Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition Teams up with Access Fund to Secure Access to the Motherlode

11 January 2017

Yasmeen Fowler
Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition
Zachary Lesch-Huie
Southeast Regional Director
Access Fund

January 11, 2017. Beattyville, Kentucky — The Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition (RRGCC) and Access Fund, with assistance from Trango Climbing Gear, are thrilled to announce the purchase of the Bald Rock Recreational Preserve in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. This acquisition secures access to a popular set of world-renowned climbing areas—including the Motherlode, the Chocolate Factory, the Bear's Den, and the Unlode. The 102-acre acquisition secures access to these areas for climbing and land conservation.

Climbers discovered the Motherlode over 25 years ago, developing some of the stiffest and steepest lines in the Red River Gorge, capable of testing the sport's elite. Today, the Motherlode and adjoining areas offer routes that climbers of all abilities enjoy. The acquisition of this property secures access to 226 routes ranging from 5.2 to 5.14c. In early July, the private landowners (who historically allowed climbing access) decided to sell the property, putting access to the Motherlode and surrounding crags at risk of indefinite closure. The RRGCC approached the landowners and began negotiations to purchase the property to prevent it from falling into non-climbing friendly hands. The RRGCC approached Access Fund for a loan of $225,000 to cover the majority of the $235,000 purchase price. In 2011, the Ventura Family (owner of Miguel's Pizza) purchased the land above the cliff line, and now the RRGCC's purchase of the land beneath the cliff line and the surrounding areas ensures that these iconic crags are climber-owned.

“I think we've all woken up before and had things taken away from us,” says Paul Vidal of the RRGCC. “And for us to be able to secure and know tomorrow morning that we’ll be able to go climb at the Motherlode and Chocolate Factory—that is arguably one of the most important things we can do here in the Red River Gorge.”

Access Fund provided the RRGCC with transaction expertise and financing through its Climbing Conservation Loan Program. “It's always an honor to work with the RRGCC,” says Access Fund Access Director Joe Sambataro. “We are thrilled to have helped secure access to climbing at one of the country’s most iconic crags.”

This purchase marks the third project for which the RRGCC and Access Fund have partnered to secure climbing access, adding to a long history of collaboration. In 2013, the organizations teamed up to purchase 309 acres of new climbing at the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve (MFRP). And in 2010, Access Fund provided a loan to re-finance 750 acres of climbing at the Pendergrass-Murray Recreation Preserve (PMRP), which the RRGCC paid off in 2012.

The Bald Rock Recreational Preserve adds to a growing legacy of climbing area protection and economic growth in the Red River Gorge. Over the last 12 years, the RRGCC has secured 1,161 acres of land, rich in climbing resources, across the hills of Lee County, Kentucky. The economic impact that rock climbing has had on the area is vast and lasting. A recent study indicates climbers contribute $3.6 million annually in the Red River Gorge region with climber-spending adding to the local and state tax base and creating jobs.

While access is secured, the RRGCC needs the climbing community's help to ensure it stays in climber-friendly hands forever by paying back the Climbing Conservation Loan, allowing Access Fund to re-invest that money into other threatened climbing areas. Donations can be made to the RRGCC at

Trango, Title Sponsor for this project, is making sure the RRGCC starts off on the right foot with a generous $10,000 donation of merchandise and cash to fuel the fundraising campaign and encourage donations.

“It's too much of a risk to leave routes this beautiful and this popular up in the air and not in climber hands,” says RRGCC President Yasmeen Fowler. “If you love these areas as much as we do, we are asking you to please donate today.”

About the Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition
The Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition works to ensure open, public access to quality outdoor rock climbing opportunities in and around the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. The Red River Gorge Climbers' Coalition works to encourage the conservation of the natural environment on publicly managed and privately owned land by protecting, promoting, and ensuring responsible climbing. For more information, visit

About Access Fund
Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, Access Fund supports and represents millions of climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Six core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and education. Since 1991, Access Fund has supported 63 land acquisitions by land trusts, public entities, and local climbing organizations, totaling 17,180 acres across twenty-seven states. For more information, visit