One very lucky ACE Southwest crew was sent to Washington state on an extended project at the end of this summer. The crew recently returned to Flagstaff after spending six project weeks working with the North Cascade Mountains backdrop. Led by ACE crew leader, AnnaMarie Rodenhausen, and in partnership with the Access Fund, the crew worked to create a more sustainable route to several climbing spots off of the Blue Lake Trail in the popular Liberty Bell climbing area. 

 The Access Fund is a not-for-profit rock climbing advocacy group in the US. Their mission is to keep climbing areas open and to gain access to currently closed climbing areas as well as promoting an ethic of responsible climbing and conservation of climbing. Many popular rock climbing areas are discovered unofficially by climbers resulting in many social trails leading up to the base of these rock walls. Social trails are typically not sustainable and usually where there is one, there are many. By establishing one main route up to these spots, the impact of hikers and climbers is concentrated on one sustainable path. This is especially important in areas such as the North Cascades which is a sensitive alpine environment. 

The crew worked closely alongside the Access Fund partners to build rock staircases, reroutes, and rock walls to armor switchbacks. Gathering rocks for these projects involved transporting rocks longer distances. The crew utilized nets and advanced rigging systems to move rocks from their source to the building sites. After the new route was established the crew worked to naturalize and rehabilitate the old social trails to enable vegetation regrowth. ACE is grateful to have been able to spend an extended amount of time in one of the most beautiful places in the US!

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