August 29, 2016

Pictogram: Organizing Your Gear

This pictogram series provides simple and engaging guidance on how our behaviors can impact the climbing environment. We encourage local climbing organizations, gyms, and other organizations to use these pictograms to help raise awareness of how to reduce our impact when climbing outdoors. Pick and choose the issues most relevant to your local climbing area. Download the files below and use these pictograms:

  • In your social media outreach
  • On your blog
  • In an e-newsletter
  • On your website

The base of cliffs and boulders receive significant impact from regular use. Minimize impacts to soil and vegetation by keeping your gear organized and placed on durable surfaces near the base of the rock.

Organizing Your Gear

June 10, 2016

5 Things to Know Before You Climb in the Alpine

As the weather heats up, many of us will be heading into the alpine to get our climbing fix in cooler temperatures. The alpine zone, typically occurring above consistent tree line, is characterized by rocky talus slopes, dwarfed trees, and highly sensitive vegetation. The alpine environment is one of the most fragile places we climb. Shorter growing seasons, limited soil, and fragile plant life make it especially important for us to tread lightly and reduce our impact. As an increasing number of climbers are heading into the alpine, land managers have growing concerns and are paying close attention.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind before you head into the alpine on your next climbing adventure.

  1. Stashing pads and gear is illegal in most places and hurts wildlife. We get it. Alpine approaches can be arduous. If you’re projecting, hauling all that gear is a drag. But stashing gear is not worth the price we’ll all pay for access if a land manager finds it (and trust us, they are looking). It’s also not worth the hit to your wallet or the health of wildlife if hungry marmots eat it. Mountain goats, marmots, and other wild critters crave salt, and they will munch on your sweaty pad, giving them an unhealthy mix of synthetic fibers and human salt.
  2. Thin alpine soil lacks the micro-organisms needed to biodegrade human waste properly. If you don’t know how to pack out your own poop in a bag, it is time you learned. Bag systems like RESTOP or Cleanwaste WAG Bags seal up tight with virtually no stink or nasty factor. Pack out that TP as well.
  3. Plant species in the alpine will take decades to restore if trampled. Don’t pile on a bunch of extra crash pads, and be extra careful where you place your pads and gear. Limit group size to minimize your impact. When traveling off trail, stick to durable surfaces like rock or talus slopes so you aren’t crushing sensitive plants.
  4. Many alpine areas require permits. Do your research ahead of time. Many remote, backcountry areas in alpine environments have a permit system to limit the number of visitors in a particular area due to its sensitivity.
  5. Marmots, pikas, and bears all want to steal your lunch. Unless you want your favorite boulder field patrolled by hungry bears, take care to store your food so that critters can’t get into it. Hang your food, pack out trash and food waste, and use a bear canister where recommended by land managers. Improperly stored food will attract wild critters, leading to food conditioning and increases in human-wildlife encounters.

The alpine environment can be one of the most spectacular places to climb. Thanks for doing your part to take care of this sensitive environment and ensure we don’t lose access.

March 24, 2016

Let's Talk About Poop

Everybody does it. Whether you’re cragging, hanging off the side of a big wall, or making your way across a glacier, poop happens. But did you know that the improper disposal of human waste is becoming a growing problem at our climbing areas...and it can threaten access. Land managers don’t look kindly on human feces coming in contact (direct or indirect) with drinking water, other recreationalists, or wildlife. Not to mention the transmission of disease-causing pathogens from human waste. Gross, right? Here are some tips to help you take care of business responsibly.


December 02, 2015


20150511-CVB-26Indian Creek. Hueco Tanks. Joshua Tree. Red Rocks. Joe’s Valley. The desert environment is home to iconic climbing destinations. Characterized by little precipitation and sparse populations, the stark landscape of the desert is uniquely fragile and full of life. As such, the desert environment demands some specific minimum- impact practices to protect its sensitive and historically significant terrain.

As you are planning your next desert adventure to climb splitter cracks and towers or wrestle beautifully shaped and colored boulders, keep these six things in mind.

