The North Carolina climbing and conservation communities lost a giant when John Myers passed away February 4, due to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). John was my friend, partner and mentor.
He had an engaging, laid back demeanor. He was a gifted climber, equally adept at pulling Gunks roofs, enjoying Yosemite walls or running it out on North Carolina’s scary slabs.
Residents of Asheville and then Gerton, John, age 66, and his wife of nearly 20 years, Jane Lawson, were both originally from Middletown, Ohio. Later in life John worked with the Trust For Public Land on deals in New York. In the early 2000s he served on the Access Fund Board of Directors. Thankfully, in 2004 Jane convinced him to move to western North Carolina. He and I became a team on and off the rock. I too had served on the Access Fund board and was soon to become president of the Carolina Climbers Coalition. While John and I were out establishing new routes throughout the North Carolina mountains, we brainstormed for access projects. The Southeast is blessed with hundreds of fabulous climbing areas, but cursed in that many of them are on private property.
John was a visionary. He was an architect and vocal advocate of the concept of climbers purchasing areas to obtain and preserve access to them. John recently said, “Through recreation, conservation emerges. I believe in getting people outdoors to love land like this.”
Our first successes were working to buy several tracts for the newly created Chimney Rock State Park, the climbing showcase of which is Rumbling Bald Mountain.
We next aimed high. Really high. Laurel Knob is the tallest cliff in eastern America. John used his negotiation acumen to cut a great deal with the owners while I wrangled the regional climbing community’s political will and milked the fundraising contacts needed to raise the staggering quarter-million-dollar purchase price. The Carolina Climbers Coalition became “the little nonprofit that could” and they now proudly own Laurel Knob thanks in large measure to John’s skills. This massive project helped create the Access Fund’s current revolving loan fund for the acquisition of climbing areas.
John later served as an advisor to the CCC, RRGCC and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition on many other acquisition projects. He most recently worked with Conserving Carolina in developing his concept for a loop trail connecting most of the upper Hickory Nut Gorge where he lived and played. Last December, Conserving Carolina hosted a unique “three in one” celebration at John and Jane’s Laughing Waters retreat center near Asheville, North Carolina. Some 150 people came to applaud: the completion of a four-years-in-the-making wildcat trail to the summit of little Bearwallow Mountain; the protection through conservation easement of 38 acres on Little Bearwallow Mountain; and the dedication of a newly opened rock and ice climbing area in Gerton, North Carolina, dedicated to John. This rugged north-facing cliff is a fitting tribute to a man who stubbornly believed that conservation and recreation go hand-in-hand.