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Climbers hope to keep access to West Slope canyon

Marija B. Vader
Grand Junction Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado ” Rock climbers in Mesa County launched a bid to keep a special rock face in Unaweep Canyon open to climbing.

The Mothers Buttress attracts climbers from Durango, Denver and beyond because of its solid granite and its south face, said Grand Junction climber Jesse Zacher.

“It’s the most solid and best rock of almost the whole canyon,” Zacher said. “There’s long routes and it’s south-facing, so we can still climb there in the winter. The most famous and classic routes are on that section of rock.”

The access is in danger because the land is for sale.

“Unaweep Canyon is a wonderful world-class granite climbing area with very long routes and very good quality rock,” said Grand Junction resident Kris Hjelle, who teaches rock climbing and other outdoor sports in Colorado and Utah. “The parcel that’s for sale is one of the prime areas for some of the longer routes.”

Hjelle has been climbing Mothers Buttress and other areas of Unaweep Canyon 20 years.

While some climbing areas are public lands, some are private and some are both. The Mothers Buttress is all private.

The current property owners have allowed climbers to use the wall, which is “how it was in rock climbing historically,” Hjelle said. “When certain liability issues arose, some people became concerned.”

“Someone could buy that and say, ‘I don’t want anyone climbing here,'” Hjelle said. “There are various reasons it could get shut down.”

Climbers will gather Sunday at 5 p.m. at Core Elements, 1543 Independent Ave., to discuss their options. Representatives of The Access Fund, a coalition of climbers who works to keep outdoor climbing areas open, expect to attend.

The Access Fund will determine if there’s enough interest among climbers to maintain access to the Mothers Buttress, Zacher said.

The Access Fund has already successfully bought land to create a trail to the Sunday Wall, another popular climbing wall in Unaweep Canyon, Zacher said. Area climbers erected a sign on the property outlining the liability issues and warnings.

“Most land owners in Unaweep Canyon are enthusiastic about people climbing,” Zacher said. “Their concern is poaching.”

Located 17.5 miles from Whitewater on Highway 141, the land is listed for $149,000 with Bray’s Christy Reece. The property owners had worked in Gateway, but they’ve since moved away want to sell, Reece said.

“They would really like for the climbing wall to remain open, but they didn’t want to restrict the property,” for fear of driving off potential buyers, Reece said.


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