Climbing Advocates Convene in America’s Heartland

Climbing advocacy is alive and well in America's heartland. Last month, Access Fund convened 90 climbing advocates from across the midwest region—from Ohio to South Dakota—in Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin to learn and sharpen their skills in protecting and opening climbing areas.

"This was Access Fund’s largest regional summit ever, and the most comprehensive gathering of Midwestern climbing advocates in history," says Jenna Winkler, Access Fund Program Associate.

The two-day summit featured a range of workshops, from maintaining relationships with public land managers, to rebolting, opening private land, and maximizing effectiveness of local climbing organizations. The second day featured hands-on stewardship training at Devil’s Lake State Park, showcasing how to mend worn trails and belay areas and prepare our crags for the influx of climbers to come.

“These summits give climbing advocates an invaluable opportunity to come together and learn from each other’s successes and challenges,” says Affiliate Director Zachary Lesch-Huie, who leads grassroots organizing for Access Fund. “They also help us stay connected as a strong and growing community of advocates.”

The climbing advocacy movement is growing and gaining steam across the country. Access Fund now has over 130 affiliate local climbing organizations, made up of volunteer climbing advocates who want to make a difference in protecting and stewarding of their local crags.

“I used to go out to climb and see litter, a bad bolt, or things that I wanted to see improved, and I’d always think: ‘someone should really do something about that’. At some point I had the realization that for climbers, it’s all of our responsibility. We can’t just keep kicking the can down the road and saying someone else should do this. I should be that someone,” remarks Judith Brown, President of Arkansas Climbers Coalition, who attended the summit.

Check out Episode 8 of The Climbing Advocate Podcast for an overview of the summit and interviews with climbing advocates from the region. You can also learn more about the topics presented at the Midwest Climbing Advocacy Summit by reviewing the proceedings and presentation materials available for download here.

Special thanks to our local partner, Wisconsin Climbers Association, for making the summit a success. Also in attendance were Minnesota Climbers Association, Illinois Climbers Association, Ohio Climbers Coalition, BETA Fund, Arkansas Climbers Coalition, Duluth Climbers Coalition, Iowa Climbers Coalition, Black Hills Climbers Coalition, and Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition.

Want to attend a climbing advocacy summit? Join us in Seattle, Washington on October 11 for our largest climbing advocacy summit of the year! More information is available here.

Devil’s Lake, WI is located on Anishinabewaki Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux) territories.