11 of the Most Inspiring Climbing Advocates of 2019

The climbing advocacy movement is stronger than ever, with inspiring work happening every day, in every corner of the country. Here are some of our favorite climbing advocate stories from 2019.

Kareemah Batts

Kareemah founded the Adaptive Climbing Group, a program designed to give people with disabilities opportunities to participate in the sport of climbing. Since 2012, she has been actively growing the community of climbers and volunteers, which now has over 1,000 adaptive participants nationwide, and helping to develop adaptive programs at gyms and outdoor crags. Kareemah is deeply and fiercely passionate about fostering diverse and inclusive climbing initiatives. Last fall, she presented to a packed workshop at the 2018 Access Fund Climbing Advocacy Summit. "True access is more than a day or a week, it is constant and sustainable," says Batts. This year she also served on the JEDI taskforce for Climb The Hill.

Aaron Mike

A local of Flagstaff, Arizona, Aaron has been working as the Access Fund Native Lands Coordinator since 2014, helping to build partnerships between climbers and tribes to protect native lands and cultural resources, as well as promote the importance of the Native voice within the outdoor industry. A member of the Navajo Nation, Aaron also works closely with NativesOutdoors, an outdoor company whose products support indigenous people and local advocacy groups to promote outdoor recreation in underprivileged communities.

Judith Brown

Judith’s home state of Arkansas is seeing more climbers than ever before. As Chair of the Arkansas Climbers Coalition, she is leading stewardship and advocacy work in the region and working to engage the growing climbing community. Judith is tackling human waste issues at local crags, working to install WAG bag stations at popular climbing areas. She is also a dedicated bolt replacer and can regularly be found hanging on the side of a cliff replacing manky old bolts and hardware. Judith also presented on a panel of local climbing organization leaders at Access Fund's Midwest Climbing Advocacy Summit in Devil's Lake, Wisconsin this May.

Andrea Hassler

Andrea spent the last two years traveling the country as a member of the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team. A natural leader, Andrea inspired and trained thousands of climbers in the importance of climbing area sustainability—leaving a lasting legacy of stewardship and volunteerism across the country. Andrea has recently deepened her dedication to the climbing advocacy community by stepping into a new role as Executive Director of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC), taking the reigns of one of the most successful and longest running local climbing organizations. We’re thrilled to see Andrea stay within the climbing advocacy community and excited to see her lead SCC into the future.

Chris Schulte

Recipient of a 2018 Climbing Advocate Award, Chris Schulte is an inspired athlete and role model in climbing advocacy, conservation, and volunteerism. Not only does he set a stellar example for sustainable, low-impact climbing, he has also been a tireless advocate and steward for Indian Creek and the broader Bears Ears National Monument. Chris helped tell the incredible story of Bears Ears through a Google Voyager Story and helped lead an Access Fund Fireside Chat to inspire climbers to help protect America’s public lands.

Bethany Lebewitz

Bethany works tirelessly to create a more inclusive climbing and conservation community. She has made a lasting impact through her work to build Brown Girls Climb and bring more diverse voices to advocate for the protection of our public lands and to steward our climbing areas. Recipient of the 2018 Climbing Advocate Award, Bethany’s leadership at Climb The Hill and Access Fund’s annual Climbing Advocacy Summits have made a lasting impact on climbing advocates and the wider conservation community. Bethany is also a volunteer climbing coach who works to bring more kids of color into the sport.

Chloe Wasteneys

Over the last two years, Chloe has worked with Access Fund to expand our advocacy efforts in the Bozeman, Montana area. She has worked diligently to connect the local climbing and conservation communities and organized multiple fundraisers, showcasing a passion for protecting America’s climbing. Chloe is a member of our first-ever Community Ambassador program, volunteering her time to spread knowledge and awareness about protecting and caring for our climbing areas.

USA Climbing

The national governing body for the sport of competition climbing has made a significant commitment to outdoor climbing conservation. The organization will donate a portion of every USA Climbing competitor and collegiate membership to support Access Fund's mission to protect America's climbing. We applaud this forward-looking commitment to sustaining our climbing areas and look forward to many years of partnership with USA Climbing.

Alex Guzman

One of our first Community Ambassadors, Alex is leading the way in promoting Access Fund’s mission of responsible climbing ethics in central California. Alex has also been exploring opportunities with California collegiate climbing teams to incorporate climbing ethics and advocacy into their programs, ensuring that climbing stewardship best practices are passed down for years to come. Thank you Alex for your drive and enthusiasm!

Shelma Jun

Shelma, Access Fund board director and founder of Flash Foxy, led the creation of a new JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) Taskforce that worked to add a JEDI lens to the advocacy agenda of this year's Climb the Hill event in Washington, DC. The task force provided training and resources to attendees—enabling them to speak to lawmakers about climbing access and public lands in ways that acknowledge the experiences and challenges felt by many underrepresented groups in our community. Learn more about Shelma’s work in our latest Climbing Advocate Podcast.

Julia Geisler

Executive Director of the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance, Julia has led the organization’s work to preserve and protect climbing in and around Utah's Wasatch Range for more than 8 years. Her work spans advocacy, stewardship, local organizing, and climber education. A seasoned public lands advocate, Julia was a member of the Utah team at this year's Climb The Hill in Washington, D.C, where she met with Utah lawmakers to advocate the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area Act and with US Forest Service officials to ask for balanced climbing management guidelines that allow for fixed anchor maintenance.

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
Dan Brayack

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