March 26, 2015

The Inside Scoop: Bishop

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If you’re like most climbers, you pore over guidebooks for weeks or even months when planning a climbing trip. You educate yourself on routes, descents, gear, and camping. But what about the local ethics, issues, and challenges at your destination crag? Part of being a responsible climber is knowing how to tread lightly—both socially and environmentally. In the Inside Scoop series, we connect you with local climbing access leaders at some of the country’s top climbing destinations for valuable insight into local ethics and issues.

Destination: BISHOP, CA

What is the biggest challenge facing the Bishop climbing community now?
Our biggest challenge is the increasing number of climbers visiting each year. Bishop is a very
fragile high desert environment, and increased traffic (compounded by an ongoing drought) makes it hard for the desert to recover from the impacts of recreation.

How are you addressing this overcrowding issue?
We are working to educate climbers about best practices and ways they can help. We are rolling this out through climbing gyms and other places where people new to climbing can learn what it means to tread lightly and keep things sustainable and open.

How is the relationship between climbers and the land managers?
They are good and getting better. The vast majority of the Bishop’s climbing is on public land, so it’s important that the climbing community stays engaged and works with land managers and the broader community to create positive relationships and care for our climbing areas. Local climbers, the BACC, and other community members have been really engaged with land managers (many of whom are also climbers), and we have a great ongoing dialogue.

Are there currently any threats to climbing access?
There are no imminent access threats, but the impacts caused by increased visitation could have future repercussions. More climbers means more cars, more dogs, more need for campsites, more human waste, and more cumulative impacts.

What is the best way to dispose of human waste at Bishop?
Use the available toilets or pack it out. The three largest areas—the Buttermilks, the Happies, and Owens River Gorge—all have toilet facilities. If you have to go and you are in any of those areas, please use the toilets, even if you have to walk a ways to do it. Human waste and toilet paper do not break down adequately in fragile desert soil, so if you have to go in the wild, pack it out.

Isn’t Bishop home to archeological resources?
Yes. The Eastern Sierra and the Owens Valley have been home to humans for thousands of years. Native peoples and later settlers left their legacy in the form of artifacts, petroglyphs, pictographs, and other archeological resources. Federal law protects all of these things. As climbers, we need to recognize that some boulders shouldn’t be climbed, artifacts need to stay where they are, and we should look but not touch when we find petroglyphs or pictographs. It would be a drag to lose access to an area because of the actions of a few.

So what’s the ethic that visiting climbers should follow?
Respect others and remember that if it looks or feels wrong, it probably is.

  • Stay on the roads and trails.
  • Park and camp in designated spots.
  • Respect land managers, other users, and regulations.
  • Keep control of and pick up after your dog.
  • Don’t crush the brush.
  • Be mindful of archeological resources.
  • Pick up trash even if it isn't yours.

Most important, if you have a question, call one of the local land management agencies, or ask in one of the local shops, at the Black Sheep, or the Mountain Rambler—someone will be able to direct you to an answer. Any final words of wisdom? Climbing in Bishop is a privilege. Respect it and leave it better than you found it. The climbing community is small, and we need to look after each other and our climbing areas as the sport continues to grow in popularity.

Learn more about BACC

Photo: © R. Tyler Gross

March 11, 2015

An Auspicious Infancy: The Early Years of the Access Fund

~ An interview by Jay Young, 2009

I spoke at length with Armando Menocal, who, along with Jim Angel, founded the Access Committee of the American Alpine Club (AAC) in 1985. He had much to say about the often humble beginnings of this auspicious organization.

Jay: Tell me about the birth of the idea of the Access Fund. What was the impetus to actually get this thing rolling?

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 4.02.47 PM Armando: Well…in the mid-1980s, we were starting to have access problems across the country. In large part it was the beginning of the sport climbing movement. But as we learned from the National Park Service, there was an increase at trad areas as well. Many land managers suddenly felt overwhelmed by climbing. The combined effect of more climbers and more new climbing areas caused a lot of land managers to attempt to put the brakes on climbing. They didn’t know what climbing was, and they’d never regulated it. As a result, there started being closures. I’d been active in some of these issues in California, so the American Alpine Club asked me to start an Access and Conservation Committee to confront these issues. So I agreed…

Jay: Who were some of the folks on that early committee?

