Rest assured, 360 acres of climbing access at the Homestead in Central Arizona are safe.
On July 22, the Access Fund, in partnership with public land agencies and five local climbing organizations, purchased the northern section of the Dripping Springs Ranch to preserve access to the Homestead’s 12 limestone walls with over 250 routes on the southern slopes of the Mescal Mountains north of Winkleman and the Gila River.
“The Homestead offers unspoiled desert backcountry sport climbing,” says longtime Phoenix climber Lucas Anaya of Concerned Climbers of Arizona. “Climbers are drawn to this canyon for its wide array of climbing styles, including long technical face climbs and a tufa wall that is unrivaled in America.”
The Homestead’s three-mile access road, as well as its cliffs, crosses a patchwork of private, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and state trust land. So, when the Bank of America foreclosed on the 1,687-acre Dripping Springs Ranch, which overlaps portions of the access road, trailhead and the crag’s first few dozen routes, the Access Fund made plans to purchase the land, as the first step in a larger effort to secure ongoing access to the cliffs.
In its current condition, the access road is too eroded for the standard sport utility vehicle to drive its length to the canyon entrance. Joe Sambataro, the Access Fund’s national access director, says it is “ill advised” to drive a sedan on, but he is working with the State and BLM to repair the worst section within the next year, so climbers won’t have to make the hour-long hike to the cliffs.
The Access fund used $152,000 of short-term financing from the Access Fund Climbing Conservation Loan Program to temporarily secure the 360 acres. Their goal is to raise $235,000 to refund the initial purchase and cover costs for public right of ways and estimated long-term stewardship improvements.
“The bottom line,” Sambataro told Rock and Ice, “is this is one of those big conservation projects that we are just getting off the ground.” He asks the climbing community to support the project by donating funds to help cover costs and consider helping with stewardship programs this winter, during the prime climbing season, to add new signs and trails to the area.
“Just spread the world,” Sambataro encourages those who live too far away to join trail blazing.
For more information about the Homestead and to donate, visit the Access Fund’s Homestead webpage.
From the Access Fund:
It is important to note that the access road crosses a matrix of private and public land and is currently impassable by standard vehicles. Access across the initial stretch of state trust land requires a state recreation permit, but a pending public right-of-way application will soon eliminate this need. For those without 4WD high clearance, the access road can be hiked in approximately an hour. The current access point may be modified in the near future to secure permanent and sustainable public access. Visit www.accessfund.org/homestead for further details, updates, and maps.
About the Access Fund:
The Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, the 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 policy and advocacy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and education. Since 1991, the Access Fund has supported 55 land acquisitions in partnership with land trusts, public entities, and local climbing organizations, totaling 15,943 acres across twenty seven states. For more information, visit www.accessfund.org.