Meet 2017's Outstanding Climbing Advocates

We're proud to announce our 2017 Sharp End Awards. For 20 years, Access Fund has been recognizing the outstanding work of climbing advocates across the country. Among this year’s honorees are rockstar local climbing organizations, bolt warriors, climbing stewards, acquisition gurus, and visionary educators. These individuals and organizations stand out in their commitment to the American climbing community.

Peter Clark

For commitment to climbing advocacy and conservation in Massachusetts and beyond. A board member and former president of the Western Massachusetts Climbers Coalition, Peter has worked tirelessly to steward and protect important areas like Farley Ledges and Rattlesnake Gutter. He also mobilized new local climbing organizations, such as the Monadnock Climbers Association, and his work as a cliff ecologist has helped preserve access to New River Gorge and Breaks Interstate Park, helping Access Fund create more sustainable climbing management solutions.

John Connor

For his role in establishing the Climber Stewards program, a unique partnership between National Park Service staff and dedicated volunteer climbers. He was instrumental in establishing the Climbing Stewards as an official nonprofit, broadening its services, and expanding it from Yosemite to Joshua Tree National Park and Devils Tower National Monument—and he has big plans to make the program available at national parks and other federally managed climbing resources across the country.

Yasmeen Fowler

For leadership of Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC). Under her leadership, the coalition paid off loans on its Miller Fork Recreational Preserve property and purchased Bald Rock Recreational Preserve, securing access to the Motherlode, Chocolate Factory, and other renowned crags. Under Yasmeen’s forward-thinking guidance, RRGCC also increased protections on 1,000-plus acres of climbing by partnering with Access Fund to establish permanent easements on all three of their climbing preserves.

Rusty George

For support and mentorship of young adults in the importance of stewardship and volunteerism. For years, Rusty has brought his high school students from Montrose, Colorado, to help build sustainable trails throughout Indian Creek in Utah. Each year his students spend two to three days moving building material (like large sandstone blocks) to create sustainable climbing access trails. Rusty’s dedication and support have left a lasting legacy at Indian Creek.

Matthew Gant

For leadership of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) and his dedicated work to preserve and protect climbing areas in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. During Matthew’s eight-year presidency, SCC successfully acquired three properties, including the Hospital Boulders, access to Deep Creek, and the landmark Denny Cove. Matthew has also led over 100 trail days at local climbing areas and helped grow SCC into a sustainable local climbing organization.

Greg German

For dedication to advancing standards and techniques in fixed anchor replacement at the national level and work as a volunteer with the Action Committee for Eldorado (ACE). Greg has been volunteering with ACE since 2012 on the Fixed Hardware Review Committee for Eldorado Canyon State Park. He also spends a great deal of time replacing bad bolts. Greg’s curiosity and ingenuity coupled with his dedication to fixed anchor replacement led him to develop cutting-edge techniques in the like-for-like replacement of aging fixed hardware.

Geir Hundal

For work with the Climbing Association of Southern Arizona (CASA) and for dedication to advancing standards and techniques in fixed anchor replacement at the national level. Geir has dedicated countless hours to replacing aging fixed anchors at crags across southern Arizona. He also developed the Hurley Jr. and Hurley Sr. bolt removal devices and works with Access Fund to make the tools available to volunteers across the country.

Eric Sophiea

For leadership in founding the Climbing Association of Southern Arizona (CASA) to steward and protect Tucson climbing areas. Eric has led bolt replacement and stewardship projects at climbing areas across the region, and he helped establish a Youth Stewardship Day to get young volunteers more involved in the community. Eric received a 2017 Cox Conserves Heroes award for his founding leadership and received a $10,000 award to invest in CASA.

Mike Whelan

For opening John Boyd Thacher State Park in New York to climbing. Mike identified the massive potential for single-pitch rock and ice climbing on Thacher’s extensive limestone, founded the Thacher Climbing Coalition (TCC), and worked with Access Fund and the park on a climbing management plan that allowed for responsible route development of the new area. Mike’s years of effort paid off last year when TCC joined Thacher State Park in celebrating the park’s official opening to climbing.

Central Appalachia Climbers Coalition

For the successful purchase of the AVP Boulders at Grayson Highlands and remarkable success in preserving and protecting climbing areas across the Central Appalachia region. Working with Access Fund, CACC led careful negotiations to subdivide and purchase a small portion of the landowner’s property, which contained the AVP Boulder and adjacent blocs. CACC’s board members have also opened major new climbing areas in the region—Breaks Interstate Park and Flag Rock Recreation Area—by partnering with local towns and state parks to show that climbing and outdoor recreation are good for both the economy and the health of local communities.

Touchstone Climbing

For leadership in promoting responsible outdoor climbing practices by mentoring new climbers and educating its members on threats to climbing access. Touchstone consistently provides its community with opportunities to get involved and give back, and also supports Access Fund’s work as a member gym.

East Tennessee Climbers Coalition

For the successful acquisition of the parking and access trail to Clear Creek, one of the Obed area’s most popular climbing areas. ETCC rallied a grassroots fundraising effort to purchase the property and secure climbing access. For more than a decade, ETCC’s all-volunteer board has maintained an excellent partnership with local land managers in the Obed region.

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
Dan Brayack

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