Armando: The earliest were me and a guy named Jim Angel, just two of us. The first thing he did was plan an act of civil disobedience up at Mt. St. Helens. Jim had been playing it by the book, and they refused to reopen Mt. St. Helens to climbing even after the big crater explosion was long past.

Jay: What was the act of civil disobedience?

Armando: Jim wrote a letter to the Forest Service telling them that on a mid-summer day—he gave them the date, which was like six to eight months out—he was going to climb Mt. St. Helens. They had been involved in a planning process for two or three years, and it’d been all finished, but they would not open the mountain to climbing. They were just being bureaucrats dragging their heels. And so to provoke them into either finally arresting him or getting them to issue the decision, he just told them, “I am going to climb that mountain.” And he sent copies to all the local newspapers. And it worked! By summer, they issued the plan.

This scared the American Alpine Club, so we stopped for nearly two years. Then Jim McCarthy became president of the AAC, and he said, “You do whatever you need to, and we’ll back you 100%.” And that’s really when the Access Committee started. Jim Angel and I added people: Randy Vogel; a fella by the name of Mike Jimmerson down in Arizona, who was a real workhorse; Rick Accomazzo in Colorado; and a few people back East as well. We were basically about a dozen folks who met like once or twice a year. At first it was a very slow process. Mostly it was just all of us talking about the problems we had. We got to the point where we actually needed to have our own staff, so every year we’d do something that was “The Call.” And The Call was a call to Yvon Chouinard. And Yvon would always say, “How much?” And I’d say something like $10 thousand dollars. And he’d send it.

Jay: That’s amazing!

Armando: In the early years, we were funded 100% by Yvon Chouinard. So anyway, that’s how we got started; we were the Access Committee of the American Alpine Club. After Jim McCarthy was no longer president, the [access] problems were getting so big and there was so much stuff and I was spending so much of my time as the chair of the committee that we decided the better thing to do was form a separate organization. And that’s what we did in 1990.

Jay: Was that separation done with the good graces of the AAC? I mean, were they on board for this?

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 4.02.32 PMArmando: For the people involved it was painful and hard. Because you had people in the AAC who really supported us and they wanted us to stay, and they didn’t like us leaving. And, there were people who, frankly, didn’t like us, ’cause we were activists and they didn’t like some of the strong positions.

Jay, in the 1980s, because of sport climbing, there was a huge amount of debates in the climbing community, dealing with everything from rap bolting, hang dogging, etc. And one of the key decisions that the Access Committee made, which continued with the Access Fund, was that we would not get involved with ethics. We would not say, “Okay, we’ll defend people who put up routes ground up, but we won’t defend people who do it rap bolting.” There were many people who were lining up on either side of those issues. There were people who were lobbying government agencies to get them involved, so rap bolting would be prohibited in one place. And the Access Committee said, “No, we will not do that. We will defend climbing in all its forms.”

If the climbing community, within itself wanted to say, as a matter of ethics, people shouldn’t rap bolt in a certain area, that’s fine. But land managers and the government should not get involved in ethical debates. And that is one of the things that made us very controversial. That was one of the early decisions we made. I’ve always credited Randy [Vogel] with helping us make that decision. He was very important in that. And it’s still the Access Fund policy to this day. We don’t take sides in ethical debates. We defend climbing in all its forms.

Jay: If I’m on the board of the AAC around that time, when you guys in the Access Committee are thinking of splitting off, and I’m against it, what are some of my protests?

Armando: I would say there were probably two major disagreements within the AAC. One was over the ethical question because there were people there that didn’t think we should fight government agencies if they were going to prohibit rap bolting, or if they were going to prohibit power drills being used to place routes. Some people even went so far to say we shouldn’t defend the placement of bolts at all.

And then the second thing was that we were activists. We were arguing with and taking on the government. And there was a large body within the AAC that thought that was not their role. Their job was to support, but not argue with government agencies. But a lot of us were out of the 60s and 70s, and that wasn’t our way at all!

