About R-A-D

Rock climbing Association for Development (R-A-D) assists communities to harness local climbing potential through sustainable development leading to economic empowerment and cross cultural understanding.



The Rock climbing Association for Development (RAD) assists communities to exploit local climbing potential.

RAD helps create long-term economic gains for communities as they are equipped to cater for tourism.

RAD promotes a lasting and ecologically aware love of rock climbing leading to better health, sustainable community development and cross cultural understanding.

RAD reaches young climbers by building capacity of responsible community leaders and provision of resources.




The motivation for forming the Rock climbing Association for Development (RAD) is to assist communities in exploiting local climbing potential. The economic boost to rural tourism is widely evidenced in established climbing destinations.

Rock climbing brings social benefit as a global sport requiring balance, agility, strength, strategy and focus. Personal achievements through rock climbing include improved determination, self-reliance, problem solving and trust in the climbing partner. These qualities can be developed by girls and boys with appropriate equipment and training.

Establishing quality climbing routes, is crucial to the recognition of an area as a climbing destination. The route should be readable, repeatable and the gear should be retrievable (see Technical Goals below.) Climbs of all grades: beginner, intermediate and expert are a necessary pull for an area.

The more good climbing sectors there are, the longer visitors will want to stay. The result is that the number of bolts drilled can be said to correlate with the number of beverages consumed, meals served and hotel rooms or campsite places occupied.

Vast potential exists to develop communities surrounding rock climbing destinations. A cover page photo of a famous climber on a new route in a previously unknown crag sparks an international buzz about the climbing potential of a new area. This translates into groups of climbers traveling to that spot, utilizing local amenities.

Rock climbing is a highly physical activity, which means the climber eventually has to take a ‘rest day’. This can boost other tourist activities such as guided tours and cultural and leisure activities.

No other identified international organization currently supports capacity building of community rock climbing associations for development. RAD can give technical assistance (TA) on vertical equipment of climbing routes. RAD can also promote networking of climbing communities with the following agencies:

  • The International Federation of Sport Climbing IFSC which sets policy for the mountaineering community; organizes competition climbing, the sponsoring of athletes in order to participate in international sporting events, and promotes anti-doping.
  • The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) which promotes safety, international standards, the Olympic Charter and youth participation in international climbing competitions.

Aware of the complexities of executing development initiatives abroad, the founders of RAD gratefully acknowledge support given by the State of Geneva, Switzerland at the heart of the alpine rock climbing culture.



Assist local climbing association to be a hub for regional climbing activity, including international promotion.

  • Facilitating permission from municipalities to climb at newly identified climbing sites.
  • Expansion of sustainable tourism and development of ‘hidden’ tourism potential in rural areas.
  • Initiating innovative tourism and exposing rural businesses to the potential gains from the international tourist trend of rock climbing.

Conservation of climbing sites: no littering; awareness of impacts to vegetation and wildlife, impacts to soil and rock.

  • Environmental protection at staging areas, climbing routes, bouldering sites and approach trails, including use of temporary equipment/anchors that can be placed and removed without altering the environment (eg. cams, slings, nuts, chocks, stoppers, and removable pitons) as well as fixed anchors.
  • Responsible backcountry camping.

Promoting a meaningful way of spending free time for youth aged 8 and above by training a community leader as mentor/climbing instructor; building capacity of a local community center as a permanent meeting point; and establishing outdoor climbing routes.

  • Development of a climbing center offers youth a forum where related health messaging can be shared and a respect for nature can be nurtured.
  • Rock climbing as a skill can assist with career orientation for vertical access (eg. guide, high rigger).
  • Rock climbing is a viable ‘cool’ alternative to negative activities such as drug and substance abuse and can be used as part of a harm reduction program.




Principal Activities


  • Responsible opening of new routes; developing new outdoor climbing sectors.
  • Promotion of new climbing ‘destinations’.
  • Tourism development.
  • Building routes that are readable, repeatable and the gear is retrievable (see Technical Aspects below).
  • Technical Assistance; identify local climbing enthusiast as mentor for advocacy of climbing in the community and assist capacity-building of local climbing associations to be safe, self-sufficient and sustainable.
  • Training mentor in rope craft, climbing techniques and safety procedures.
  • Training mentor in conservation of sites and environmental protection.
  • Training mentor to give training to aspiring climbers (trainer of trainers).
  • Donate climbing gear (outdoor gear, periodicals) so it is available for use by aspiring climbers through the local climbing association.
  • Building practice/indoor climbing walls.

Keen community-leader climbers have been identified in three locations which RAD is at various stages of developing:

  • Armenia. Gear has been provided as well as technical assistance but more resources are required.
  • Tajikistan. Gear has been provided but more is needed and technical assistance is lacking.
  • Lebanon. Research shows potential to explore partnership with existing climbing communities.



Rock climbing developed in the 19th century as a way to train for alpinism, but sport climbing only took off in the 1980s and 90s.

Each of the following areas show clear evidence that where climbing activity is established, existing services catering to visitors benefit, new service providers are created and the property value of the area increases.

Kalymnos, Greece

El Potrero Chico, Mexico

Yang-Sho, China




Technical goals


It is vital when developing a climbing area that the routes are high quality, on good rock and has been groomed to minimize loose rock falling onto people at the base of the cliff.

READABLE – the route path is clearly named for reference in a guide so the difficulty of the climb can be determined. The path is obvious.

REPEATABLE – the first bolt and second bolts are closely spaced to minimize the climber’s potential for a ground fall.

RETRIEVABLE – the route has a high quality anchor with stainless steel rings at a distance of no more than 35 meters, half the length of a standard rope length of 70 meters, so the climber can safely rappel to the ground and retrieve their gear.


Technical aspects

Sport climbing – bolts are drilled or glued into the rock face and the climber attaches the rope with carabineers known as ‘quick draws’. An anchor is positioned at the top of the climb.

Traditional climbing – uses equipment such as cams or nuts which the climber places into cracks in the rock as they climb so the rope can be attached. ‘Trad. routes’ still require anchors.

Route selection – means picking responsible sites to minimize impact on nature, avoiding climbing during bird nesting season; and at sites of scientific interest or cultural or religious heritage.

No gluing or chipping holds – the natural state of the rock should be sufficient to sustain the given grade of difficulty of the climb.

Cleaning routes – is scaling the face of loose rock to prevent injury from accidental rock fall.

Trail building – entails safe access to the cliff while protecting private property and local wildlife.

Re-bolting – old routes, or routes close to the sea may become unsafe as the bolts are used and corroded over time. It is possible to re-bolt routes using marine-grade bolts which are glued in rather than tightened down.