Congratulations to our 2016 Cornerstone recipients:

Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition, Kentucky - $2,500
The Gallery, Pendergrass-Murray Recreation Preserve

With a high concentration of moderate routes in a small area, the gallery has seen an enormous spike in users and impact. Funds will be used for consultation with the American Conservation Experience (ACE) to help train future land stewards, ensure good drainage from area springs, the purchase of building materials where natural materials are not available, and plants to aid in re-vegetation efforts.

AAC Richmond Chapter, Virginia - $1,500
Manchester Wall

In partnership with the city of Richmond and the James River Outdoor Coalition, the AAC’s Richmond Chapter is constructing a dedicated access path and pedestrian benches on the Manchester Wall in Richmond, Virginia. This unique climbing area uses a historic bridge abutment as a way for local university students, summer camps and recreational climbers to learn lead climbing and rescue techniques.

Mid Atlantic Climbers, Maryland - $5,000
Carderock Climbing Area, Chesapeake and Ohio National Historic Park

Flood damage threatens to destroy riverbank retaining walls that prevent total erosion of this key regional climbing area. The project will repair and extend walls while adding more permanent design and materials.

Southeastern Climbers Coalition, Tennessee - $5,000
Denny Cove, Southern Cumberland Plateau

Funds will be used to help build out one of the region’s newest crags. Harboring over 150 routes on three-mile-long cliff side, the area is experiencing an enormous amount of climber traffic. Gravel and building materials are needed for road and parking lot construction, and trail building work.

Salt Lake Climbers Alliance, Utah - $750
Joe’s Valley

AAC funds will support the installation of seasonal latrines during the 2017 spring and fall climbing season at this world famous destination where human waste facilities do not currently exist. Efforts are underway for a permanent solution.

Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition (UPCC), Michigan - $500
AAA Walls, Marquette County

The historic AAA walls have hosted 4-H groups, Boy Scouts, university students, and women’s groups for years and, the UPCC has arranged to keep it open with the current private landowner. AAC is helping ensure the stewardship of the area by funding trail maintenance and signage supplies.

Washington Climbers Coalition, Washington - $4,000
Washington Pass Legacy Trail Project, North Cascades

There are much needed climbing trail improvements from Blue Lake Trail to alpine climbs on Liberty Bell, Concord Tower, North Early Winter Spire, and South Early Winter Spire. Funds will be used for trail building supplies, signage, and wag bag dispensers as part of an extensive trail project to build sustainable, safe access to the Liberty Bell Group, one of the country’s most scenic and popular alpine climbing destinations.

Levitation 49, Alaska - $2,000
Valdez City Crags

Levitation 49 has been working tirelessly to promote and expand climbing, both winter and summer, in the Valdez area. The crags closest to the city are in need of major infrastructure work. AAC’s funds will help with the construction of stone stairs, retaining walls and drainage structures.

Ohio Climbers Coalition, Ohio - $5,000
Springfield Gorge

The Springfield Gorge is set to become the largest climbing area in the state but is in need of extensive rehabilitation. In lieu of requiring permits, the Ohio Climber Coalition has negotiated the construction of educational kiosks and signage with the land manager (Clark County Parks Department). The Cornerstone Grant will be used to help with purchase of those materials in addition to trail building costs.

South Central Pennsylvania Climbers, Pennsylvania - $500
Governor Stable Boulders, Governor Stable Nature Preserve

The SCPC is one of the newest organizations helping ensure access for their local climbers. AAC funds will help with costs associated with trail building and raising a bridge above the flood line at this important area.

Washington’s National Park Fund, Washington - $1,250
Mount Rainier NP Search and Rescue Cabin

Funds will be used to help in the restoration of a historic 1936 Civilian Conservation Corps cabin in the Longmire National Historic Landmark District in Mount Rainier National Park to house Search & Rescue volunteers and support staff. The cabin gives rescuers the opportunity for more timely responses to emergencies within the park and gives the NPS staff additional resources to utilize.

Rumney Climbers Association, New Hampshire - $4,000
The Final Frontier, Rumney

The Northwest Crags at Rumney are in need of additional parking, trail systems and a human waste solution at this nationally known climbing area. Facilities can also be used by local hikers, making the impact of this project even greater.

Climbing Stewards, California - $3,000
Camp 4, Yosemite

AAC funding will support the construction of a new, expanded climbing information kiosk at Camp 4, in Yosemite Valley. The current info board is outdated and will be replaced during a renovation and expansion of Camp 4. The new board will include increased conservation messaging and best practices, and additional information about climbing management in Yosemite National Park.

