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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

CRAGS Helps AF Unlock Jailhouse!

CRAGS recently worked with the AF to help ensure access to one of NorCals premiere sport climbing areas for now and in the future.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Access Fund Conference - West Virginia New River Gorge

To kick off October, Brian and I (Renee) flew out to West Virginia for the year’s second Access Fund conference. Excited to check out the New River Gorge, we were not disappointed.

I arrived late Thursday night and drove down from Charleston to Fayetteville Friday morning. There I set out to climb with Amy, Joe, and Patrick from the Access Fund, as well as Jonah from Seattle and Tom from San Diego. The new guidebook for the Gorge is incredible, and we easily followed the well-marked trail to some ladders down to an area called Endless Wall for good reason. Tons of great climbs, trad and sport, all levels. I also enjoyed the way Amy would exclaim, “We’re winning!” each time we checked the trail against the map and were on track.

Friday night we all gathered at a nearby campsite and had amazing pizza from a local restaurant courtesy of the NRAC (New River) group. We introduced ourselves and talked about our local climbing areas. It was obvious how proud of the area the NRAC climbers were, and how excited they were to share their rock with us.

Saturday morning we began the conference in the Visitor’s Center across the street from the campsite. They were generous to share their theater room with us, and we stayed much warmer than at the last conference! Saturday began with the ever-enthusiastic Thomson Ling talking about how to get people involved. I then talked about 501(c)(3) tax status and processes, followed by Patrick and Joe discussing more details of property rights and conservation strategies. Patrick had great info about how to get information about land and property boundaries, and both he and Joe showed what incredible sources of knowledge they are for any questions in this area.

After lunch, Anthony talked about the acquisition process, and Jonah showed an example of public/private partnerships by focusing on his work at Index near Seattle. Following this, we all split off in the mid-afternoon to experience a bit more local climbing. I followed local climber Jay to a new area that isn’t even in the guidebooks yet. My little rental Prius barely survived the rugged gravel road (and my passengers had to get out because it was bottoming out too much!). The climbing area was right off this, though, and I enjoyed how so much great climbing had easy access. (In California, I feel I’m often doing an hour’s rugged hike before I get to climb!)

Saturday night we checked out Gene’s outdoor store and then walked down the block to eat. The restaurant donated 10% of our bill and the waiters donated 25% (!) of their tips to the Access Fund that night. How generous!

Sunday we met up again and discussed fundraising, easements, and had a panel discussion on risk management and private land ownership issues. After lunch, Pete presented his doctoral study on the impacts of climbing on overhanging cliffs (though unfortunately we have to wait for his results). The photos and detail were fascinating. At this point, I had to head out to catch my flight home, but I believe Amy talked about land management and stewardship, and Patrick talked about the conservation toolbox he’s been working on.

In sum, it was another excellent weekend filled with some of the most motivated climbers around from all sides of the country. I learn so much and make great new friends and contacts that will be working through the same issues as CRAGS and will offer support whenever we need it. What a great network of people!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 5 Adopt-a-Crag at Lovers Leap - A Great Success!

On a sunny Saturday morning, several carloads of climbers drove up from Sacramento to Lovers Leap. A great crowd of more enthusiastic climbers met us there, as many had chosen to spend the night at the campground to get in some more climbing.

The park rangers arrived exactly on time and were full of ideas and supplies! We split into groups and began preparing the campsites and some approach areas for the upcoming season.

While we moved from site to site, someone commented how it felt like we were providing room service to the campers. It did feel like that! The campers left their belongings at the sites while they went out to climb or hike, and we came through during the day in a flurry of housekeeping activities, leaving the sites sparkling clean for their returns.

All the picnic tables were scraped of old paint and repainted (mostly by our youngest helpers, who ended up wearing a lot of paint themselves). Apologies to the parents (who were wonderful at supervising and exceptionally patient with the extra paint!). :-) We also had teams of volunteers raking and sweeping all the trails through the campground as well as within the sites. It was incredible how much fresher the sites looked after their careful work!

