Calling All Climbers: Mentors Needed

Categories: Community

Anyone who’s bothered to read through climbing forums and social media comments can see that there can be an ugly divide between an old guard of climbers hung up on how the sport used to be and a newer generation just discovering the magic of climbing outside. But Internet vitriol doesn’t lessen crowding or solve any of the problems it is creating at our crags. New climbers are here, and they aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they are becoming more abundant every day.

Experienced route developers mentor newcomers at Inks Ranch in Texas, ancestral lands of Nʉmʉnʉʉ (Comanche). © Brian Tickle

“We can’t blame new climbers for wanting to share in the experiences we love,” says Access Fund Executive Director Chris Winter. “We feel the profound, transformative impact that climbing can have on our lives, and that experience doesn’t belong to us alone.”

But the reality is that all climbers—whether you’ve been climbing for 20 years or 2 months—are creating more impact. Our sheer numbers are outpacing our community’s capacity to solve these issues. But we’re not going to remedy that by complaining. We have to come together, and we have to put our energy into fighting for climbing’s future, not fighting against each other. One critical way of doing that is to bring new climbers into the fold.

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re more than likely already plugged into the climbing advocacy community. We’re asking you to help others plug in as well.

Pro climber Brittany Griffith sharing her knowledge at an Access Fund education event.

The first step? Be welcoming and put yourself out there to bridge the divide.

Mentorship doesn’t need to be a massive commitment or a complicated process. It can be as simple as introducing yourself and offering friendly advice at the crag. Or taking a new climber out for a day and sharing your knowledge. Or using your social media platform to share what you know, alongside your adventure photos.

Almost all new climbers want to know the right way to do things, and delivering that message with respect and kindness is typically welcomed.

Mountaineer, Tyrhee Moore, mentoring City Kids Wilderness Project participants on rope skills before leading them up the Grand Teton in Wyoming. © James Q. Martin

“A lot of new climbers are eager for guidance, honestly,” says Access Fund Stewardship Director Ty Tyler. “For many, it’s their first time outdoors, and there’s no one to help them through.”

Tyler has found that connecting with new climbers at the crag and sharing some of the area’s ethos and history has benefits for him as well. New climbers are unbelievably stoked; it’s hard for some of that not to rub off.

Sharing the stoke can make the whole interaction of talking to new climbers about advocacy and outdoor ethics a lot easier. Winter says he makes an effort to connect with people—in the parking lot, on the hike—to ask them what they’re up to and get excited with them about their objectives. Then later, when he sees someone doing something less than ideal from a stewardship point of view, he finds it easier to talk to them about it.

Mentorship can be a collection of small things. But they add up, and it is the small things that will make the difference between a community that accidentally ruins the places it loves and one that protects them.

Invite new climbers into the fold. Be a mentor. It’s going to take all of us working together to create a sustainable future for climbing.

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