  1. Cryptobiotic soil, or living biological crust, can be destroyed with a single step. This dark, crumbly looking soil is a living crust that plays an important ecological role in many desert environments by drawing nutrients into the soil while protecting it from erosion by wind and rain. Stay on established trails and durable, low-impact corridors to avoid crushing this delicate crust, which can take decades to regenerate.
  2. Desert soil lacks the microorganisms to biodegrade human waste. Use facilities where available or pack out your poop. We recommend the RESTOP bag, which is easy to use and seals the stink.
  3. The desert is home to sites of cultural and historical significance. Look, but don’t touch. Not only does the Archaeological Resources Protection Act make it a federal crime to steal or destroy artifacts, but the oils on our fingers, the chalk on our hands, and the rubber on our shoes can ruin these resources. Access Fund works with land management agencies to ensure a balanced approach to protecting culturally significant resources, such as petroglyphs and Native American sacred sites, and maintaining climbing access. Respect all closures.
  4. Climbing on wet sandstone can forever alter the rock and cause gear placements to fail. Always wait 24–48 hours after a rain to climb on sandstone to avoid damaging the rock and risking weak gear placements.
  5. Plant communities are highly sensitive and stressed. Searing heat, low water, and high winds regularly abuse desert plants. Pay careful attention to gear sprawl, pad placement, and off-trail travel to avoid additional challenges for these special plants.
  6. Horsehair brushes are best for cleaning chalk and debris from sandstone. Use one to avoid damaging the porous rock surface. 

Photo courtesy of ©Whit Richardson


May 12, 2015

5 Tips for Climbing in Groups

Rolling six deep to the crag this weekend? Before you head out, know that climbing in large groups can have a much greater environmental and social impact than climbing in pairs. If you must climb in a large group, follow these 5 tips to minimize your impact:

  1. Carpool - Instead of meeting up at the crag where parking is limited, grab some extra time with your climbing partners by carpooling to minimize your impact.

  2. Get organized - Plan ahead to avoid bringing unnecessary gear and pads that will clutter up the base of the climb, causing erosion and crushed vegetation. Keep your gear organized and place it on durable surfaces, never on plants or roots.

  3. Share the love - Be respectful of other visitors and don’t bogart an entire area by hanging ropes and blocking travel lanes. Forcing people to walk around your group causes social trails and erosion. Once you’re done with a climb, pull your rope and move on.

  4. Keep it tight - We all love to watch someone in our crew send, but the landscape around most crags and boulders is sensitive and should be left untrampled. If you’re on the ground watching, stay in the staging area so that you’re not spreading your impact.

  5. Be an upstander, not a bystander - Social science proves that when people witness others practicing minimum impact behavior they are more likely to follow suit. This becomes especially important for large groups. Step up and lead by example--leave the least impact possible.


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January 06, 2015

Seven Surefire Ways to Lose Climbing Access

7 Surefire Ways to Lose Climbing Access

After 20-plus years of working to protect climbing access, the Access Fund has seen nearly every scenario for how to lose access to our precious crags and boulder fields. Some of those situations are beyond the control of the average climber. But the majority of access issues can be averted if climbers avoid some common pitfalls.

  1. Disrespecting the climbing environment. When you litter, trample vegetation, leave tick marks, cut trail, improperly dispose of human waste, or stash pads, you are damaging the climbing environment. Every climbing area has a threshold, and it’s only a matter of time before unmitigated impacts cause a landowner to shut it down.
  2. Overcrowding. An overcrowded climbing area has a huge impact on the environment (trampled vegetation, unacceptable noise levels, etc), but it’s also a red flag to a land manager that impacts may be teetering on the line of unacceptable. If you get to a climbing area and the parking lot is jam packed, consider finding another, less crowded place to climb.
  3. Accidents. Whenever a climber gets hurt, a landowner gets nervous. Every landowner, both public and private, is concerned about liability on some level. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. The best way to avoid them is to be prepared, don’t take unnecessary risks, and be safe. And if you’re a beginner, don’t go outside without a mentor to teach you properly.
  4. Disrespecting the landowner. It doesn’t matter if you’re climbing on private land or public land, when you see a ranger or a landowner, remember that you’re on THEIR turf, and you represent the climbing community at large. A bad impression goes a long way and puts climbers in a negative light. So smile, say “thank you,” and follow their rules.
  5. Not respecting closures. Many climbing areas have seasonal or permanent closure areas to protect nesting raptors, cultural resources like petroglyphs and sacred sites or sensitive plant life. Respect those closures and stay away from sensitive resources, or risk losing access to the rest of the climbs.
  6. Bolting inappropriately. Most public and private landowners have regulations about where and how you can install bolts. For instance, it’s illegal to use a power drill in a designated wilderness area. Know the rules and ethics at the area before you bolt.
  7. Failing to organize. When climbers come together, we keep more climbing areas open. Access Fund relies on local climbing organizations to be the first line of defense when access issues occur. When locals form an organized group, it’s easier to partner with landowners, have political clout with town and state governments, and get resources to care for your climbing areas.