AAC Cornerstone Conservation Grant Selection Committee:

·       Eddie Espinosa, Committee Chair
·       Aram Attarian
·       Audrey Todd Borisov
·       Elisabeth Bowers
·       Jason Flesher
·       Matt Hepp
·       Joe Sambataro
·       Rebecca Schild
·       Maria Povec, AAC Staff

Learn more about our past winners:

Copy of Kings Bluff graffiti removal- 5-24-16 023 (1).JPG

Southeast Climbers Coalition & Elephant Snot

Graffiti has always been a big problem in the South, and although most people would love to see it disappear, we’ve come to accept it as part of the landscape. The SCC attempted graffiti removal efforts over a decade ago, to no avail. Attempts at chemical removers, scrubbing and lots of elbow grease proved no match for the extensive graffiti littering our natural areas. The closest we ever came to ridding our landscape of these eyesores was using a natural paint to cover the graffiti and attempt to blend the paint colors into the rock. This method worked great, but was very time consuming and not logical for a large scale removal effort.

There are a few climbing areas in the Southeast that have essentially been abandoned by climbers because of the trash and graffiti. In 2015, the SCC decided it was time to start looking into graffiti removal options. There had to be something out there that would work! After extensive research, communication with other local climbing organizations and the Access Fund Conservation Team, we found a few products that seemed hopeful. We found a product, Elephant Snot, which seemed to be the best bet for our porous sandstone, so we decided to give it a try.

After ordering a test batch, we started testing the product at different areas. We set out with the elephant snot, a weed sprayer, gloves and brushes to conduct our first test graffiti removal. After a few tests, we found that some graffiti just melted away in seconds, with no need to brush, but others required a lot of time and scrubbing. We figured many factors could affect this: color of the paint, thickness of the paint, age of the graffiti, and porousness of the rock. We tested at various sites and had fantastic results at all of them!  Most, if not all, of the graffiti was removed, leaving little or no evidence behind!

The process is simple and requires one key factor: PATIENCE. After some trial and error, here is the process we find works best for all areas:

  • Paint the Elephant Snot over the graffiti with a paint brush. Don’t be stingy with the Snot, make sure graffiti is fully covered in a thick coat.
  • Let it Sit. We found that letting it sit for at least 20 minutes before attempting to wash it off is adequate in most situations, but 30 minutes-1 hour proved best
  • Brush. While it’s resting, brush, brush, brush. Use soft bristle brushes (like the ones you would use to wash your car tires) to scrub and scrub and scrub. Use a little spray of water to ignite the bubbly effect of the Elephant Snot and let it do its job. I would recommend scrubbing at least 5-6 different times during the half hour-1 hour waiting period.
  • Rinse. A pressure washer is the best for rinsing. But, if you don’t have access to a pressure washer or can’t get it to the graffiti, use the highest pressure weed sprayers you can find. If using a weed sprayer, spray slowly and close to the rock. *If using a pressure washer make sure the pressure isn’t too high so it doesn’t break the rock. Be extra cautious around holds on routes.*

The graffiti removal efforts that were made possible by the support of the Cornerstone Conservation Grant. The grant has had a huge impact on our ability to bring natural areas back to their original state while improving relationships with land owners and educating the community. This project had a reach farther than we could have ever imagined. We look forward to continued efforts in preserving climbing areas for generations to come. 

If you have any questions about graffiti removal, please reach out to Cody Roney of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition at: [email protected]


Rumney Climbers Association Addresses Human Waste

The rising popularity of climbing and the increasing demand on climbing areas necessitates addressing human waste issues. Rumney receives thousands of visitors every year and improper human waste disposal creates a significant negative impact on the environment and on the user experience. As president of the Rumney Climbers Association (RCA), Rose Kenny sought to find a long-term waste management strategy to:

  • Improve sanitary conditions
  • Reduce the impact of human waste on the climbing and hiking experience
  • Educate users about human impacts on backcountry areas.

Thus, the RCA’s Clean Waste Program was born. In collaboration with the White Mountain National Forest and supported by the AAC’s Cornerstone Conservation Grant, RCA board members and forest service staff held multiple coffee events in the parking area to talk with climbers about human impacts. They gave away 2200 waste kits (Wag Bags) and engaged hundreds of climbers, including French-speaking Quebecois. This program was the first of its kind in the White Mountains, and at the end of 2015 it was deemed “highly effective” by the district ranger.

“Dispensing 2,200 Wag Bags at the most popular sport climbing crag in the north east was a critical step in helping to address personal outdoor responsibility for climbers,” said Rose Kenny. “On behalf of my local community, thank you AAC!  The Cornerstone grant significantly reduced instances of human waste at the cliff and made a positive impact on my local climbing area.”

Thanks to the RCA for all their hard work. And remember: fully bury your human waste at least six inches under the surface OR walk down to the parking lot bathrooms OR pack it ALL out by using a Clean Waste kit. Either way, leave no trace!