In 1999 a group of local climbers came together over concerns about the potential loss of access to a series of cliffs in northwestern Vermont. Out of these meetings, CRAG-VT formed as a locally led organization that works toward maintaining access, and promoting the conservation of Vermont's climbing resources. In the past several years, CRAG-VT has been building relationships with local landowners and land managers throughout the state to assure continued access to crags that have seen over a generation of use.
Despite popular beliefs, Vermont has an amazing array of climbing resources. These local climbing areas are tremendously valued, and maintained and protected by local climbing communities. These climbing resources are scattered throughout the state and range from the granitic walls and spectacular ice of Wheeler Mountain and Mt. Pisgah, to methamorphic schist in Bolton and Smugglers Notch, to quartzite of Lake Dunmore. The crags range in height from small boulders to over 600 feet, and provide many communities with access to a variety of climbing opportunities.
Virtually all of climbing areas in Vermont are located on private land. Maintaining a Vermont tradition, many private landowners allow access to their property for a wide range of recreational pursuits, including climbing. However, the explosive popularity of climbing is increasing the use of these privately owned lands, making landowners hesitant to maintain their open-door policy. Lack of knowledge regarding legal liability, and greater pressure on the more popular climbing areas is beginning to threaten access to these privately owned lands. Over the past decade, several landowners have posted their property, removing some of the most beautiful and exciting cliffs from the current repertoire of available crags.
Climbing on State owned land such as Wheeler Mountain and Smugglers Notch is currently allowed; however a continued dialogue with the State is needed in order to preserve climbing opportunities for future generations. In the past year, CRAG-VT has represented the climbing community at public hearings, and provided resource managers with documentation of the regions history, the Access Fund's Climbing Management Guide, and local lore of the area's value to the climbing community. CRAG-VT has also opened dialogue with several landowners, and works hard to address their concerns whether they be increased use, trail maintenance, noise, or habitat sensitivity.
Intimacy with the natural world is an inherent part of the climbing experience. Climbers are eager to help protect the wildlife and the habitat that is unique to the climbing environment. CRAG-VT has worked with conservation organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation to protect endangered species such as the Peregrine Falcon. Every year, climbers provide assistance to NWF and state biologists in documenting nesting sites and banding the newly arrived chicks. CRAG-VT also assists NWF to increase awareness of the sensitive nature of nesting sites, and encouraging climbers to keep a safe distance.