SO WHAT EXACTLY IS ACCESS ALL ABOUT?
“Access” is a term that is very widely used today and although its broad connotation is well understood, it can be thought of rather like the roof of a house, under which many seemingly diverse and unrelated things can exist. For climbers, “Access” has two broad divisions, with each split into two aspects.
The first division is what can be called “Stewardship”. The primary aspect of this is the efforts of climbers on the ground working on trail improvements, crag cleaning, route retrofitting and much else that directly improves the climbing environment and allows greater enjoyment of the sport. The climbers groups can play a major role in coordinating focused efforts where they can bring the most benefit, and the SAS will be launching a program of active crag and route cleanups in the months to come. The secondary aspect is disseminating news to the climbing public over what the Squamish local government and the provincial government are up to that directly affects climbing. An example is the increasingly hectic pace of construction activity on Highway 99 that is affecting direct access into the climbing areas, and creating short-term closures in some cases. The second division is what can best be called “Political”, and it has been the main focus of SAS efforts this last few years. The first aspect of this is working directly with government to defend climbing when they come up with schemes that would either damage things for us or provoke unwanted change. The second aspect is to engage with government (and to lesser extent the media) to proactively present the case for improving a situation, and outlining what’s necessary to do so. As climbing is becoming more understood and has entered mainstream popular interest, when we propose ideas to government that will improve and enhance things, they have become very willing to both listen and act. This is a positive new development.
Stewardship is popular and attracts people to engage. After all, who doesn’t like a cleaner route or a better trail? Such work is often fun too. Stewardship has a high profile in that it is visible and the benefit is immediate. The political work however, is much harder but arguably more important, and is conducted out of sight around meeting tables. It is the art of persuasion. It is the work that really needs strong support from climbers across the board, as unless political efforts are successful, there is likely to be no trail, no route, or a closed crag, and good works efforts become irrelevant.
So when you join the SAS, you are supporting the efforts of both tangible stewardship, and the silent, grinding but intangible political work without which there would be less of a climbing game to enjoy. The Chief would not be a provincial park (early 1990s), the Smoke Bluffs may have become a housing developed nightmare (1987), the Apron boulders would have been quarried (1992), there would be a huge gravel quarry between the Squaw and the Chief (1984), the Cheakamus Gorge would have been lost to climbing (2005), and many crags would have a long walk along the Highway to approach them (2004/6).
Climbing at Squamish today – The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada – is very front-country and very urban. They are large reasons why it is so popular, but they are also reasons that make us vulnerable to the whims of landowners and government. Please show your support and join up with the SAS – just ten bucks, your email address, and a small personal commitment to defending your own interests – and you become an active part of all the good works and all the political effort.