Very clearly, the Access Fund started as an advocacy organization. That was the main thing we did. One of the reasons we formed the Access Fund [from the committee] was because we were fighting efforts to prohibit bolting, whether it was power drill or hand drill, all over the country, and we needed a national organization. I mean you were just getting killed by a thousand cuts, to be fighting an anti-bolting thing. It was just one Forest Service place after another, and then the Park Service… We needed to start dealing with the source—the people who made the rules back in Washington, DC. We knew we needed to have a nationwide organization to deal with the advocacy issues. And to this day, the primary focus of the advocacy part of the Access Fund, which I still think is the major thing we do, is nationwide, because most of the problems are nationwide.

Jay: Today, is the state of access in America where you thought it would be in almost two decades after the Access Fund split off? How are things different now from what you thought it would be like?

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 4.02.19 PMArmando: Well, I thought some of these issues would be put to rest. But otherwise I would say it’s about where I would have wanted it to be. I think if you look on the positive side of the ledger, no major climbing area in America is closed. There are some local areas that are closed, but I don’t even think you can say there are any regional destination areas that are closed.

You can still place a bolt anywhere in wilderness or non wilderness in America with very few exceptions. Some places they have committees you have to go through. There are a few places we haven’t been able to get in line, like the Superstitions and the Sawtooth, but those are pretty small in comparison. Big-wall climbing, which would have been shut down entirely with an anti-fixed anchor rule in wilderness is still alive and well. So, if you look at it that way, in the big picture, we’re where we would want to be.

On the downside, is that some of these issues have not been put to rest. Bolting…it has been really hard to get the federal agencies to finally put that issue to rest. And we have to keep putting energy into doing that. The number of times that I, and now Jason Keith, have gone back to Washington and talked to people in the federal government at all three major agencies—BLM, Forest Service, and Park Service—would take up a year or more of somebody’s time. And as long as you don’t put it to rest, you have to keep dealing with it, because some local ranger will decide that he’s going to ban bolts. It still happens.

Maybe with the new administration…

Jay: In the years-long development of the Access Fund to where it is right now, what are some of the pleasant surprises that have popped up?

Armando: Well, to me the biggest surprise, it shouldn’t be, but it still is to me, is to watch what was for some of us in the 80s and 90s our real passion to keep climbing areas open get taken up by one generation after another. The people that run the Access Fund now are one, two, or three generations removed from the first group that started it. And I guess I remain surprised every time I see an entirely new bunch of people—who had nothing to do with us historically—step up and start really taking on the challenge…and re-forming the organization and takingit to a new place. It just keeps happening again and again. It’s pretty exciting to see.

I’ve tended to divide the Access Fund’s work into three areas. One is the advocacy role—arguing to keep areas open, and some of that involves everything from litigation to letter-writing campaigns and all the tools that advocates use. And the second thing is building local organizations that then become the frontline forces dealing with closures. The third one is actually acquisitions. We’re trying to build that.

Some people think of the Access Fund and they’ll think acquisitions. Some people think of AF and they think of our work building and supporting local climbing organizations. And they sometimes try to pigeonhole us. Which are we? Sometimes the right answer is to create a local climbing organization to deal with an issue. Sometimes you need an advocacy approach. And sometimes you need to go in there with acquisitions and other sorts of development. But they’re just tools. They’re not what define us.

The ongoing fight for climbing access in America is on the brink of profound change, all while some of the same old struggles of 20 years ago remain prominent and, in many respects, unresolved.

By J. Young, 2009,


March 04, 2015

The Ecology of Climbing

Ecology of climbing

Climbing offers both challenge and adventure, but it’s also a special opportunity to be in a wild, natural environment. From boulder fields to alpine peaks to roadside crags, we climb in places with significant, sometimes rare, natural value. And the ecology of climbing—how climbers relate and interact with plant life, animals, and water—has direct bearing on climbing access. This is especially true given the growth in popularity of climbing across the country. As more and more people climb, it becomes imperative to find solutions to mitigate our impact to conserve these precious resources now and into the future.   In sensitive desert environments like Indian Creek, Utah, for example, climbers’ trail work has helped reduce impact to fragile cryptobiotic soil. In the Obed, Tennessee, top anchors have eliminated impact to extremely biodiverse and sensitive cliff-edge environments. And in Rumney, New Hampshire, targeted cliff-area closures have maintained access to climbing routes while protecting rare ferns. As climbers, the more cognizant we are of these unique and rare natural resources, and the more collaborative we are in working with land managers and biologists to preserve them, the more successful we’ll be in creating solutions that preserve access. Here are some easy tips. 

