Introducing our 2023 nominees to the board of directors!

There are five open seats and six nominees for the 2023 WMCC board elections. Danielle Rao, Rob Sullivan, and Josh Seamon-Ingalls are running for re-election; Nick Friedman, Justin Raphaelson, and Jenifer Dickinson are new nominees offering a diverse set of skills and experience.

The election period runs from Sept. 1st to Sept. 30th and the five nominees with the most votes will be elected to the board of directors.

How do I vote in the election?

On Sept. 1st, current members will receive an election ballot at their listed email address. Members have until Sept. 30th to vote. If you are not currently a member but would like to vote in the election to show your support of a candidate or help shape the direction of the WMCC, become a member by Sept. 24th. If you are a member and did not receive the ballot, please email us.

Please email with questions about voting or with questions about your membership status.

Jenifer Dickinson

Recently moving to the Berkshires in Massachusetts from NH, Jenifer has been ice climbing since 2013 and rock climbing since 2017.  She has a background in Conservation biology, experience with land trusts and Conservation Restrictions, and currently works as the Stewardship Coordinator for the Berkshire Natural Resource Council.  She is working  to foster a long term plan for climbing on BNRC land.  In addition to her career, Jenifer has volunteered extensively and participated in her climbing community during her free time.  While living in NH, she sat on the Monadnock Climbers Association Board for several years.  She also became the Chair of the Mountaineering Committee of the NH Chapter of the AMC in 2021 and participates in the AMC Inter Climbing Chapter which coordinates AMC branches and their fundraising and activities. Passionate about providing access for all, she became a mountaineering volunteer leader through the AMC in 2018 and has been co-leading ice climbing events in NH ever since.  She hopes to use all these skills and work to help in building a stronger, more supportive climbing community.

Nick Friedman

Nick Friedman is a Western Massachusetts native who cut his teeth climbing at Reservoir Rocks in Great Barrington. Twenty years later, Nick’s love of climbing has brought him all over the world and keeps him outside several days a week. Nick’s outdoor enthusiasm extends beyond climbing to skiing, surfing, hiking, and mountain biking.

Professionally, Nick is an accomplished entrepreneur having founded several mid-sized companies (400+ employees). With nearly 15 years of executive leadership in the private sector, Nick has extensive experience serving as CEO, CFO, CMO, and CSO, as well as board experience having served as president, secretary, and treasurer to various companies. Currently, Nick is Chief Strategy Officer to Theory Wellness Inc, one of the largest cannabis companies in the country, which he co-founded in 2017.

Over the last year, Nick has begun to volunteer his time to WMCC on access related issues. Most notably, Nick has been instrumental in helping WMCC secure permanent access to the climbing at Farley ledges, by acquiring and developing a new parking area on Old State Road, which remains under development. Nick is passionate on issues of conservation, access, and land management for outdoor recreation, and has personal use familiarity with nearly all WMCC’s managed areas. He looks forward to the opportunity to complement WMCC’s board with expertise in accounting, fundraising, legal, marketing, and strategic planning.

Selfie of a woman with medium length brown hair wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap sitting with a smiling man wearing a baseball cap in front of mountains on a bright day.

Danielle Rao

Danielle has been a member of the WMCC for 17 years and is the current board treasurer. She first started volunteering for the WMCC at annual events like the Winter Thaw and Rendezvous. When it came time to purchase the Farley parking lot, Danielle started the WMCC’s most popular fundraiser, the Silent Auction, now in its 16th year. This event alone has raised over $120,000 for the WMCC! Danielle is a property manager and a small business owner. She and her husband Jon LaValley (founding member of the WMCC) love to climb locally and road trip around the country climbing and biking. When she’s not climbing, she’s usually reading in a sunny spot, gardening, or doing yoga.

Justin Raphaelson

Justin Raphaelson is a writer, lawyer, climber, ultrarunner, mountaineer, and conservationist. He also has a passion for taking cross country road trips to explore the great outdoors. Sensing the urgency to inform others of the beauty within our own country, and most importantly, maintaining that beauty for future generations; he started documenting his journeys on his blog, eventually publishing a memoir in 2020, Take to the Unscathed Road. A property and criminal defense attorney based in Worcester, Massachusetts, Justin is a graduate of New England Law-Boston and has a B.A. in History from Clark University. He is also an executive board member of the Greater Worcester Land Trust. Justin deeply enjoys conservation projects and has worked with a number of climbing organizations over the years such as SNECC, CRAG-VT, and WMCC on access projects.

