Guest Post: Five Organizations that Strengthen and Support the Climbing Community

JB on Matthes Crest in Tuolomne. (E. Sagalyn)
In this guest post, SWS Mountain Guides Senior Guide James Brown (JB) reflects on the four organizations he thinks make a huge positive impact on the climbing community. Of course, I had to put my two cents in, too!

There is something unique about being a climber.  No matter your skill level or experience, once you have committed to climbing there is a sense of camaraderie that cannot be found anywhere else.  I have never been halfway around the world and had a fellow baseball player offer me a beer and a place to crash for the night.  Nor do basketball players quit their jobs to go on a two month long road trip.  

The climbing community is something unique and special, something that should be cherished and nurtured.  Here is a list of some of my favorite organizations that support, cherish and nurture the community we love.

The Access Fund 

Tasked with both conserving and keeping climbing areas open to the public the Access Fund is far and away the most popular of the national climbing organizations. It is inclusive to every type of climber from the high altitude alpinists to the desert boulderer. With somewhere around 2.3 million members the primary function is access and in some cases they have gone so far as to purchase the land in order to keep the crag open to the public.  Though don’t let its advocacy fool you this is a very hands on non-profit that is local community driven, with lots of climber meet-ups, and a great “Adopt-a-Crag” program.  The Access Fund is the one organization that benefits us all. (They have a holiday pack that makes a great gift!)

The American Alpine Club

The AAC is the national organization for alpinists and mountaineers. Their mission is to “…provide knowledge and inspiration, conservation and advocacy, and logistical support for the climbing community”.    They accomplish this through a myriad of tasks from their annual publications, The American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering to the operations at the Climbers’ Ranches in Grand Teton National Park and New River Gorge.  Local climbing events, conservation programs, expedition grants, and access to the AAC library and archives all make the AAC an integral part of our climbing community.  This combined with the $10,000 of rescue insurance automatically provided to its members make it an invaluable asset.  Between research, funding, access, and insurance the AAC almost like having a third member on every rope team. 

Bay Area Wilderness Training

For some of us, a sense of community comes from being involved in developing the next generation of climbers and mountaineers, and BAWT makes that happen.  Designed as a resource for people who work with youth, BAWT provides outdoor training and a gear library to allow educators to get kids outside.  This doesn’t always mean climbing, but it always means and appreciation for the outdoors.  When they aren’t getting kids involved they are getting adults outside through their fund raiser program called “Climbing for Kids”.  C4K runs fund raiser climbs for both experienced and novice mountain climbers on Mt Shasta, Mt Whitney, Mt Rainier, and a handful of other peaks.  If you live in Southern California you might also check out their brand new sister program LAWT

The American Safe Climbing Association 

Though they are responsible for a wide range of safety education and programs the ASCA is best known for their rebolting programs.  While most sport climbers put little thought into the safety of what they clip into the ASCA does.  They undertake the task of rebolting climbing areas so that it is safer for all of us to use.

Big City Mountaineers

Though JB's list is a fantastic one, I couldn't post this article without mentioning Big City Mountaineers. When it comes to organizations that nurture the climbing community, BCM is a particularly special one. They provide under resourced urban teens with the chance to have transformative outdoor experiences, some of which are funded by the Summit for Someone climb program. SFS climbers can choose from climbs on mountains like Shasta, Whitney, Rainier, even Kilimanjaro to raise money for the kids. SFS climbs are a life-changing experience, and knowing you're climbing a mountain with a higher purpose is the best feeling in the world. (A BCM membership is a great holiday gift!) 

Are there any organizations we left out? Tell us in the comments!