Raise awareness within the local climbing community. Work with area experts (resource biologists, cliff ecologists) to educate yourself and your local climbing community on any rare species that occur at your crag. Organize an Adopt a Crag—an invasive species removal, for example—to bring climbers and biologists together. Develop routes and boulders responsibly. Think about long-term impact and use. Establish bolted anchors (where allowed) to reduce impact on trees. Keep brushing to the minimum necessary. And remember, not everything needs to be climbed.

Put the ROCK Project Pact into practice each time you go climbing. Minimize your impact at the crag by keeping a low profile, packing out all of your trash and gear, respecting closures and staying on trails. Commit to the Pact and view its other tenants at

Proactively build partnerships with land managers and biologists.The foundation for addressing climbing access issues related to sensitive natural resource concerns is a collaborative, trusting relationship with your land manager.

Participate in and assist with resource and impact monitoring. By participating in or assisting with monitoring activities, you legitimize your status as a stakeholder and gain an opportunity to lend your climber’s perspective.

Generate hard data. Help initiate new studies or surveys on climbing and natural resources. Climbing management decisions should be made based on sound data and appropriate environmental impact studies.

Be open to creative climbing management solutions that preserve access. Trail rerouting, partial closures, seasonal restrictions, permitted access, top anchor installation—these are all examples of creative, balanced solutions that yield surprisingly positive results. 

February 10, 2015

Urban rock v2

When you daydream about your next climbing adventure, you may conjure images of high mountain peaks, extreme conditions, and natural settings far from the cities and towns where most of us live. And that’s often the point: to escape to a more pristine, natural environment and get away from the burdens of our busy lives.

But a growing number of us are escaping much closer to home. There are vital climbing environments popping up near the cities and towns where many of us live, work, and play. For many climbers, urban rock is a valuable resource for training and local adventure.

Urban climbing has been going on in small pockets for decades. Early American mountaineers and the stonemasters of Yosemite honed their craft at Indian Rock in Berkeley and Stony Point in Los Angeles. DC climbers have been finding refuge at Great Falls and Carderock outside our nation’s capital for years. And phenom Ashima Shiraishi learned to climb at Rat Rock in New York City’s Central Park, which remains a training ground for the Gunks and an urban climbing area in its own right.

Over the last decade, a growing number of towns and cities have welcomed climbing in their parks and greenways as a use of community open space. Local climbing organizations and the Access Fund regularly work with city and town officials to encourage climbing access and support stewardship and management.

While a new norm seems to be emerging, many municipal land managers or authorities still don’t accept climbing as a welcome recreational activity. More often than not, their concerns fall into one of three categories: 1) potential liability in the event of an accident, 2) unacceptable impacts to natural resources or other park users, or 3) lack of resources to manage another recreational use. These are legitimate concerns, but they can be overcome with some smart advocacy efforts and a bit of help from your local climbing organization and the Access Fund.

OVERCOMING LIABILITY CONCERNS. Climbing is perceived as an extremely high risk sport, and land owners are often concerned with exposing themselves to liability in the event of an accident. But there are various layers of liability protection, including state recreational use statutes, case law, waiver systems, access agreements, and other basic strategies that could easily alleviate liability concerns.

ADDRESSING IMPACTS. Any time people (climbers or otherwise) interact with the natural world, there are impacts. But a smart climbing management plan and ongoing stewardship efforts from committed local climbers can mitigate these impacts.

LENDING RESOURCES. Many city and town governments are plagued by budget cuts and a lack of resources. This is where a trusted local climbing organization can step up to help. There are numerous examples of urban crags across the country that are managed, at least in part, by local climbing organizations who volunteer their time or resources to staff entrance gates, manage trash services, or oversee waiver systems.