Josh Seamon-Ingalls

Josh is a Valley native who grew up in the hill town of Leverett and now lives in Northampton where he spends his days teaching math, meandering around with his Golden Retrievers, and continually plotting rockwall-based journeys with his partner Laura and son Wilson. He considers CRG Hadley along with Farley and Rumney to be his homes away from home. He is WMCC’s Volunteer Coordinator and looks forward to bringing his years of program management experience to the position. He also led the group that created WMCC’s Operating Executive position. Josh has been teaching for over 20 years and has over a decade of experience managing sport nonprofits at the local, regional, national, and international levels. He has chaired boards as well as held positions ranging from secretary to treasurer, and been an active member of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging initiatives and Judicial Committees. Outside of climbing Josh enjoys leading international trips, participating in triathlons, folding origami, and having cookouts with his friends.

Rob Sullivan

Rob began climbing in 1990 during his junior year at UConn, cutting his teeth on that state’s terrifying trap-rock, and later, on the magical stone of the Shawangunks. Rob moved to Southern California – just northeast of Joshua Tree – and spent four years climbing all over the American Southwest. Rob joined the WMCC soon after moving to Western Mass in 2001. Here, he worked closely with the founding members of the WMCC to re-open Farley and bring a certain bolt-chopper to justice. Rob was instrumental in the acquisition of Hanging Mountain and continues to develop and secure access to other climbing areas in western Massachusetts. Rob serves on the Joint Stewardship Committee, which manages Hanging Mountain, and as the chair of the Access Committee. Rob lives in Florence, MA with his wife Andrea, daughter Chloe and two dogs: Huan and Mollie. He teaches high school English in Enfield, CT.

15 people stand inside a building posing for a picture.

WMCC Board Retreat Recap

The weekend of June 24th, 2023 was a rainy one, but that didn’t stop nine of our board members, plus several other key community members, from meeting at the Legion in Sandisfield, MA for the second annual WMCC Board Retreat. With 11 board members from locations across Massachusetts, the board meets regularly on zoom, but rarely in person.

The retreat kicked off on Friday night with a potluck dinner. After coffee Saturday morning and time to dry off from a damp night, President Andy Nueman started by acknowledging all the accomplishments from the last year and reviewing goals from the previous board retreat. Lively discussions continued through the morning until the rain came down so hard that we could no longer hear each other speak! We took a break for lunch and reconvened our climbing access discussions in the early afternoon. When the rain finally broke, we took a hike around Hanging Mountain and toured the soon to be open crag: The Beech. After our hike, the board and Operating Executive met once more to discuss board related topics. After a long and productive day, Jon LaValley cooked burgers on the grill and we enjoyed each other’s company by the fire.

Another soggy night brought wet and humid conditions Sunday morning, but some found dry rock and climbed some pitches before heading home. Everyone left energized with big ideas for the next year!

View the full minutes from the 2023 Board Retreat here.

Selfie of a white 30 year old female wearing a blue sweater in front of a table with the WMCC logo apparent on the table cloth.

New Operating Executive

The WMCC’s new Operating Executive began on May 15th, 2023! Stephanie Giguere, formerly WMCC president, has accepted the role of Operating Executive, a 20 hour per week paid position. Before the addition of an Operating Executive, 100% of the work of the WMCC was done by volunteers. That’s a lot of work! As a grassroots, nonprofit organization, volunteers will always be the backbone of the WMCC, but having an Operating Executive to manage much of the day to day tasks will take some of the burden off of our volunteers and boost the organization to the next level. Stephanie will support the WMCC in applying for more grants, building our membership base, hosting more trail days and other events, and most importantly, protecting access to our outdoor climbing resources.

You can learn more about Stephanie and her work with the WMCC on episode #53 of the Climbing Advocate podcast.

Access win at Farley Ledges!

After almost 10 years of negotiations, the WMCC has reached an agreement with FirstLight Power (FirstLight) to recognize climbing as a recreational activity at Farley Ledges and Rose Ledge. This is a huge gain for everyone who climbs at these crags, because climbing on FirstLight property will be protected for the foreseeable future.


Previously, rock climbing was informally allowed by FirstLight. This Recreation Settlement Agreement permanently secures the right to climb in these areas. We want to express our gratitude to Mike Morin, the @AccessFund , and to our fellow stakeholders, especially the Appalachian Mountain Club and American Whitewater, for their advice and support in these negotiations. We also want to thank WMCC board member, Pamela Matsuda-Dunn, for spearheading this on behalf of the board and attending hundreds of hours of meetings.


