|“Every Day Should Be Adopt-a-Crag Day,
Every Day Should Be Earth Day”
As Earth Day rolls around again, we at ClimbingGear.com and RockCreek.com have been pondering the meaning of this holiday and how we might celebrate. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with two awesome climbers who have dedicated a good part of their life to climbers’ access and education, and a very helpful phrase came up in our discussions: “Every day should be Adopt-a-Crag Day; Every day should be Earth Day.”
Kurt Smith, who provided this nugget of wisdom, has just come off a three-year access education tour for The Access Fund. Kurt tackled numerous early ascents in and around Yosemite, and opened up new routes there, at Joshua Tree, Clear Creek Canyon, El Potrero Chico, Mexico, and other areas. He is currently the technical sales rep for Montrail’s new rock shoe line and has his own guide service in the New River Gorge, West Virginia. Chad Wykle, of Chattanooga, TN, is a sales rep for Marmot and Chaco Sandals and co-founder of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series with Jim Horton. We spent some time reflecting on the meaning of Earth Day and the state of climbing as a sport today.
Our discussions always came back to two central facts. First, climbing is fun, and because it is fun, it is growing in popularity. Second, since so many people are coming to the sport, tension has developed between climbers and landowners, creating access issues that affect the entire community. Both of these facts can be positive if climbers willingly come together as a user group and truly make every day Earth Day. Climbing has grown enormously since Yvon Chouinard started making his own pitons out of his climbing van. Climbing gear has grown more sophisticated and yet more accessible and affordable than ever. What started as an extreme niche has become a widely enjoyed sport among young and old alike.
|In recent years, efforts have been more focused and groups like the Access Fund have given climbers the resources and legal advice necessary to obtain access. One of Wykle’s greatest successes came with the opening of the Little Rock City bouldering area on Montlake Golf Club’s property. (Read more about this victory in an interview with Wykle and Jim Horton.) Climbing areas close when climbers trespass and refuse to ask permission to climb, are not sensitive to parking issues, or leave behind trash. Climbing areas open when climbers are willing to come together, ask for permission first, and maintain the relationship with the landowners by living up to their part of the agreement.
Kurt Smith spent three years on the road making this point clear to climbers, and in the process harassing them into joining the Access Fund. His three-year “Kickin’ Access” tour raised just over $100,000 for the organization’s efforts. “Every day should be Adopt-a-Crag,” Smith says, referring to the Access Fund’s program for periodic maintenance of climbing areas. “I still see lots of cigarette butts, Red Bull cans, Cliff Bar wrappers, and it’s unfortunate…It should be obvious to pick up your trash.”
Smith, an excellent communicator, will get up in your face if he has to. He educates the climbing community like a hard-core Smoky the Bear. He tells climbers, to use his own words, that “you can either climb in the gym for the rest of your life, or you can have actual crags outside,” but the choice is ultimately yours, Smith says. You can almost see Smith saying, “Only you can prevent crag closures!” The message has made it through to many climbers, and the fruits of Smith’s work can be seen at Little Rock City outside Chattanooga, TN.
In return for the access, climbers give back to the golf club through trail days and maintenance of the bouldering field. “It’s definitely a symbiotic relationship” between climbers and landowners, Chad explains. The golf club has even opened their clubhouse to climbers who want to buy a beer or a snack. The invitation has created the unlikely juxtaposition of chalky young climbers enjoying a cold draught with gray-haired golfers. They get along well and seem to enjoy the irony.
Recently, climbers have begun to realize that private development and landowners’ prerogatives can close their favorite climbing area or destroy it permanently. Yet Smith’s message still bears repeating: “Every day should be Adopt-a-Crag day, every day should be Earth Day.” Organizations such as The Access Fund and the Southeastern Climbers’ Coalition continue to work hard to prevent closures.
Rock/Creek Outfitters (the brick-and-mortar store behind RockCreek.com and ClimbingGear.com) supports climber education efforts, makes regular cash contributions to both of these organizations, and has just given a $3000 cooperative grant with Chaco Sandals to further access in the Southeast. $1500 went to the SCC for trail work at the Tennessee Wall in Prentice-Cooper State Forest. Another $1500 went to the Lula Lake Land Trust, home of the High Point climbing area, which has been closed in the past, but will open this summer. Rock/Creek also donated another $2500 from Patagonia’s 1% for the Planet program. The grant will help rebuild an access bridge destroyed in last summer’s storms.
While we can’t all donate this kind of money to access, we can all celebrate Earth Day by volunteering, getting outside, and cleaning up after ourselves. We can all look at each day as Earth Day.
-Thanks to Justin Eiseman for all photos.