BOOSTING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Towns with climbing nearby almost always see a positive flow of dollars to their community. Whether filling up their gas tanks, grabbing dinner at a nearby restaurant, crashing at a local hotel, or grabbing last-minute necessities from local outdoor gear shops, climbing visitors are spending.

INCREASING PUBLIC HEALTH. And there’s no arguing the public health benefits of getting people outside and engaged in an active pursuit. 

Photo courtesy of © Merrick Ales

January 30, 2015

Ticked Off

Ticked Off


Ever arrive at a boulder problem to find the (very obvious) finishing jug ticked in thick, white chalk? Or climbed a route that is caked with gooey chalk on each and every hold?

Despite the obvious benefit of chalk for climbing—its drying effect on sweaty hands—climbers can often get carried away with it. Over the years, chalk gets caked onto holds, forming layers, which affects the texture of the rock and the friction of that very poor sloper. Too many ticks can also cause confusion on a route, botch on-sight attempts, and ruin the self-discovery and problem-solving aspect of climbing.

Too much chalk can also have a negative visual impact that can be a deal breaker for landowners and other recreationalists. This visual impact of chalk and tick marks can lead to chalk restrictions (take Garden of the Gods or Arches National Park, for example).

It’s in every climber’s best interest to minimize tick marks and overly chalked holds. Here are a few things to keep in mind next time you’re out at the crag:

  • Keep ticks to a minimum. This might seem obvious, but to many it’s not. If you are going to tick (and we’ve all done it), take a few minutes to brush off the tick marks before you leave.
  • Choose the right kind of brush for your rock type. Certain bristles can negatively affect certain types of rock. For example, nylon brushes can damage sensitive rock like sandstone. The best go-to brush is a Lapis Boar’s Hair Brush, which doesn’t polish or erode the rock.
  • Use chalk lightly in areas where it won’t be cleaned off naturally by rain, like overhangs, caves, and desert environments.
  • Consider using Eco Chalk by Metolius, an alternative that can lessen the visual impact.
  • Get involved with your local climbing organization. Help initiate a chalk cleanup day at your local climbing area.

Photo courtesy of © Andrew Kornylak

Special thanks to guest contributor Whitney Boland


January 13, 2015

Mixed Emotions: The Impacts and Implications of Dry-Tooling


By Dougald McDonald

Two stunning vertical ice climbs, the Rigid Designator and the Fang, split a limestone bowl above East Vail, Colorado. Behind these classic pillars is an overhanging cliff that helped launch the modern mixed-climbing revolution, starting with Jeff Lowe’s visionary Octopussy back in 1994. Over the following two decades, this soft rock bore the brunt of hundreds if not thousands of dry-tooling ascents, leaving divots drilled by monopoints and rows of scratches carved by frontpoints and tool picks. As one climber put it, the most popular routes look like they’ve been attacked by Freddy Krueger.

Such is the price of dry-tooling on soft stone. And in places like Vail where the rock is much too chossy for rock climbing, and only ice and mixed climbers ever see the cliff up close, the scars don’t bother many people.

But what happens when dedicated dry-toolers venture onto established rock climbs in search of new places to ply their craft? Dry-tooling is still a tiny subset of our sport, but the numbers have grown steadily in recent years with improvements in gear and the widespread development of bolt-protected “M climbing.” Dry-tooling may seem weird to many climbers, but it’s challenging, strenuous, and plenty fun.

“As mixed climbers get stronger, more and more people are able to do hard dry-tooling, and they’re looking for new terrain,” says Joe Sambataro, access director at the Access Fund.

So far, conflicts between dry-toolers and rock climbers have been relatively rare, and dry-tooling has not raised the hackles of land managers. “Most dry-tooling areas are separate from rock climbing areas, so they coexist,” Sambataro says. “However, mixed climbers need to tread lightly to prevent future access issues.”

