Climbers hope to preserve access to popular face in Unaweep Canyon |

Climbers hope to preserve access to popular face in Unaweep Canyon

Marija B. Vader
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jesse Bernier climbs Mothers Buttress in Unaweep Canyon. Area climbers have organized a meeting for Sunday to gauge interest in keeping access to the prime climbing wall in western Colorado. (Courtesy Jesse Zacher)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” Rock climbers in Mesa County have launched a bid to maintain access to a special rock face in Unaweep Canyon with hopes of keeping it open to climbing.

The face, 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.”

Continuing access to the buttress is up in the air, though, because it’s on private property, and the 19-acre parcel is up 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, in far western Colorado, for 20 years.

Current property owners of the Mothers Buttress property have allowed climbers to use the wall.

“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, Jan. 13, at 5 p.m. at Core Elements, 1543 Independent Ave., Grand Junction, 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 landowners in Unaweep Canyon are “enthusiastic about people climbing,” Zacher said. “Their concern is poaching.”

If the Access Fund perceives that the climbing community doesn’t really care enough about Mothers Buttress, and possibly Lower Mothers Buttress, they will probably not make it one of their priorities, Hjelle said. The second objective of the meeting is to discuss ideas and options for preserving it for public use, Hjelle added.

A bonus of Sunday’s meeting is a slide show featuring climbs by the late Charlie Fowler, a legendary climber from western Colorado, presented by Damon Johnston, a close friend.

Located 17.5 miles from Whitewater on Highway 141, the Mothers Buttress 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.

Anyone with questions about this issue may call (970) 241-7622 or (970) 245-8513.

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