Access Fund Announces Heather Thorne as New Executive Director

image of Heather Thorne

Access Fund Announces Heather Thorne as New Executive Director

image of Heather Thorne

BOULDER, Colo. After a rigorous national search, the Access Fund board has selected Heather Thorne as the organization’s newest executive director. She replaces Chris Winter, who stepped down in 2023 after a five-year tenure.

Access Fund’s board of directors and executive search firm CohenTaylor evaluated more than 100 highly qualified candidates over the past seven months in its search for new leadership.

“We’re thrilled to have Heather take the helm at Access Fund,” says Hilary Harris, Access Fund Board President. “Heather consistently impressed our hiring committee, and we can’t wait for climbers around the country to meet her.”

Thorne has decades of experience as a strategic and collaborative leader, including building and managing large teams at Google and as a vice president at the nonprofit Grameen Foundation. She is well positioned to increase Access Fund’s reach as we navigate the unprecedented growth of our sport, while maintaining a laser focus on the organization’s core mission.

image of Heather Thorne

“I’ve been a dedicated Access Fund supporter since the team partnered with the Washington Climbers Coalition to save my home crag of Index, Washington 14 years ago,” says Thorne. “As climbers around the country face increasing threats to sustainable climbing access, and the landscapes themselves are under pressure, our work is more critical than ever.”

“I’m thankful that Access Fund’s strong leadership team and dedicated staff are ready to help Heather take on her new role and succeed,” says Harris. “We are at an inflection point in the work to ensure sustainable access for current and future climbers, and we firmly believe that Heather brings a unique skill set to lead the organization through the challenges ahead.”

An avid climber and lover of wild places, Thorne began climbing in the mid-90s, and developed a love of splitter cracks on long multi-pitch routes. From the alpine crags of the North Cascades to the walls of Yosemite, the canyons of Red Rock, and the steep faces of Eldo, Thorne loves seeking out spectacular climbing in beautiful natural settings, and is eager to meet climbers in new destinations across the country.

image of Heather Thorne

“I’m honored and incredibly excited to bring together my professional experience and my passion for climbing, conservation, and community to support Access Fund’s mission,” says Thorne. “Whether you’ve been an Access Fund member for years, have not been involved for a while, or are just starting to get outside, we’re here for you. Our incredible team of staff, donors, and partners is committed to ensuring that climbers across America can enjoy the beautiful climbing landscapes that inspire us all, for generations to come.”

Thorne is already getting to know the Access Fund team, and her first official day is February 12. Access Fund thanks Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs Erik Murdock for his excellent leadership as Interim Executive Director over the last eight months as policy issues took center stage for the climbing community. Erik’s dedication to the climbing community cannot be overstated.


Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that leads and inspires the climbing community toward sustainable access and conservation of the climbing environment. Access Fund represents more than 8 million climbers nationwide in its work to protect and conserve the land, fight for sustainable access, and build a community of inspired advocates. For more information, visit

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