Access Fund Challenges Indoor Climbing Gyms With New InsideOut Education Initiative

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January 15, 2020. Boulder, CO​ – Access Fund is excited to announce the launch of a new education initiative this month—the InsideOut Challenge—to help indoor climbing gyms raise awareness around the issues facing our outdoor climbing areas, helping them turn their members into engaged climbing advocates.

The rapid growth of climbing has put incredible strain on our outdoor climbing areas. What was once an obscure activity in the 1960s, has now become mainstream. And this exponential growth has outpaced the climbing community’s ability to maintain our climbing areas.

“The situation at our climbing areas is growing dire,” says Access Fund Stewardship Director, Ty Tyler. “We’re seeing extreme erosion at the base of cliffs causing unstable conditions; webs of informal access trails destroying vegetation; and even human waste impacting local water supplies. Most climbing areas were not developed to support the number of climbers we’re seeing today.”

Access Fund and local climbing organizations across the country are mobilizing to restore climbing areas and ensure they are sustainable well into the future, but we can’t do this work alone.

Indoor climbing facilities are making climbing more accessible than ever before, helping a growing number of Americans realize the extraordinary benefits of climbing. A recent survey by the Climbing Wall Association indicates that 69% of the indoor climbers surveyed are actively climbing outdoors, and an astounding 95% of the indoor-only climbers indicated that they’re interested in climbing outdoors.

“These results paint a very different picture than many in the indoor climbing industry assumed, and they are indicative of the huge challenges we will be facing in upcoming years at our outdoor climbing areas,” says Hilary Harris, Founder and Co-Owner of Evo Rock + Fitness indoor climbing gyms and Access Fund Board Director.

Owners and managers of indoor climbing gyms are in an incredibly powerful position to help influence the growing population of climbers by helping to raise awareness and inspire action. The InsideOut Challenge looks to turn climbing gyms into powerful allies in conservation, helping gym managers highlight environmental stewardship and climbing advocacy opportunities and mobilize their members to help protect outdoor climbing areas.

View the full-size poster.

“Climbing gyms have become core hubs for local communities across the country,” says Chris Winter, Executive Director at Access Fund. “By launching the InsideOut Challenge and partnering with indoor climbing gyms, we can connect with more climbers and inspire the next generation of outdoor climbing advocates.”

“When it comes to reaching new climbers, nobody else has the combination of face-to-face contact and reach that indoor climbing gyms do,” continues Harris. “If we come together, the climbing gym industry can be a powerful player in the conservation of outdoor climbing areas.”

The InsideOut Challenge is a month-long awareness campaign that runs from January 15 through February 15, 2020. More than 20 indoor climbing gyms will participate in the challenge during the first year, with the collective goal of reaching 100,000 climbers and raising $75,000 to help Access Fund protect America’s climbing. Access Fund provides all participating gyms with educational resources and campaign assets.

Participating gyms include: Ascent Studio (Fort Collins, CO), Ascend:Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA), Boulders Climbing Gym (Madison, WI), CLIMB – Nashville (Nashville, TN), EarthTreks – Englewood (Englewood, CO and Rockville, MD), EVO Rock & Fitness (Louisville, CO), High Point Climbing and Fitness – (Chattanooga, TN and Birmingham, AL), Movement Climbing and Fitness (Baker/Denver, CO), Planet Granite – San Francisco (San Francisco, CA), Touchstone (All 12 locations).

Special thanks to Black Diamond Equipment for sponsoring this exciting new initiative and all the partnering gyms. Additional support provided by Allez Outdoors, FourPoints Bars, Friction Labs, Petzl, Sterling Ropes, YETI, Clif Bar, and Crag Life Apparel.

About Access Fund 

Access Fund is the national advocacy and conservation organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, the Access Fund supports and represents millions of climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Six core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and education. Since 1991, the Access Fund has supported 78 land acquisitions by land trusts, public entities, and local climbing organizations, totaling 17,338 acres across twenty-seven states. For more information, visit     

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