Climbing Isn’t "Free": Giving Back to the Climbing Community
The regular use of climbing areas causes impact, from the parking lot all the way to the crag. These impacts include trampling vegetation, human waste, soil erosion, degradation of cultural artifacts, and changes to the routes themselves. Just think about how many times our hands and feet end up touching the rock! This alone can change the shape of holds. With the amount of use our climbing areas are experiencing, what is it going to take to sustain them?
When climbing areas were first developed, there was no foresight that, by 2018, there would be more than 2.5 million outdoor climbers in the U.S. As a result, things such as durable trails, large parking areas, bathrooms, and long-lasting bolts and anchors were not a consideration. Luckily, we now have local and national climbing organizations that help manage and maintain our crags, as well as education climbers about how they can help. Regardless of the existence of these organizations, at the end of the day, the responsibility lies with us. Without support from the members of the climbing community, these organizations cannot sustain their mission and further the sport for us to enjoy.
At this point, you might be wondering what you can do to give back, and perhaps earn yourself some good climbing karma (never a bad thing). Here are some suggestions for climbing organizations that you can support and ways to get involved:
National Climbing Organizations
The American Alpine Club is the oldest climbing organization in the U.S. The AAC was founded in 1902 and its mission is to promote and preserve the climbing way of life. With the influence of John Muir, the club has held a central role in environment conservation, developing relationships with the Forest and National Park Service to balance preservation needs, and addressing ethics, access and wilderness management.
In addition to joining the AAC, you can get involved with one of the local chapters, which connects members through local events, stewardship projects, and education. Here in the Northeast, which spans from Maine to Maryland, we have the longest climbing history in the nation, so there is something for every climber.
Another national organization that maintains and develops climbing areas is the Access Fund. 1 in 5 climbing areas in the United States are threatened, and this is why the Access Fund exists. Their work includes:
Protecting Public Lands
Buying Threatened Climbing Areas
Restoring Climbing Areas
Replacing Aging Bolts
Inspiring Climbing Advocacy
Mentoring Responsible Climbers
The Access Fund, however, is only part of the equation when it comes to accomplishing this to do list, as they rely on the help from more than 95 local climbing advocacy organizations across the country. The volunteers at these local organizations are the boots on the ground that help tackle local access issues, steward their climbing areas, build relationships with landowners and managers, and educate and inspire their local climbing community. You can join the Access Fund on a yearly basis as a member and join the fight to protect rock climbing in the U.S.
Local Climbing Organizations
Due to the deep climbing history established here in the Northeast, we have many wonderful organizations, and one of these local groups is a great place to get started. These organizations do the bulk of the work to maintain access to our favorite local crags. They are always in need of monetary donations, but also host trail days and other events where you can help out. Here is a state-by-state list of our local organizations:
Acadia National Park Climbing Advisory Committee
Clifton Climber's Alliance
Friends of the Ledges
Monadnock Climbers Association
Rumney Climbers Association
Southeast New England Climbers Coalition
Western Massachusetts Climbers Coalition
Ragged Mountain Foundation
This last organization may not be specific to climbing, but it is at the center of helping to protect the outdoors, Leave No Trace. Whenever we go and enjoy the outdoors, we should be mindful of the principles put forth by LNT so that we can play our part in being a responsible steward. LNT relies on the support of outdoor enthusiasts in order to deliver education and research to millions of people every year.
All the organizations mentioned above are not only worthy of your support, but they need it. Your contribution does not have to be big to make a difference. We encourage you to at least choose one to support if you enjoy using our local climbing areas.
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