Go Play: Unaweep Canyon cliffs saved for climbing
Special to the Free Press
Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition (WCCC) and the Access Fund recently purchased two major cliffs in Unaweep Canyon that secure permanent public access. Acquisition of the Television Wall and Lower Mothers Buttress culminates a 25-year history of conservation and public access along this portion of the Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic Byway.
This purchase adds 40 acres of land that hosts more than 50 high-quality granite climbing routes to previously protected lands. Public access to these walls was closed three years ago when the property owner sought to sell the land. After two years of negotiations to purchase or lease the cliff line, WCCC and Access Fund reached an agreement to obtain the properties.
“It is very exciting to have this long-term project come to fruition,” says Jesse Zacher, WCCC’s president. “After many years of negotiations and planning, it is fantastic to see it all finally coming together. Public access to these previously closed cliffs is a great asset for present and future public recreation groups.”
These two major crags are adjacent to the Sunday Wall, which was purchased by the Access Fund in 1991 in partnership with three local climbers, and the Upper Mothers Buttress, which was secured in 2010 by WCCC with the help of Colorado climbers John and Marti Peterson. With much of the canyon privately held, WCCC, Access Fund, and local climbers have worked diligently to purchase the unique granite cliffs of Unaweep over the last two decades.
Steve Johnson, chair of the Access Fund Loan and Acquisitions Committee and regional coordinator for western Colorado commented: “This land acquisition is important for climbers across the region and the nation because it unlocks access to great multi-pitch granite crags in a really scenic location. Acquisition of the Lower Mothers Buttress and the Television Wall consolidates free public access to the major cliffs in Unaweep.”
With a narrow window of time to protect the properties, Access Fund awarded WCCC with a climbing preservation grant to defray closing costs and an Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign low-interest loan of $134,200 to acquire the threatened climbing area. Access Fund and WCCC have applied for a significant grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), a lottery-funded open space grant program. The project provides a unique opportunity to preserve conservation and recreation values in the geologically unique canyon of the Uncompahgre Plateau. The GOCO application comes with additional support from Mesa County’s Board of County Commissioners, Mesa Land Trust, Conservation Colorado, the American Alpine Club, and National Outdoor Leadership School. If WCCC is unable to secure sufficient funds from grants or private donors, it will pursue an alternative plan to subdivide the cliffs from the total of 40 acres, and will sell two home sites, while preserving the cliffs in perpetuity.
WCCC now needs the support of climbers, recreationalists, and the people of western Colorado to pay back the loan and fundraise for stewardship of Unaweep Cliffs. Donations are encouraged and can be made to WCCC at http://www.westernslopeclimbers.blogspot.com.
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