2018 Hill to Crag Report
By: Maria Povec & Byron Harvison. American Alpine Club | December, 2018
The 2018 Hill to Crag series has been a remarkable success, and the AAC is grateful for REI’s support in launching this initiative. Led by AAC member and Army Major Byron Harvison, our three Hill to Crag events brought together veterans, active military members, AAC volunteers, state offices of outdoor recreation, and local, state and national policymakers to connect via a day of rock climbing.
These Hill to Crag events shift the paradigm of standard advocacy meetings. Rather than visit offices on Capitol Hill or at state capitols, AAC’s Hill to Crag series brings lawmakers to our office-- the great outdoors. In Colorado, Wyoming and North Carolina, the AAC spoke to elected officials (and/or their staff) about the power of the outdoors to address PTSD and other combat-related struggles. Also discussed were the economic benefits of public lands, stewardship, special use permitting issues and the role of state offices of outdoor recreation. The opportunity to connect as a large group, and then in smaller climbing teams, deepened the discussion and fostered meaningful connections amongst participants.
The positive impact of our 2018 events was amplified by the participation of Access Fund, Black Diamond, Petzl, local climbing organizations, state offices of outdoor recreation, Outdoor Industry Association, land managers and other partners.
We believe that we have created a formula that can be used across the country to build fruitful relationships with lawmakers and shape the discourse around public lands.
Below are more detailed recaps from each of the three events.
Golden, CO – October 12, 2018 On October 12th, the Veterans’ Section of the American Alpine Club (AAC), in coordination with the Front Range and New Mexico Chapters of the AAC, took staff from the offices of Senator Gardner (R-CO) and Senator Bennet (D-CO) climbing at North Table Mountain in Golden, CO. Also in attendance were members of Veterans Expeditions (VetEx), James Rein from the Outdoor Industry Association, and state legislator Owen Hill (Air Force Academy Grad, and representative of northern Colorado Springs). Following introductions and a tour of the American Mountaineering Museum, the group headed outside. Conversations ranged from climbing fundamentals to the benefits of outdoor recreation and climbing, in particular, for veterans. The day together opened the doors to important relationships that AAC will leverage as we advocate for public lands and access to them.
Vedauwoo, WY – October 19, 2018 On October 19th, the Veterans’ Section of the American Alpine Club (AAC) took members of the State of Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, Wyoming Conservation
Corps, and Representative Liz Cheney’s state director climbing at Vedauwoo, WY, followed by a tour of Curt Gowdy State Park. Maj. Harvison spurred conversations by speaking to the benefits of outdoor recreation and work for veterans with PTSD, noting a statistic from 2016 that 22 veterans attempt suicide per day. He also spoke to the group about the local and national economic benefits of outdoor recreation, which was highlighted by a later conversation between this group and a number of out-of-state climbers who were gearing up at the trailhead. All participants expressed interest in remaining involved in upcoming initiatives and information exchange opportunities.
Chimney Rock, NC – November 16, 2018 On November 16th the Veterans’ Section of the American Alpine Club (AAC) in coordination with the Sandhill chapter of the AAC took Jordan Barnes of North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis’ staff, David Knight (Outdoor Recreation Industry Business Development Manager, Dept of Economic Development NC), Mary Jaeger-Gale (GM, Chimney Rock State Park), Landdis Hollifield (Event Mgr, Chimney Rock State Park), and several members of the local media climbing at Chimney Rock State Park, NC. Also in attendance were Fox Mountain Guides (facilitating equipment and climbing programming), Ron Funderburke of the AAC, and ten military veteran members of the AAC who are currently stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC. Due to some premature weather considerations, we had three legislative representatives cancel. Additionally, the Asheville REI marketing rep and store manager let us know the morning of that they were no longer going to be able to attend due to some emergent work obligations.
This event drew a number of local new stations. AAC Sandhill Chapter chair and active duty Army officer Matthew Arevian gave a powerful interview about how climbing helped his family reconnect following deployments. A member of the Golden Knights parachute team shared how climbing helped him post-deployment and following a parachute accident that will soon have him leave the Army medically.
After several hours of climbing and instruction (especially on the finer points of hard slab climbing by Ron), we gathered on top of Chimney Rock for a group pic with the gorgeous valley as a background. Everyone left with a high level of stoke, looking forward to more events, and hopefully networking with each other to see how they can get fellow veterans interested in what we do.
Thanks to the generous support of REI, the AAC was able to hire Vince Schaefer from Coldhouse Media Productions. He is currently working on a 3 minute video piece about the NC event. We will share it with you when it’s complete.
American Alpine Club Press Release. “The American Alpine Club Engages The Veteran Community With New Membership Options And Outreach.” Nov. 8, 2018.
Outdoor Journal. “Crag Caucus: Veterans and Politicians Rock Climb Together with American Alpine Club.” Nov. 12, 2018.
Teton Gravity Research. “American Alpine Club To Introduce Outreach For Veterans And Active Duty Military.” Nov. 12, 2018.
Chimney Rock coverage from Charlotte’s FOX affiliate broadcast on the evening news. Nov. 16, 2018.
Outdoor Retailer Newsletter, “Veterans in Action.” Nov. 20, 2018.
Chimney Rock coverage from ABC affiliate broadcast on the evening news. Nov. 22, 2018.