Rock climbing at Farley Ledges is located on a combination of land owned by FirstLight and private landowners. This agreement covers Rose Ledge, Wall of Early Morning Light, Second Tier, part of Zen Garden, Crag X, and Crag Z. In addition to provisions in the Agreement, should Farley Ledges be placed into a conservation restriction or transferred to a third party, access to climbing and other recreational activities will continue to be permitted.

If you support our work to secure long term access to climbing areas like Farley, consider becoming a member. Memberships start at just $20 a year – find a link in our bio.

WMCC Announces New Operating Executive Position

Blue and red background with the white text "We're hiring! New Operating Executive position" and the WMCC logo in white.Last summer, the WMCC board met at Hanging Mountain for a weekend long retreat. Between working out ways up the wonderful routes, the board worked on strategic goals as well as how to meet them. As the number of climbers continues to grow, the impact of climbers on our local crags continues to increase. The WMCC manages more properties, hosts more events, and has more members than ever before. In order to build the capacity of the organization to continue our important work, the WMCC is creating a part time, paid position to support the board in managing day to day operations.

The WMCC is looking for someone with experience in event planning, fundraising, networking, social media outreach, and a familiarity with property rights and conservation work. It’s crucial that this person brings with them a love for Western, MA rock climbing and building a strong, equitable, and vibrant climbing community. The Operating Executive would work closely and in conjunction with the Board of Directors.

We are seeking to hire a part time Operating Executive starting April 1st, 2023. Applications are due by February 8th, 2023 at 6pm ET. WMCC is an equal opportunity employer and encourages people from all backgrounds to apply.

View the full job description & application. (You need a Google Account to submit the application. Applications must be submitted using this form. The application questions can be viewed here.)

Questions can be sent to and

Farley Parking Lot Project and Fundraiser

The Farley parking lot is getting a facelift!! The upgrades are projected to cost $12,000 – $15,000. We are thankful for a $9,000 grant from the Ashley Arthur Williams Foundation, which will cover more than half of the cost of this project.  But we need YOUR help now more than ever to make up the difference.

Our goal is to raise $2,000 in donations by July 30th. Donate HERE.

The scope of the project:

  • regrade and repack surface of the lot
  • widen the lot, making space for an emergency vehicle to pull up to the top
  • flat accessible parking space next to trail
  • larger place for ADA accessible toilet
  • add guard rail
  • add parking spaces (number of actual spaces will only be determined after the excavator begins work)

The main lot will be closed when work is being done. Please check our Instagram account for the latest updates and plan accordingly for parking. Visit our website for more information on other options for parking.

Access and Demographics Survey

Want to help out the WMCC from the comfort of your home? Take our survey! We need as many climbers as possible to take our Access and Demographics survey so that we have data that represents the full spectrum of our climbers. It doesn’t matter where you live or how often you climb at crags in Western Mass – if you have climbed in Western Mass, we want to hear from you!

What will we do with the data from this survey? The results of this survey will inform our long term goals and strategy, will add valuable data to future grant applications, and help us compare usage over time. The survey is anonymous and will take about five minutes.

Please complete the survey by July 5th, 2022. Thank you!

Take the survey

Hanging Mountain to Open Oct. 2, 2021

Hanging Mountain in Sandisfield, MA will open to the public on Oct. 2, 2021. 

The Western Massachusetts Climbers’ Coalition (WMCC) and the Ragged Mountain Foundation (RMF), in partnership with the Access Fund, purchased the 14-acre Hanging Mountain parcel in November of 2019. Previously, Hanging Mountain, a small mountainside with ten distinct crags, was privately owned and closed to climbing.

Now, after the construction of an access road and parking area, building a network of approach trails, and developing approximately 70 rock climbs, the WMCC and RMF are ready for climbers, hikers, birdwatchers, and other users to recreate at Hanging Mountain.

The Hanging Mountain Stewardship Committee would like to thank the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Access Fund and a group of very devoted volunteers for their many contributions. Without the help of these parties, opening Hanging Mountain simply would not have been possible. 

The WMCC and RMF want to stress three important points to any visitors to this special place.

