No one loves our climbing landscapes and the experiences they offer quite the same way that climbers do. But we must be willing and committed to fight for them. Not just for access, but for the integrity of these amazing places.
As our sport continues to grow in popularity, overcrowding is stressing these outdoor landscapes beyond their ability to recover naturally. This not only threatens access, but it degrades the climbing areas that we hold so dear.
Today, 1 in 5 climbing areas in the United States is threatened by an access issue—whether its private land lost to development, public land managers over-regulating climbing, or climber impacts degrading the environment, the list of threats is long and constantly evolving.
But they can be managed. At Access Fund, we are on a mission to protect climbing access and the integrity of America’s outdoor climbing areas.
Now, make a decision to help. Commit to protecting the places you love to climb.
Threats to climbing access come in many forms—private climbing areas put up for sale, land managers over-regulating climbing, user impacts degrading the climbing environment, landowners fearful of liability, the list goes on. Our approach to protecting climbing areas is as multifaceted as the threats.
CLIMBING POLICY & ADVOCACY
The vast majority of our climbing areas are located on public lands. Every day, land managers use their legal authority to regulate climbing—often times without the experience or knowledge to make informed decisions. Imagine how chaotic that could be if there wasn’t an advocacy organization there to represent climbers’ interests. Thankfully, you don’t have to. Learn More
LAND ACQUISITION & PROTECTION
Sometimes the only way to save a threatened climbing area is to buy it. Privately owned climbing areas can go up for sale with little or no warning, and when they do, we must act quickly to save them. Learn More
STEWARDSHIP & CONSERVATION
Micro Trash. Erosion. Human Waste. Are we loving our climbing areas to death? Climber impacts on our outdoor landscapes are greater than ever. But there is a solution, and it starts with you. Learn More
RISK MANAGEMENT & LANDOWNER SUPPORT
Risk. Liability. Lawsuits. The fear associated with these three little words prevents many landowners from opening their property to climbing. But the perception of risk associated with climbing is largely overstated and misunderstood. And risk can be easily managed when climbers and landowners work together… Learn More
LOCAL SUPPORT & MOBILIZATION
The first and best line of defense for a local access issue is almost always the local climbers who are familiar with the area and the issues. That’s why a critical piece of our work is establishing local climbing organizations and working to make them as effective as possible. When an access issue occurs in your backyard, who will be there to help? Learn More
Twenty years ago, a day out climbing often meant you were unlikely to see another soul. If you strayed off a trail or dropped a piece of tape, it had limited impact. Today, there are millions of climbers visiting our climbing areas—and they are showing the impact. Having a vague knowledge of minimum impact practices is no longer enough. It’s time to elevate our game—and it starts with you. Learn More
In the mid 1980s, climbers began to see access problems popping up all across the country. It was the beginning of the sport climbing movement, and many land managers suddenly felt overwhelmed by the number of people climbing. With little knowledge about the sport, and no experience regulating it, climbing areas were being closed down.
Fueling the rising panic around closures, the climbing community was also in upheaval over the ethics of sport climbing. Debates ranged from rap bolting to hang dogging, and climbers were lining up on either side of those issues—some of whom were lobbying government agencies to try and prohibit things like rap bolting.
In 1985, the American Alpine Club formed an Access Committee to confront the closures—many of which could only be resolved by taking on the federal government or the outright purchase of property.
After just a few years, the access problems were so widespread, that it became clear that the climbing community needed a dedicated organization to take on these issues.
So in 1991, the Access Fund was formed as its own organization to represent climbers and work to keep climbing areas open. Born in the midst of the “bolt wars” era, one of the first decisions the Access Fund made was not to take sides in ethical debates, but to defend climbing in all its forms. If the climbing community, within itself wanted to say, as a matter of ethics, that 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. This is still the Access Fund’s policy today.
One of Access Fund’s biggest issues of the time was fighting anti-bolt policies at National Parks and Forests across the nation. Land managers all over the country were attempting to prohibit bolting, and Access Fund would fight each threat individually—but it was like getting killed by a thousand cuts. It quickly became clear that Access Fund needed to start dealing with the source—the government officials who made the rules back in Washington, DC.
Today, the Access Fund is actively working at hundreds of climbing areas around the country—working to reverse or prevent closures, reduce climbers’ environmental impacts, buy threatened climbing areas, help landowners manage risk and liability concerns, and educate the next generation of climbers on responsible climbing practices that protect access. The Access Fund is proud to publicize its history and groundbreaking actions in its newsletter, Vertical Times.