Fire pits were emptied, and loads of new firewood (from fallen trees) was chopped and stacked. I wish I could have seen the looks on campers’ faces who returned to find a stack of new nice wood waiting in their sites. Our wood choppers did a lot of hard labor and made huge progress in just a few hours.

Another group headed up near the main wall to rebuild a retaining wall. One of those volunteers remarked that he’d been wanting to fix it for ages. With a good team of motivated people, the job was quickly accomplished.

Around 1 PM, the sites looked ready, wood was chopped, steps were built, and everyone was hungry! Our injured leader Brian, eager to participate where he could, manned the grill despite crutches, and everyone enjoyed lunch together while sharing what they had been off working on. Several groups hiked off after this to squeeze in a few climbs before sunset.

The Leap is one of the most spectacular climbing areas in northern California, and CRAGS was excited to partner with local park services in this adopt-a-crag event in order to show our support and bring people together in the climbing community. Special thanks to all the new faces that came! We are excited to meet you and look forward to seeing you at more events.

Photos coming soon!


Friday, May 14, 2010

June 5, 2010 - Lovers Leap Adopt-a-Crag Event

On June 5, we are going to be assisting the park services with preparing Lovers Leap for the new climbing season! Please join us by meeting at 8am at Pipeworks Climbing Gym (116 N. 16th St., Sacramento) to carpool. We look forward to seeing you!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Access Fund Summit - Trip Report (by Renee)

Above all, remember that you’re a climber. –Paul Morley from SECC

At the end of March, Brian and I flew down to Vegas for the Access Fund Summit. Brian had been the previous year, but this was my first time. And my expectations were blown away.

Brian had looked up the building we were meeting in in Blue Diamond, which is just outside the city, and he joked that it looked like an igloo. Ironically, it turned out to be the coldest building I’ve ever spent time in. This includes my office, where I am forced to wear a sweater during 100+ degree Sacramento summers. Despite the beautiful weather outside, we all bundled up in down jackets, hats, gloves and scarves while inside.

It was worth every freezing minute.

I knew I liked these people as soon as I saw they’d included nutella in the breakfast spread. We began with introductions and then a panel discussion. Next, Brian led a discussion on partnering with federal agencies, and then Gary talked about partnering with state and local agencies. Both focused on a spirit of cooperation and an attitude that presumes we’re all (climbers and agencies) working for the best for the land and each other.

Some key ideas I noted:

-Hold climbing season movie nights or slideshows to build community.

-Friends of J-Tree sponsors “Climbers’ Coffee” where they fund the materials for park services to host the event…this builds their relationships.

-An MOU (memorandum of understanding) lets you be the voice for your group.

-There are a variety of ideas for membership. Some groups prefer to do lifetime membership to simplify the process and focus on other events instead of the constant effort to renew members.

-It’s useful to partner with other outdoor groups. Home owners may also be interested in your efforts.

-There will be people who misuse resources…try to outnumber them with good deeds.

-Volunteering to do work for the park services is a win-win. They get credit for your volunteer hours. Volunteering also leaves everyone with a feeling of ownership for the area.

-Holding a retreat for your board helps everyone focus and plan the goals.

-Lisa from LV uses to post opportunities.

-Discussed the Freedom of Information Act and how it’s helped in many situations. Similar policies exist under different names at the state level.

-Focus on the job spin to get government attention…if developing your area will affect the job situation positively, point that out!

-Don’t do events that compete with guide services.

-We need to work on linking to each other’s LCO websites.

After a delicious lunch that Amy arranged, and a quick thaw outside in the sun, we returned for the afternoon session. Steve discussed NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, and armed us with some great materials to take home. Jason talked about fixed anchors after that. I learned that federally designated wilderness is defined as not allowing mechanized (like mountain bikes) or motorized (like drills) equipment in the grounds. Federal services include Park Service, Forest Service, BLM, and Fish & Wildlife territory.