  1. The WMCC and RMF intend to open Hanging Mountain in phases. Only “Phase One” of the parcel will open on October 2. Construction and development of Phase Two is underway, with portions of Phase Two expected to open in 2022. PLEASE obey signage indicating which portions of the cliff are closed. If you want to help with Phase Two, click here to sign up.
  2. WMCC and RMF advise climbers to wear helmets due to recent rockfall events at Hanging Mountain.
  3. Nearly all of Hanging Mountain has been designated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Protection as “Priority Habitat,” which means that several rare species have been identified on the property. The WMCC and RMF are asking users to PLEASE stay on established trails and obey all signage.  If climbers, or other recreational users negatively impact the populations of these rare species the WMCC and RMF may be forced to restrict public access to portions of Hanging Mountain.


More About Hanging Mountain

Hanging Mountain, formerly private property which had been closed to climbing for years prior to being purchased by the WMCC and RMF, with crucial support from the Access Fund, offers a valuable new resource for southern New England climbing, with routes up to 3 pitches  long and a good balance of traditional, mixed, and sport routes with grades, to date, from 5.8  to 5.13. There are approximately 70 routes that are open for climbing in several sectors. It is located in an easily accessible and beautiful setting in the southern Berkshires, three miles from the Connecticut border. A large number of people and organizations have put in a great amount of time, effort, and money into the efforts to make this area available for climbing, with much more required in the coming years as we move forward into the future phases of this project.

While we are excited to have a portion of the cliff open after all of these efforts, we must also sound some notes of caution. Hanging Mountain is in an area that has been designated as a highly sensitive (and legally protected) environmental zone, particularly due to the existence of several rare and endangered plants. These plants have been located on sections of the cliff as well as along the base and in the wooded areas, so development of routes, trails, and other infrastructure on the property has been, and will need to continue to be, very carefully planned and accomplished. All users must stay on developed trails, routes, and staging areas as well as using only designated parking areas. This area is being carefully monitored by the State environmental authorities, so we cannot allow the ‘free for all’ route development or the creation of ‘social trails’ that has been common elsewhere. There may also, when necessary, be seasonal closures to protect nesting raptors.

An additional concern at Hanging Mountain is that while much of the crag consists of excellent quality rock, primarily granite, that offers wonderful climbing, there are also areas of dangerously unstable rock and a history of significant rockfalls in certain parts of the cliff—a major one happening just a year ago. This is another factor that has to be taken into account both as the area is developed  and during normal use—wear a helmet!!!

Finally, as our parking area is required to be fairly limited and no legal back-up parking as yet exists, it would be best to try to make your visits during what are likely to be non-peak times.

Please read and follow all rules and instructions that are posted online, in the kiosk at the parking area, or in the PDF guidebook that will be available by the opening date.

-The Hanging Mountain Stewardship Committee


Check out the Hanging Mountain Crag page for more details about parking, etc.

Posted Sept. 7th, 2021

A Letter from the President

Dear Western Mass climbers,

I am honored to accept the role of WMCC President. Thank you for your support and thank you to my fellow board members for their confidence in me.

I am still fairly new to the Western Mass community, and I continue to meet new people and learn more about the history of climbing access in this region. The more than 20 years of hard work and dedication from past volunteers is humbling and I hope to continue this work as best I can.

My commitment to you is to lead with thoughtfulness and transparency. My goals for this year are to continue to grow our membership base, create systems for volunteers who want to get more involved in the organization, and stay focused on our mission of securing access to climbing in Western Mass. It’s important to me that as our community expands and our number of crags grows, we are thoughtful about creating equitable access for everyone.

Thank you for this opportunity.


Stephanie Giguere

President of the Western Mass Climber’s Coalition


Published July 7th, 2021

New Leadership

New Leadership

As planned, Wayne Burleson stepped down from his position as President of the WMCC last week. He will remain on the board through September of this year. The board elected former Vice President, Stephanie Giguere, as the new president, and Dolci Mascolo and Sara McFadden to be Co-Vice Presidents, effective July 1st.

Wayne stands in front of table with WMCC banner with microphone in hand. He is wearing a black sweater and jeans.

A message from Wayne:

“Hey WMCC and friends! I am very excited to welcome Stephanie Giguere as the new president of the WMCC, and also Sara McFadden and Dolci Mascolo as Co-Vice Presidents. It has been an exciting year of challenges and transitions. Our acquisition of Hanging Mountain, ongoing negotiations about Farley and new JDEI initiatives have kept the board busy. Oh yeah, and the pandemic. I have been very proud to lead and serve our local climbing community, especially amidst larger issues in climbing and society.

I ask you all to support WMCC even if the magic of climbing is just a small and local contribution to the greater good. Happy climbing and stay safe!”


Published July 7th, 2021