This is a recording of the update from Ginette Walker Vinski (SWPACC Vice President), Joel Brady (SWPACC President), and Caleb Hills (Access + Stewardship Co-Chair) on May 4, 2022. We were joined by general members of the climbing community, as well as representatives across the state from other LCOs (Southcentral Pennsylvania Climbers – SCPC, Eastern PA Alliance of Climbers – EPAC) and Access Fund.
SWPACC is in the information gathering stage to determine what actions can be taken to regain climbing access.
On April 5, 2022, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced the closure to all rock climbing activities on State Game Lands 51 and 138 in Fayette County. The official statement indicates the reason for the closure is habitat preservation of “several rare, threatened or endangered plant and wildlife species.” Last week, upon notification of the impending announcement, the Southwestern PA Climbers Coalition (SWPACC), together with other PA Local Climbing Organizations and Access Fund, submitted a letter to the Game Commission, stressing our commitment to the conservation of wildlife, consistent with Access Fund’s Climbers Pact and “Leave No Trace” ethic, and requesting that we work together to address habitat management concerns while exploring options for maintaining climbing access. Representatives from the Game Commission received and read our letter, and we remain in communication. The Commission has nevertheless moved to implement the closure of Game Lands 51 and 138. You can read the Game Commission’s official press release here: https://www.media.pa.gov/pages/Game-Commission-Details.aspx?newsid=537.
SWPACC and other PA Local Climbing Organizations, including Eastern PA Alliance of Climbers and Southcentral PA Climbers, with the support of Access Fund, remain committed to the vision of balancing rock climbing activities with habitat conservation on State Game Lands, and will continue to work toward that goal. We ask that, in the meantime, all climbers abide by the closure and do not climb on areas located in SGL 51 and 138, the most well-known of which are Coll’s Cove, Lost Crag, The Vault, Casparis, Rob’s Knob, Fish Rocks, and Zebley Flats. We also ask that, rather than contacting the PA Game Commission or other state agencies directly at this time to express your concerns, instead please contact SWPACC at email@example.com or your local climbing organization and help us in our focused efforts to reopen our beloved climbing areas. As we have updates, we will share them on the SWPACC website and via social media. Thank you for your support and understanding.
At this meeting, we will identify tasks to put into our 6-12 month plan, along with a preliminary budget to submit to the board for approval. We welcome any input from the community to raise ideas and contributions to this plan; if you cannot attend this meeting, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in the conversation!
Climbing, like many outdoor sports, has a high cost of entry: the gear. It ain’t cheap. To boulder in the gym, in addition to a membership (>$60/month), one needs to purchase a chalk bag (cheap) as well as climbing shoes regularly (often >$100 a few times a year!). If you’re roping up you’ll tack on a harness ($50-$150), and a belay device ($100 for a GRIGRI, the most common assisted braking belay device in use). Wowza! That’s upwards of $1,000 for your first year of gear in climbing. If, of course, you’re venturing outside – which is our hope, as your local climbing org – you’re spending hundreds more on crash pads, tents, helmets, warm puffy jackets and hiking-worthy shoes…the list goes on and on.
If you’re into climbing or want to get into climbing, you already know this. When we talk about making climbing more accessible, we have to be realistic. Climbing isn’t free, even if sometimes accessing outdoor boulders can be. To do it safely, well, and to have fun, there is a high cost of entry – especially if you’re not someone with buddies who are lending you gear to make it possible!
SWPACC recognizes this huge barrier to entry in climbing, and in order to begin to try to level the playing field, we are holding our first USED GEAR DRIVE! If you’ve been in the game for a while, you probably have extra gear lying around. Whether it’s extra shoes (like new or resoleable), a spare jacket (that could still keep someone warm), or even hardware like an ATC or GRIGRI, someone can use it if you’re not. Below are some guidelines for donations.
Donation boxes can be found at the entry to both Iron City Boulders and Ascend Pittsburgh. Please ask the front desk if you can’t find it! THANK YOU in advance for your generosity.
Clean, usable condition:
belay devices + carabiners
technical outdoor gear
Gear that needs minor repairs (small rips, re-hemming, resoling) is okay!
Do not donate:
Stinky, soiled, moldy, or otherwise gross gear
Anything shredded, cracked, or presents safety hazards
T-shirts, jeans, other street clothes not fit for outdoor use
Helmets, harnesses, or other soft gear (for new-in-box donations of safety equipment, please contact us ahead of time!)