Finishing in the early afternoon, we took a quick group pictures and made a move out to the rocks! The majority of us rolled into Calico and spread out. I was already impressed by my peers, but this is where I became really impressed. I have never experienced a group of so many people, who had mostly just met, climbing so well together. But it was really that simple. We were all ecstatic to be there, playing on incredible rock in a new place.

Within very little time we had a wall of top ropes set up so the majority of people could rotate and climb their fill, while those who had fit ropes into their luggage led harder climbs on the other three sides of the rock. I haven’t “warmed up” on a hard 11 in a long time…these folks weren’t messing around! Special thanks to the locals that quickly told us where to go and what was what. I loved getting to climb with so many new people who adore the sport.

Sunday morning was kicked off by Paul’s “Strength and Motivation” presentation, appropriate for someone who had gotten up at 5:30am to try to send a problem before the session started. The SECC is one of the more accomplished LCOs, and hearing what the experienced organizations have been able to accomplish was truly inspiring. The idea that we could purchase land to preserve climbing…wow. These groups are making the unbelievable happen.

Kevin and Greg followed this with a discussion on handling raptors and proposed closures. I learned a lot and was really impressed by the amount of work that the San Diego LCO has put into this. Another expert from the east coast, Anthony, spoke about climbing management plans, and then Jason & Doug talked about planning and historic designations. (Note to self: definitely go climb at City of Rocks.) Thompson taught us some psychological tricks for building a stronger org, and Joe explained more about land conservation options.

A few more things I noted:

-“Teamworks” teaches kids about conservation by creating friendly competition.

-Discussed insurance options…something we all need to consider

-Seasonal newsletters are a good way to stay in touch

-Climbing with different people from your normal crew gives you new perspectives on your community and its needs.

-Compromising with a raptor advisory is better than a closure if the birds aren’t at risk

-Don’t forget local university resources

-State Historic Preservation Office could be useful

-Have a personal mission as well as your org’s mission

Overall, an amazing weekend full of great knowledge and energetic, motivated climbers. Thanks to Amy, Brady, and Dean from the Access Fund for putting together such a great event!


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Minutes from 3/9 - CRAGS

Attendees: Gordy, Renee, Brian, Ellen, Rob
Apologies: Aaron, Jason

-Brian met with Schroder & Finnigan (sp?) about Auburn and is awaiting a response

-Tax status: still getting push-back. Ellen and Brian to craft a new letter. (Done)

-Leap clean-up
-Have 3 local contacts that are helpful
-Rob is working the recycling angle
-Question raised as to if we could offer volunteers a free pass in trade?
-Jason's CRAGS' facebook page will help with advertising - maybe mid-May to start recruiting
-June 5 tentatively marked for this, but will have to see about weather

-Blog: Aaron added new educational material

-Want to put general membership on the next agenda. Could consider doing a newsletter.

-Next board meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 15, 7pm at Pipeworks.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Minutes from 1/28 - CRAGS

Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2010 11:44:14 -0800

Attendees: Renee, Aaron, Rob, Jason, Andrew, Ellen, Brian
Apols: Gordy, Colin

-Access Fund meeting is in Red Rocks (Vegas) March 26-28. Brian to send follow-up (done). All are invited and it's free.
-Discussions will be about public land issues

-Unanimous voting to elect Renee, Aaron, Jason, and Ellen to the BOD

-Andrew and Brian continue working on our tax forms and status. Got a reply to our 501c3 application, to which Brian sent a very thorough explanation in response.

-Discussed spring Adopt-a-Crag plans.
-Agreed on The Leap.
-Late May or early June.
-Options: lodge support, trail creation, recycling, clean-up
-Ellen offered to contact Forest Service and Rob to contact the lodge within the next two weeks to talk with them and see what ideas they have. They'll send an update via email after that.

-Next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 9th (7pm PW).
Gordy - does this work for you? We could do Wednesday, too.
-Will need to do officer elections at the next meeting.


