11/18/10 - The Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment, is pleased to announce permanent access has been secured to Jailhouse Rock near Sonora, California through the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign. However more help is needed from the climbing community for long-term conservation.
While private landowners have historically allowed climbing at Jailhouse (named after a nearby state penitentiary), a recently approved subdivision which included the trailhead and initial approach trail threatened future access. Plans to further subdivide the land adjacent to Jailhouse in the coming years could have blocked access even further, since the trail would need to cross multiple new lots purchased by private landowners who may be less inclined to grant public access.
With the future access to Jailhouse at risk by a quickly approaching subdivision, local climber and long-time access supporter Tom Addison contacted the Access Fund and the landowner for help. After several months of working with the landowners, the Access Fund reached an agreement to protect Jailhouse Rock through a complex conservation development partnership. A short-term $100,000 Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign loan will secure a conservation and access easement, ensuring permanent protection and access to Jailhouse Rock. Local climber and investor Steve Russell is giving his support by providing short-term capital to the Land Conservation Campaign for this project. However, the Access Fund will need donor support for the access implementation and long-term conservation phase.
Jailhouse Rock boasts up to 200 feet of overhanging amphitheater on the western face of a basalt lava flow known locally as Table Rock. “For 12+ and harder routes, Jailhouse offers arguably the best winter stamina sport climbing in the West,” says Tom Addison, who has been climbing at Jailhouse Rock and maintaining positive relations with landowners since 1990.
Jailhouse Rock is a major resource for the Bay Area, Yosemite, and Sacramento climbing communities during the fall, winter, and spring months when other sport crags are covered in snow. “Jailhouse has been formative in my climbing,” says pro athlete Alex Honnold. “It has one of the best concentrations of hard routes in the country, as well as one of the best climates. You can climb there any day between September and June without even having to check the weather. It's an amazing crag.”
Although popular, climbers had previously kept a “no guidebook, no publicity” policy at the request of the private landowners. While this will no longer be a stringent policy, climbers are asked to respect the fact that Jailhouse is still on private land. While the Access Fund has secured a conservation easement to protect climbing access, it is more important than ever to maintain a good relationship with the landowner.
The work is far from over. Although Jailhouse is now technically protected under a conservation easement, the current approach trail still crosses private land, which is up for sale. And the historical parking area is also subject to break-ins and misuse by non-climbers looking to access Tulloch Lake for partying or swimming.
The Access Fund has secured a route to the cliffs through a different access point, but it still needs your donations to secure the funding needed to build a new parking area with trailhead facilities, pay for the construction of a security gate, as well as cover legal, surveying, and other transactional costs.
Please give to the Unlock Jailhouse fund today (www.accessfund.org/jailhouse)! The Access Fund needs to raise $40,000 in the next 12 months to cover the expenses necessary to provide the new access point and protect and steward Jailhouse forever.
Access details: The existing parking area and access trail will remain open for the immediate future. Once the new gate, parking area, and trailhead are funded and built, the old access route will be restored to natural conditions and closed. At that time, climbers will need a gate code to access the cliffs, since the area is leased for grazing horses. Stay tuned for updated access information, including the code and important conditions of access, www.accessfund.org.
Special thanks to the landowners, Marta and Steve Weinstein, who have graciously allowed climbing at Jailhouse for the last 12 years and will continue to own the property and work with climbers to ensure that Jailhouse Rock remains in its current and natural state. Without the local expertise, passion, and dedication of local climbers Tom Addison, Brian Poulsen, and Access Fund Regional Coordinator Paul Minault, this victory for the climbing community would not have been possible.
About the Access Fund – Since 1991, the Access Fund has been the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. The Access Fund supports and represents over 2.3 million climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Five core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, and education. For more information, visit www.accessfund.org.