Advocate Spotlight: Raud Kashef

Raud stepped into the climbing advocacy world after getting involved in local Adopt a Crag trail days and rebolting events. He recently took over leadership of the Iowa Climbers Coalition (ICC) and has already partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to open bouldering at Coralville. He is also currently exploring potential access to Iowa’s hidden trove of limestone (some call it the Frankenjura of the Midwest). Raud has a deep passion for Iowa climbing, and he is working to expand climbing opportunities in the area; bring more people into the fold; and build a responsible, ethical climbing community. Dancer, climber, teacher, and community volunteer, Raud is known for always smiling and bringing a deep well of motivation to climbing and advocacy. He also has the quirky but effective habit of wrestling his climbing partner to warm up—so if you rope up with him, watch out!

5 Questions for Raud

What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now?
Access is everything in climbing. Access to community, money, tools, knowledge, transportation—the list goes on. I believe Black Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC), more than anyone, lack these resources. These resources improve quality of life, regardless of climbing. However, even if BIPOC do have access to these resources, large social and cultural hurdles to climbing access still exist. I applaud the local climbers who fight for this change in their communities, and I applaud the professional climbers who use their platform to make real change for BIPOC. We have a lot of room for improvement on this front here in Iowa, and I am excited to get things moving forward.

I’ll end with a recent thought I had in regard to this topic—Individuals who think getting first ascents or climbing hard routes is the pinnacle of the sport have been misled. I believe the pinnacle of climbing is showing empathy for others and our natural environment. First ascents would be a lot more impressive if everyone had the same means of access to the sport.

What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate?
To me, being a climbing advocate means playing a role in creating sustainable growth. Sustainable growth is multifaceted, but in general it means growing in a way that is justifiable. Too often people think growth is simply having more climbing areas, more routes, more climbers. This often leads to climbing areas that are overused, underused, neglected, or exhausted. Sustainable growth requires having a deeper understanding of your community.

I do not want a climbing community that grows too fast without the proper supporting foundation. At the same time, I do not want areas to be developed, only to see that they are not used. In Iowa, I believe it is inevitable for the climbing community to grow. For this reason, I am more concerned with focusing our efforts on making sure the community we currently have is diverse, well-educated on climbing safety and outdoor ethics, and respectful. I want them to know they are part of something bigger than just climbing.

What’s your advice to new advocates?
It is important for local climbing organizations (LCOs) to discuss issues, successes, and other information with Access Fund as much as possible. Access Fund should be the go-to resource for all LCOs, and when they have a large collective of information, all climbing communities grow stronger. The more scenarios that Access Fund works through with LCOs, the more valuable Access Fund becomes as a go-to resource. Many access and climbing-related issues repeat themselves from location to location, and we don’t want to be resolving the same or similar issues when we could be focusing on other projects.

What surprised you the most about getting into the advocacy world?
I never thought I would enjoy working behind a desk so much. Of course, I also never imagined the desk work I’d be doing would be related to rock climbing. I have also received so much help from my local mentors and Access Fund, although that is no surprise.

Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now?
Kai Lightner. He just launched his nonprofit Climbing for Change. He has a great vision for the change he wants to create, and I believe in his ability to get things done. Go, Kai!

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