Local Geology and the Question of Exactly How Buffed Are Your Routes?

Most peoples experience in climbing revolves around a steady progression of climbs at lower grades moving to harder as their skills increase. This general progression through the learning curve of grades often results in many people climbing the same routes over and over again, particularly at the low grades. The result? Buffed Routes!

When I say Buffed, I don't mean these climbs have muscles, it means that throughout the years, in some of the older more established areas decades, the routes are slowly but surely cleaned of all loose rock by the passage and pulling of hundreds if not thousands of ascents. This often leaves new comers, and even some picky old timers, with the perspective that all climbing routes are magically clean from the get go. This is most often not the case, and in the case of newly developed routes, is generally the exception, not the norm.

Now there are some routes, most often due to the variety of local geological rock type, that will never be bullet or buffed, but to some, this is all part of the magic of climbing. The Bay and Sacramento area runs the gauntlet of climbable rock in just about every imaginable rock type. This wide variety in local geology can make for a very different climbing experience depending on where you go. From an educational view think of it like this:

Slabby rock generally is subject to more weathering ranging from rain to wind. This often results in cleaner rock which often may be covered by moss or lichen in areas with wetter or shadier climates. Overhanging rock is usually less exposed and therefore often is more chossy. Look at areas like Rifle, CO or American Fork near Salt Lake to see prime examples. The beauty of this rock though is once "cleaned" the "chossiness" provides great climbing features that allow steep expanses of rock to be actually climbable. Local examples include Table Mountain near Sonora, Big Chief, the Bear near Calistoga.

Granitic/igneous rock or other extremely dense rock is usually cleaner from the get go. Think about places like Yosemite, Cosumnes, or Lovers Leap. Most of these areas require little cleaning of moss/lichen on key holds and then kicking the rock to free the few loose areas. These routes often reach "buffed" within a few ascents.

In contrast softer sedimentary rock, like sandstone or limestone, generally are more chossy to start and will require more cleaning as well as more traffic to clean up to "buffed" status. Good local examples of this are Mt. Diablo, Auburn SRA, or Castle Rock SP.

And then there is volcanic rock which can range from dense columnar basalt to breccia of mid-grade density to soft and porous welded tuff. These areas can go from limited cleaning in slabbier areas, to overhanging well featured semi-construction level efforts to clean. The rock quality can range from bullet like Putah Creek, to slightly less bullet but still solid aka Nut Tree, to Big Chief Table Rock semi-chossy that cleans up nicely, to Mount Saint Helena (MSH) grade welded tuff to the north of the 29 aka The Bear and Bubble, progressing (or digressing depending how you look at it) in quality to the Pinnacles in the South Bay to Table Scraps and Table Rock on the south of 29 on MSH.

The bottom line is take time to educate yourself about any area you plan on visiting and adjust your expectations to rock quality factoring density and years established to maximize your experience. If you go to Table Scraps (soft rock that was established in the last few months with little traffic) thinking it will be roughly equivalent "buffed-wise" to anything in the Grotto 5.10 and under which has seen thousands of ascents over many years and is made of much more dense basalt, you are setting unrealistic expectations. Other considerations for choosing your destination over any given trip is weather. Give the rock a day or two to dry out after any rain for softer areas like Mt Diablo, Table Rock, or Auburn. Softer more porous rock absorbs more water and therefore is weakened by rain more so than granitic or dense rock areas which often just take a stiff breeze to dry in a few hours like The Nut Tree Boulders, or Mickeys/Stinsons Beach areas.

Some people will "poo poo" areas based upon rock quality and relative "buffed-status", while others seek out the challenges this type of rock offers. I prefer a wide variety in my climbing diet ranging from choss to bullet. It keeps the experience fresh and will constantly throw new challenges your way. Regardless of your preference, educating yourself about the geology of local areas can be fun, fascinating, and just may help you have a more enjoyable time when you go climbing!