Advocate Spotlight: Mike Reardon

Mike Reardon is one of the rare individuals lucky enough to call climbing advocacy his profession. As executive director of the Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC), Reardon has helped lead local advocates to open five new climbing areas across the region, including Eagle Rock, Little Bearwallow Falls, Buckeye Knob, and Melrose Mountain in North Carolina, as well as Pumpkintown in South Carolina. He has also forged new partnerships with land managers, allowing local volunteers to log 4,000 hours of crag stewardship work, replace 531 bad bolts, clean more than 100 graffiti sites, and help create a peregrine falcon monitoring program for various cliffs throughout the Carolinas—all in the past year. Mike also works alongside CCC’s board of directors to manage Laurel Knob, Rumbling Bald, Buckeye Knob, and Hidden Valley—all owned and managed by CCC.

Photo courtesy of © Isabela Zawistoswka

5 Questions for Mike:

What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now?
There is nothing like opening a new cliff or boulder field to rock climbing and making access possible for future generations of climbers and visitors. The advantage of opening something new is that it gives us the ability to create crags and boulder fields that are sustainable for their intended use. We evaluate what we like and don’t like in areas that are already open, and we use that knowledge to create smarter and more sustainable access to new areas. For example, Eagle Rock was never formally opened to climbing before our acquisition, and it was clearly our responsibility to provide a plan and infrastructure for sustainable access to the area. We designed and built a sustainable trail with more than 200 stone steps, performed a biological survey that informed fixed anchor placement decisions, replaced rotted hardware, and cleaned graffiti and trash from former misuse of the land. It takes more work from organizations and volunteers to make these plans and follow through with them, but in the end it is worth it.

What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate?
Being a climbing advocate means that you devote time and energy to ensuring that generations of climbers and adventurers can enjoy climbing spaces. It can be as simple as being a positive mentor to another climber, or it can be as complex as working with land managers and policymakers to advocate for climbing.

What’s your advice to new advocates?
Get things in writing. Use your strengths, and build meaningful partnerships and friendships that will help you advocate for your area’s needs. Share the workload. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to do something right. Identify others’ talents, and see if they are willing to share them with your advocacy efforts.

What surprised/challenged/excited you the most about getting into the advocacy world?
It’s surprising how some access projects come together easily, while others take years to come to fruition. Also, the skill set needed to advocate for climbing continues to grow. With each acquisition or partnership we attempt to build, new skills are learned or earned.

Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now?
Tom Caldwell (not to be confused with Tommy Caldwell) is knocking it out of the park throughout the Carolinas. His relationship-building efforts with landowners at Naturaland Trust were invaluable in the opening and ongoing stewardship work at Big Rock, one of South Carolina’s newest and most loved crags. Tom also partnered with Table Rock State Park to open the Pumpkintown Wall, a 300-foot wall of perfect granite in South Carolina. Tom’s ability to organize and rally volunteers has also given our coalition more confidence to model his efforts in other regions of the Carolinas and beyond.

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Climbing Advocate Resources

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