Dry-Tooling: Best Practices

  1. To avoid conflict, avoid existing rock routes. Most areas have chossy or mossy cliffs, road cuts, quarries, masonry walls, or other areas suitable for dry-tooling where rock climbers never tread.
  2. When in doubt, ask first. Local tradition may accept dry-tooling on certain routes, but don’t assume a splitter tips crack is ripe for torqueing just because there’s snow on the ground. At the risk of sparking a flame war, you can quickly get a sense of what’s generally accepted by posting a query at sites like Mountain Project, Cascade Climbers, and NE Ice.
  3. Avoid soft rock. Dry-tooling causes much less damage—and generates less controversy—on harder stone like granite or gneiss than soft limestone or sandstone. And if you do dry-tool on existing rock climbs, choose steep routes with big holds. “It’s really bad style to destroy a good rock route just because you want to hone your thin mixed skills,” says Minnesota climber James Loveridge.
  4. Wear rock shoes for warm-season dry-tooling. Crampons generally cause more damage than ice tools. Plus, as Loveridge points out, dry-tooling in rock shoes can improve your footwork for summertime rock routes. “I’ve learned all sorts of subtle ways to make my feet stay on the rock,” he says.
  5. Train on an artificial wall. To learn the subtleties of technique, you need to climb outside. But to get stronger, a wall or home woody works great. Gyms such as CityRock in Colorado Springs or the Minnesota Climbing Co-Op allow dry-tooling in designated areas or off-hours. There also are special indoor-climbing tools designed to hook over plastic holds (;
  6. Be careful when rappelling. At many areas, crampons scratch the rock more during lower-offs and rappels than during actual ascents. Stay on the ice when rappelling or lowering, and remove your crampons before descents—but only if it’s safe to do so.

This is an excerpt from Mixed Emotions: The Impacts and Implications of Dry-Tooling, published in the Winter 2012 issue of the Vertical Times. See the full article here.  

January 06, 2015

Seven Surefire Ways to Lose Climbing Access

7 Surefire Ways to Lose Climbing Access

After 20-plus years of working to protect climbing access, the Access Fund has seen nearly every scenario for how to lose access to our precious crags and boulder fields. Some of those situations are beyond the control of the average climber. But the majority of access issues can be averted if climbers avoid some common pitfalls.

  1. Disrespecting the climbing environment. When you litter, trample vegetation, leave tick marks, cut trail, improperly dispose of human waste, or stash pads, you are damaging the climbing environment. Every climbing area has a threshold, and it’s only a matter of time before unmitigated impacts cause a landowner to shut it down.
  2. Overcrowding. An overcrowded climbing area has a huge impact on the environment (trampled vegetation, unacceptable noise levels, etc), but it’s also a red flag to a land manager that impacts may be teetering on the line of unacceptable. If you get to a climbing area and the parking lot is jam packed, consider finding another, less crowded place to climb.
  3. Accidents. Whenever a climber gets hurt, a landowner gets nervous. Every landowner, both public and private, is concerned about liability on some level. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. The best way to avoid them is to be prepared, don’t take unnecessary risks, and be safe. And if you’re a beginner, don’t go outside without a mentor to teach you properly.
  4. Disrespecting the landowner. It doesn’t matter if you’re climbing on private land or public land, when you see a ranger or a landowner, remember that you’re on THEIR turf, and you represent the climbing community at large. A bad impression goes a long way and puts climbers in a negative light. So smile, say “thank you,” and follow their rules.
  5. Not respecting closures. Many climbing areas have seasonal or permanent closure areas to protect nesting raptors, cultural resources like petroglyphs and sacred sites or sensitive plant life. Respect those closures and stay away from sensitive resources, or risk losing access to the rest of the climbs.
  6. Bolting inappropriately. Most public and private landowners have regulations about where and how you can install bolts. For instance, it’s illegal to use a power drill in a designated wilderness area. Know the rules and ethics at the area before you bolt.
  7. Failing to organize. When climbers come together, we keep more climbing areas open. Access Fund relies on local climbing organizations to be the first line of defense when access issues occur. When locals form an organized group, it’s easier to partner with landowners, have political clout with town and state governments, and get resources to care for your climbing areas.

December 05, 2014

The Inside Scoop: HUECO TANKS

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3.28.25 PM

If you’re like most climbers, you pore over guidebooks for weeks or even months when planning a climbing trip. You educate yourself on routes, descents, gear, and camping. But what about the local ethics, issues, and challenges at your destination crag? Part of being a responsible climber is knowing how to tread lightly—both socially and environmentally. In the Inside Scoop series, we connect you with local climbing access leaders at some of the country’s top climbing destinations for valuable insight into local ethics and issues. 



