Midwest Climbing Advocacy Summit

Along with other OCC climbers, I attended Access Fund’s first Climbing Advocacy Summit for the Midwest region on May 4th and 5th. Access Fund staff, with climbers and advocates from North Dakota, Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan and everywhere in between shared meals, ideas, ropes, hikes, successes, failures, and pride in what the Midwest has to offer: climbing and passionate people. 

One big takeaway from the weekend is how much rock and ice there is in the Midwest. I heard about sport havens on Lake Superior’s shores, backyard abandoned quarries, new ice parks, and more. There are certainly many areas that are great because of their location (close to home, for someone!), but I added more than a few destination areas to my list that I hadn’t known were in the Midwest. The Summit itself took place in and around Devils Lake State Park, a glacier-carved lake ringed with short cliffs and boulders galore of beautiful and terrifyingly slippery purple quartzite.

An even bigger takeaway, though, was the many people I met working for sustainable access and responsible stewardship. A lot of the areas I learned about took years of hard work to clean up, clear out, or negotiate with public and private land owners.-- and I mean years. The results, however, were exciting: new climbing-centered city parks, projects funded with recreation tax dollars, MOUs with land owners and land managers. This work takes time and commitment, but it is worth it. The clean-ups we show up to are part of efforts all around the country of climbers giving back, and led to more climbing for everyone. (Yay!)

In the last few years, the OCC has opened up or reduced barriers to climbing in areas around Ohio. We plan to do the same over the next few years, too, and continuing into the future. Other organizations in the Midwest are fighting and winning the same battles. As more people get out climbing, local climbing organizations engage them in smart and sustainable ways to climb outside and take care of our local areas. This may have been the first time Access Fund has hosted an Advocacy Summit in the Midwest, but it won't be the last. Not if the devoted climbers of the Midwest have a say, anyway. 

-Julia Swanson