2014 Golden Piton Awards: Community


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Climb Aloha Hawaii Golden Pitons
Photo: Marta Czajkowska

Winner: Climb Aloha

In June 2012, after a serious injury at one of Oahu’s main cliffs, state officials banned climbing at the three most popular crags in the Hawaiian islands: Mokuleia, Makapuu, and the Jungle. A coalition led by Mike Richardson and fellow staffers of the Climb Aloha shop and guide service began a campaign to reopen the crags. Climb Aloha already had a deep background in climbing stewardship because of the tropical marine environment of Oahu’s columnar basalt cliffs, which require titanium anchors and diligent route maintenance.

After extensive work with state legislators—in partnership with hikers, paragliders, and other outdoor groups—it seemed climbers were close to winning support for a law that would give greater liability protection to the state. But many of these protections were stripped from the bill in April 2014 by a powerful legislator. Undaunted, Climb Aloha began negotiations with state agencies on agreements to post warning signs at the cliffs, update and maintain bolts, and conduct regular safety inspections. The cliffs were expected to reopen under the new guidelines by early January.

“This has really and truly been a group effort,” Richardson said. “Two colleagues in particular, Debbie Halbert and Michael Bishop, worked as many hours as I did on this, and there was massive support from the Access Fund. Even with those folks, we wouldn’t have accomplished much without support from hundreds of helpful and patient community members, along with industry friends and climbers from the U.S. mainland and abroad.”

Erik Murdock, policy director of the Access Fund, said, “Climb Aloha made the right connections, stayed positive, attended countless meetings and hearings, and handled failure gracefully during the past two years. They are stand-up folks who love climbing, and through successful advocacy efforts achieved the improbable.”

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