Congratulations to our 2017 Cornerstone recipients:

Boulder Climbing Community / Front Range Climbing Stewards, Colorado - $4,000
Donnelly Canyon, Indian Creek

The access trails for Donnelly Canyon are among the most popular in the area, and have suffered as a result of increasing and unmanaged use. Funds will be used by a joint team of the Front Range Climbing Stewards and the High Mountain Institute to perform comprehensive maintenance on the trail leading to Chocolate Corner and given the popularity and visibility of this area, will serve as an important example of good stewardship and sustainable access.

The Mazamas, Oregon - $6,100
Beacon Rock State Park

As a result of a new climbing management plan for Beacon Rock State Park, the Mazamas will use funds to work with Washington State Parks to restore and repair climbing approach trails, remove invasive species, replace fixed anchors with the Portland Vicinity Re-Bolt Effort, and develop new signage for visitor education.

Carolina Climbers Coalition, North and South Carolina - $5,000
Eagle Rock, Chimney Rock State Park

Only 25% of the cliffs in Chimney Rock State Park are open for climbing, but this funding will go towards a professionally designed and sustainably-built trail leading to the base of Eagle Rock, opening roughly fifty climbing routes and a number of boulder problems.

Salt Lake Climbers Alliance, Utah - $7,000
Gate Buttress, Little Cottonwood Canyon

Funds will support Phase One of the Gate Buttress Project, a venture by the public-private partnership of a number of area stakeholders. Phase One will provide new and improve existing climbing infrastructure at this popular climbing area, including the replacement of fixed anchors and the use of professional trail crews to stabilize climbing access trails and rehabilitate social trails.

Illinois Climbers Coalition, Illinois - $2,060
Holy Boulders

After taking ownership of the Holy Boulders in 2016, the Illinois Climbers Coalition has been working towards long-term sustainable management of the area. Funds will go towards new trail signage, improving climbers’ access and experience while limiting off-trail travel and social trails, as well as a new tool shed for ongoing maintenance of the area.

Ouray Ice Park, Inc., Colorado - $5,000
Ouray Ice Park

Funding will support the Ouray Ice Park Ecosystem Assessment and Stewardship Plan, intended to sustainably manage the forests, soils, and waters in and around the Ouray Ice Park. An environmental consulting group out of Durango, CO, will complete the assessment and stewardship plan for the entire West side of the Uncompahgre Gorge, in which the Ouray Ice Park is located. 


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!