Accomplished rock climber named chair of Mohonk Preserve

Russ Clune (photo by Amanda Rogers)

Mohonk Preserve’s Board of Directors elected Russ Clune to serve as board chair at their April 29 meeting. The New Paltz resident is the fifth person to lead the board in the Preserve’s 55-year history. He succeeds Jim Hoover who remains a board member.

An accomplished rock climber, Clune has climbed cliffs around the world in over 45 countries and has spent over 40 years climbing on the Shawangunk Ridge, where he is responsible for establishing over 100 routes and is a licensed climbing guide. He first visited the “Gunks” in 1977 and remembers looking out over the Wallkill Valley from atop the near Trapps and thinking, “I’m going to live here.” In 1991, he moved to New Paltz in that same valley at the base of the Gunks.

Climbing remains a passion for Clune, who marked turning 50 by climbing 20 difficult Gunks routes in a single day and still climbs throughout the world. His most recent climbing trip was to Sardinia in March 2018.


Clune is a graduate of the University of Vermont and holds a Master of Arts in sports psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. He was a founding member of Black Diamond, a leading climbing gear manufacturer, and spent many years as a climbing equipment sales representative. 

After moving to New Paltz, Clune joined the Preserve board in 1997 and has served as board secretary, land stewardship committee chair and member of the executive and finance committees during his tenure.

“Russ understands that stewardship of great natural areas like the Preserve requires a long-term vision, daily staff and volunteer fortitude, lots of resources and a connection to the people whose support makes it all possible,” said Mohonk Preserve President Glenn Hoagland. 

“I’ve always felt that it’s absolutely imperative to support this unbelievable habitat and island of recreation and recharging that we’re lucky enough to have,” Clune said about Mohonk Preserve. “It’s a responsibility as well as a pleasure — that’s how I look at it.”