What challenges does the Hueco climbing community face right now?

One of our biggest challenges is education. Hueco is a sensitive desert environment with some spectacular cultural resources in the form of petroglyphs and sacred sites. We see many climbers from all reaches of the globe, and we work hard to make sure everyone understands how to climb here responsibly.

What does the access situation look like at Hueco?

A Public Use Plan was implemented in 1998, putting certain parameters around park access. Seventy-five percent of the park is accessible only through a guided tour, while the other 25 percent has a limited number of day-use slots. Climbers have to plan ahead to gain entry into the park.

Are there currently any threats to climbing access?

Some local residents have voiced concern that they cannot gain access to the park because it is monopolized by climbers. There are groups who would like to limit all climbing in the park.

How do you address overcrowding?

We help the park monitor impacts and manage traffic to certain areas. Climbing tours tend to bottleneck in certain areas and cause too much impact. We became concerned with the overcrowding and proposed that the park break popular areas into zones and force the guides to be specific about which zones they were visiting. This allowed the park to better manage the traffic, lessen impacts, and create a more pleasant experience for visitors.

How is the relationship between climbers and the land managers?

Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) manages the park. We have a lot of respect for them and keep the lines of communication open.

What are the local ethics at Hueco?

We have a pretty clear code of ethics that we ask all climbers to follow:

• The desert is a fragile environment that does not recover from heavy traffic quickly. Do not place pads on plants and do not drag your pad over dirt areas. This increases erosion. Please pick your pad up and replace it.

• Leave artifacts untouched. Respect closures and avoid climbing at pictograph sites, even if a closure sign is not present.

• Always respect the plant life and under no circumstances remove or prune plant life, even if it gets in the way of a boulder problem.

• No colored chalk, rosins, or pof.

• Leave no trace. Erase tick marks and pack out all trash, especially climbing tape.

• Stick to established trails.

• While on backcountry tours, listen to your guide. Their knowledge of the park and climbing problems is an important link in the climber and park relationship.

• Do not modify holds. Hueco is a huge park; a better problem is right around the corner.

• Respect park staff. Make sure you are outside the park gate or in the campground by closing. That means packing up to leave a half hour before the park closes. 

Any words of wisdom for folks visiting Hueco for the first time?

Set aside the “send and crush” mentality, and take a step back and look around. Hueco is anamazing place! Remember to appreciate your environment and treat it with respect.

Photo courtesy of Sam Davis ©

October 24, 2014

Access Fund Celebrates 20 Years of History at Golden Cliffs

North Table Mountain (aka Golden Cliffs) presides over the City of Golden Colorado, and is a staple for many climbers on the Front Range. It is a place where new climbers test their skills on basalt columns; where outdoor programs expose youth to the thrill of climbing and importance of environmental stewardship; and where seasoned climbers find a winter refuge in sunny southern slopes.

This afternoon, Friday October 24th, Access Fund staff and board directors, members of the Peery Family, Jefferson County officials, and members of the local climbing community will gather to celebrate the rich history of Golden Cliffs at North Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado. We will commemorate the legacy of longtime landowner Mayford Peery, celebrate Access Fund’s 20 years of ownership, and officially present Golden Cliff’s to Jefferson County Open Space.

GoldenclimberEarlier this summer Access Fund transferred Golden Cliffs to Jefferson County for long-term ownership and conservation. The property will become the southern gateway to North Table Mountain Park. Its hiking and climbing access trails already connect to the county park, and this 29-acre property is a snug fit in the greater open space area.

“It's clear that Jefferson County has demonstrated a real commitment to recreation and it’s obvious the County is the right home for this piece of property,” says Brady Robinson, Executive Director. 

Access Fund and the County have worked together to ensure climbing access for the thirty thousand climbers that visit the crag every year. The transfer guarantees that climbing access will not be affected unless natural disasters or wildlife protection issues temporarily restrict public access. If the County is unable to work within these agreements, the Access Fund will regain ownership of the cliffs.

