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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!



  1. Renee, excellent write-up. Sounds like the trip was a great time. -Colin

  2. I agree with Colin, thanks for the summary and being a big part of such a great event. Wish we all could have had the opportunity to go with! There's always next year! Thanks to you both yourself and Brian!


  3. Rene, thanks so much for posting this great information. We look forward to having more CRAGS members at the next summit!

    Amy Ansari
    Access Fund