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On October 10th 2016, the Access Fund transfered ownership of the Holy Boulders to the Illinois Climbers Association. The ICA is proud to take on the huge responsibility of repaying the remainder of the Access Fund's revolving loan of $90,000 and the long term management of the boulders.

Access Fund Acquires Holy Boulders

The Access Fund acquired the Holy Boulders in Southern Illinois. While private landowners have historically allowed climbing access at the Holy Boulders, known for its Fontainebleau-like perfect sandstone friction and aesthetic lines, they decided to sell the property, putting the boulders at risk of indefinite closure. With a narrow window of opportunity to protect the Holy Boulders, local climbers and the Illinois Climbers Association reached out to the landowners and the Access Fund to help protect this hidden gem of the American bouldering community. After months of working with the landowners and local climbers, the Access Fund reached an agreement to protect the Holy Boulders through a multi-phased conservation project. The Access Fund secured temporary ownership of the Holy Boulders using funds from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, a revolving loan program designed to quickly save threatened climbing areas. The Illinois Climbers Association now needs help from the climbing community to raise an additional $90,000 to repay the loan and to raise even more funds for long term management and property taxes to keep climbing access open for future generations. Please make a donation to the Protect What’s Holy campaign today to ensure long-term access to the Holy Boulders. With your support, we can protect and steward the Holy Boulders forever. 

Holy Boulders History
The Holy Boulders have attracted professional climbers and strong athletes from around the country. The area features 150 developed problems and potential for hundreds more that climbers of all abilities can enjoy. “My first impression of the Holy Boulders was incredible,” says professional climber Jimmy Webb. “The rock quality is second to none and is probably some of the best sandstone I’ve ever climbed on.” 

The Holy Boulders sits on a 78-acre tract of farm and forestland that the Tripp family has owned for over 47 years. In 2004, local climbers discovered the Holy Boulders from aerial photographs and introduced himself to the landowner. After initial concerns of liability, the family gave climbers verbal permission to climb at the boulders. For eight years climbers maintained a positive relationship with the Tripp Family, offering small tokens of appreciation and keeping information word-of-mouth so as not to jeopardize access. In May of 2012 climbers spotted For Sale signs on the property and learned that the landowners were planning to sell the property. “Climbing is a finite resource,” says professional climber and Holy Boulders regular Matt Segal. “Especially areas like the Holy Boulders that are so special. It’s really important for us to take initiative and try to protect these areas for future generations.”

Access details
The existing parking area and approach off Macedonia Road remains the current point of access for the Holy Boulders. Please remember that parking and the initial approach are on Shawnee National Forest. Do your part to keep the Holy Boulders area beautiful by following Leave No Trace principles.

Without the local expertise, passion, and dedication of climbers Matt Bliss, Phillip Carrier, Dave Chancellor, Leif Faber, Jim Thurmond, Jason Kehl and many others, this victory for the climbing community would not have been possible. 

Previous article courtesy of the Access Fund

  • Local representation and site knowledge during initial acquisition with the Access Fund

  • 4 trail days, 2 of which were Access Fund co-sponsored adopt-a-crags

  • Trail building and maintenance

  • Boulder landing cleaning

  • Retention wall and other erosion control

  • Terraced steps

  • Burn preparation through removing and diminishing woody debris piles, raking around boulders, building fire breaks and lines

  • Controlled Burn

  • Overall site cleaning and maintenance for competitions

  • Initiation and oversight of a 16 acre burn to promote forest health

  • 3 successful Bouldering competitions with net profits donated directly to the Access Fund for acquisition of over $55,000

  • Countless dollars extra from advertising via social media for donation to the Holy Boulders, t-shirts sales, sticker sales, etc.

  • Public education regarding forest management and climber education regarding leave no trace ethics via trail days and social media

  • Unification of the climbing community towards an important goal of acquiring the property, especially via the competitions

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Jackson Falls

The Illinois Climbers Association (ICA) is thrilled to announce a formal partnership between the ICA and the U. S. Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest (SNF) wherein the ICA will address stewardship and maintenance of rock climbing resources across the Forest.

This is the first formal partnership that has been created between a climbing-based organization and the SNF. The ICA is very proud to assume this role after a long-standing, positive relationship with the SNF.

The first project the ICA will tackle is fixed anchor replacement at Jackson Falls recreation area. Aging hardware is a great concern for climbers. The ICA will systematically replace anchors with new, stainless steel hardware that meet modern standards. The continued maintenance of fixed hardware is essential to prevent bolt failure and improve user safety. This is a tremendous task that will require large funds and countless work hours to update hardware on over 200 climbing routes. 

Mountain Project
  • Representation of the climbing community to the FS for the past 20+ years

  • 2 trail days 

  • Working with the Forest Service to re-bolt Jackson Falls

  • Initiated fundraising for stainless steel replacement bolts


city state park

Giant City State Park requested assistance from the Illinois Climbers Association to install fixed anchors on established routes at Shelter One. Climbing at Shelter One or “Makanda Bluff” has been at the center of climbing culture in southern Illinois since the early 1960’s. Historically, top roping, traditional climbing, and bouldering have been permitted at Shelter One. With the decision to add bolts for sport climbing to established routes, the Park hopes to decrease cliff top erosion, increase climber participation, and increase park visitation. The ICA is grateful for the opportunity to assist the Park and to increase climbing opportunities in the area. 

The ICA began installing bolts at Shelter One on December 9, 2017. 63 routes have been bolted to date. Please beware of closed routes (marked with a sign stating “DO NOT USE”). Closed routes are unsafe to climb!


This project is funded by Giant City State Park, Friends of Giant City, and the ICA. If you are excited about sport climbing at Giant City State Park, help us continue this project by making a donation to the ICA!

Special thanks to Giant City State Park, Friends of Giant City, Eric Ulner and Jeff Frizzel for project guidance.

Pere Marquette

State Park

The Illinois Climbers Association is proud to present Illinois' newest rock climbing destination, Pere Marquette State Park. Located an hour from St. Louis just outside the lively town of Grafton, Pere Marquette offers highly featured limestone formations great for climbing. Since early 2015 the ICA has been working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to gain their blessing for this project, which includes new trails, landscaping with natural rock steps, and both sport routes and top-anchors for traditional leads. This new climbing area will ultimately have over 60 climbing routes.


In the Spring of 2017, a brand new crag was opened up for climbers. Welcome to Alto Pass! This project was made possible thanks to a great relationship between the town of Alto Pass and the Illinois Climbers Association. Primarily a sport and bouldering area with traditional lines mixed in, these shorter walls provide endless fun. The area is well suited for "first leads" because of the closely spaced bolts and fun climbing. With abundant shade in the warmer months and plentiful sun in the cooler months, this area is climber friendly year round. Alto Pass is still in its development phase, so keep your eyes peeled as route development continues.

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