“We’re excited that this is going forward in a way that preserves the legacy of Mayford Peery and his generous gift to the climbing community,” says Joe Sambataro, National Access Director. Peery, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 89, made considerable contributions to the Golden community through conservation, development, and business. 

Seasoned climbing advocates Becky Hall and Chris Archer have contributed significant time and energy to safeguard this transition. Chris Archer warmly remembers sitting down and meeting with Mayford in 1994 to complete the donation. And Access Fund ‘lifer’ Rico Thompson led efforts to establish the trailhead and tended Access Fund’s management of the crag for nearly 15 years.

The late Mark Hesse, founder of Rocky Mountain Field Institute and visionary leader in climbing access and trail work, organized significant trail improvements in 2005. In recent years, land stewards such as Colorado Mountain Club and Ben Schneider and Jason Haas of Fixed Pin Publishing helped maintain the area’s trails and trailhead while fighting off invasive plant species and social trails. 

 Adopt A Crag Group Photo 2 (1)

The conservation of Golden Cliffs is one of the Access Fund’s most historic accomplishments and a testament to the dedication and passion of a landowner and the local climbing community. As one of the Access Fund’s signature acquisition projects in the 90s, Golden Cliffs was a model project for initiating the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign in 2009. Golden Cliffs wouldn’t be what it is today without the support of thousands of climbers, local residents, and stewards. The Access Fund extends our gratitude to everyone who helped protect this unique climbing resource over the decades, and we will continue this legacy by supporting the County with ongoing stewardship.  





October 06, 2014

Inside Scoop: Red River Gorge

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If you're like most climbers, you pore over guidebooks for weeks or even months when planning a climbing trip. You educate yourself on routes, descents, gear, and camping. But what about the local ethics, issues, and challenges at your destination crag? Part of being a responsible climber is knowing how to tread lightly-both socially and environmentally. In this new Inside Scoop series, we'll connect you with local climbing access leaders at some of the country's top climbing destinations for valuable insight into local ethics and issues.

Destination: RED RIVER GORGE, KY


What challenges does the Red River Gorge climbing community face right now?

The Red River Gorge is unique in that there are so many different land owners that all have different rules and expectations. And the climbing at the Red is some of the best on the planet, so we see a tremendous amount of use-many areas are  “loved to death". We encourage everyone to work as a team to mitigate overuse and abuse of our precious climbing resources.

What are your most pressing access issues?

We face many of the same issues that other climbing communities face, but two that are super prominent in the Red are human waste and overcrowding.

What is the best option for human waste disposal in the Red?

With the Red's climate and soil, if human waste is buried properly (in an 8" deep cathole), nature can take its course in a reasonable amount of time. But nothing beats packing it out.

And how do you address the overcrowding issue?

We try to educate climbers-if a crag is crowded, consider going to another one. There are many to choose from!

How is the relationship between climbers and local land owners and community members?

We've put a significant amount of effort into being seen as a respectful user group, so the relationships are generally very good. The locals have realized that rock climbers are in the area to stay, and they see that we contribute a lot to the local economy. We encourage climbers-visitors and locals-to express their appreciation to landowners and to tread lightly.

What would you describe as the local ethics at the Red?

The ethic is to respect your elders and run it to the chains. No, seriously, it 's simple: treat it like it's your own. Take pride in our climbing areas, and treat them like your own property. If you need guidance, check the rules in our land use waiver at

Any recent victories in the Red?

We just acquired the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP), with help from the Access Fund, which was a big milestone for us and an interesting model for other LCOs. There was very little route development and zero trail, parking, or other infrastructure-we essentially purchased a "future" climbing area. This gives us the opportunity to build things correctly from the beginning. We are also announcing joint membership with the Access Fund, which is an exciting opportunity for climbers to support both national access work and Red River Gorge access work with a single membership.

Any words of wisdom for folks visiting the Red for the first time?

Before you go climbing, do your research on where you are going, who owns it, and what their expectations are. And remember rock climbing is not free, so please consider donating to the Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition as well as the private landowners that pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their property so that you can climb there.•

Photo courtesy of Peter McDermott ©