Feel free to contact us at email@example.com for any clarifications!
The area known as Locust Grove, just outside of Cumberland, Maryland has a 40-50 year history of rock climbing, albeit as a “secret crag.” Over 70 routes exist on impeccable rock, half of which are fully equipped sport routes, some reaching 100 feet high. The majority of the routes are in the 5.9-5.10 range, but there are many excellent beginner routes also, and a handful of excellent 5.11s and 5.12s. Less than one mile away, in an area called The Narrows, there are close to 200 additional routes (multi-pitch, trad).
Recently, Locust Grove has been posted with “No Trespassing” signs and climbers have been told to leave the premises.
Both locations are in close proximity to Wills Mountain State Park in Western Maryland. The park’s current boundary includes part of The Narrows but does not include Locust Grove. There is no legal access to either climbing area.
After 18 months of spearheading a campaign to find a solution to this situation, and pulling in support from the Access Fund and various regional LCOs as well as numerous levels of local and state government (most notably the the Maryland Department of Natural Resources – DNR), SWPACC has learned that the initiative is gaining great momentum. Currently, Maryland DNR is in negotiations with the owners of the rocks at Locust Grove as well as with the various owners of the access trails to The Narrows, with the hopes of extending the boundaries of Wills Mountain State Park to include all of the climbing at both areas as well as the properties necessary for access. Acquiring these lands will allow rock climbers to gain legal access to arguably the best roped climbing within 100 miles of southwestern Pennsylvania. SWPACC is also excited to share the news that as a result of all of this work, a new Local Climbing Organization called the Western Maryland Climbers Coalition (WMCC) has formed to take the lead on this campaign.
We need your help!
In full solidarity with WMCC, SWPACC is encouraging all regional climbers to send emails to the Superintendent of the Maryland Park Service, Nita Settina, and DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio sharing why these land acquisitions are important to you. Please send one email addressed to both women: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Given that these areas are within 100 miles of not only Pittsburgh, but also DC, Baltimore, Harrisburg and Morgantown, the opportunity for growth in tourism and a subsequent boost in the local economy is high. The proximity is fully within the reach of day trippers. Additionally, the camping accommodations at Rocky Gap State park are of such high quality, that many will begin choosing this area as a much closer option to weekend climbing getaways than Seneca and The New River Gorge that are twice the distance.
Thank you for helping SWPACC support the WMCC to re-open this incredible resource!
On August 28 seven members of the SWPACC Access and Stewardship Committee installed 16 mechanical and 14 glue-in bolts, using all stainless steel bolts to replace rusted bolts across 10 different routes in the main climbing area of Breakneck. The Committee also recommended and the board approved purchasing a drill for SWPACC which enabled to replacement at breakneck and will facilitate future projects.
SWPACC has formally agreed to a lease with the owner of the parking lot for Breakneck which included repairing the parking area. In addition to the Breakneck parking area we are also working on other low cost leases related to securing access to climbing areas.
The last area of focus for access is publishing information about areas where access is already secured but there is no public awareness. Multiple other areas have been initially added to Mountain Project and we’re working to continue to flesh out those pages. In addition we’re finalizing a map similar to Lost Crag for a top rope and trad area and also evaluating other climbing areas for bolts that need to be replaced.
Over the past several months, the SWPACC Governance Committee has been hard at work with the behind-the-scenes functioning of our growing local climbing organization. With the new committees being formed in the past year, the Governance Committee has facilitated the smooth transition from a club that was primarily governed by a board of directors to a member-led organization with shared roles and responsibilities at the committee level. Most recently, we put together SWPACC’s second annual election meeting and successfully had SWPACC members elect three new board members, as well as re-elect some experienced members. Being on the Governance Committee is a great way to get involved with big-picture climbing issues and a great way to get experience leading a community organization! We’re always looking for more dedicated volunteers so check us out at our next committee meeting!
The community committee has been tabling at a couple of events around the city, ordered new blaze orange merch to be stocked in our shop later this season, and met with cross-state LCOs to discuss JEDI issues at large.
Some upcoming projects we’re looking to take on include hosting a bouldering competition in the spring, a used shoe collection and redistribution program to help lower the financial barriers to access for new climbers, and generally building more connections across present and future climbers in the region.
The community committee is still looking for a chair; please contact Vincent (interim chair) if you’re interested in chairing this committee, or helping out with any of our projects!