we’ve lost many friends and icons who’ve passed on.

The author, Chris Winter, Executive Director of Access Fund

These challenges take a toll that can sneak up on us over time. Even though we might feel like our strength is waning in these uncertain times, I know we’re resilient. Many of us have turned to climbing and outdoor recreation over the last few months to manage stress and focus on our physical and mental health. Millions of people all over the country have embraced the outdoors like never before, and climbing is a big part of that picture.

Maybe more Americans are venturing outside simply because we can’t sit at a bar or spend time in the climbing gym, but I believe there is something else going on. When it feels like the world or our lives are spiraling out of control, climbers often throw ourselves at big objectives—because we know our ultimate success or failure depends on our own strength and resilience. When we’re 20 miles in the backcountry on an alpine face, we have to rely on ourselves, and the world around us fades into the background. When we’re topping out a highball boulder problem, we don’t have time to think about the latest news cycle. We’re ultimately in control of our own fate, and we have to focus.

We can bring those lessons home and put them to work as we look to the future. With a bit of focus and commitment, we all have the power to contribute to a better world.

Even small gestures, small action steps, renew our sense of hope and create momentum in our community.

Right now, there are some concrete things we can all do as climbers to make a difference. First and foremost, we can’t blame new climbers for wanting to share in the experiences we love. We all need to be kind to each other at the crags. We feel the profound, transformative impact that climbing can have on our lives, and that experience doesn’t belong to us alone.

We also need to recognize that our climbing areas are buckling under the pressure as so many people enjoy them. And we have to step up to protect the places we love. That means we have to pick up more trash, and we have to be more vigilant about staying on the trails, spreading ourselves out, and minimizing our own personal impacts on the environment. And we need to volunteer our time and energy to make sure we all enjoy access to these amazing places in the years to come.

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
© Adventure Visionaries

Become a part of the movement

Whether we're sharing a rope, building a trail, or meeting with lawmakers in Washington, D.C—we are stronger when we work together.
Take the Pledge

At the end of the day, it feels good to give back. But it also renews our sense of control and impact. We can make a difference. And we can take that lesson and apply it to all different kinds of advocacy—from the halls of Washington, D.C., to local crags all around the country. Advocacy works, and just like access to the outdoors, it is more important now than ever before.

Start by taking one step forward, and go from there. I can promise you’ll feel better.

Chris Winter is Executive Director of Access Fund. He provides strategic leadership and manages organizational health, working with the board of directors, staff, and partners to fulfill on Access Fund's mission to keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment.