‘Perfect local crag’ for climbers dangling before Pitkin County
September 7, 2009
ASPEN – Such mundane land-use discussions as the proposed plat amendment before the Pitkin County commissioners this week probably don’t excite Aspen’s climbing community as a rule.
But with a once-popular climbing area offered up to the county to sweeten the deal in a request to relocate lots at Red Butte Ranch, climbers have taken notice. Commissioners will take up the proposal Wednesday.
Bob Wade, owner of local outdoor gear shop Ute Mountaineer, has written a letter in support of restoring public access to Gold Butte – a “perfect local crag,” he says – and he intends to attend the discussion. A few other climbing advocates are likely to show up as well, Wade said.
Wade said he recently received a call from the county attorney, who wanted to know if the offer of Gold Butte, located above the Rio Grande Trail just outside of town, is a legitimate consideration.
“The climbing community would really love to have it,” according to Wade. “In my point of view, it is valuable in a trade if the other aspects make sense.”
County commissioners will weigh a proposal to create three new lots in the subdivision off McLain Flats Road in an area that is now common open space. Three already approved lots would become open space. Currently irrigated lands that would be impacted with the development of homes would be replaced with other land that has not been historically irrigated, and 17 acres of degraded sagebrush shrub lands would be restored as part of the proposal, according to a memo to county commissioners.
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Also part of the deal: 12.61 acres that encompass the Gold Butte climbing area and other land above the Rio Grande Trail would be conveyed to county ownership. The parcel includes the extended segment of the Sunnyside Trail between the Rio Grande and McLain Flats Road, and space for additional Sunnyside parking on McLain Flats. The county would also acquire a site of less than an acre, farther down the Rio Grande Trail, where Stein Falls is popular for ice climbing.
Wade, a climbing enthusiast, counts himself among the locals who used to climb at Gold Butte 15 or 20 years ago, before prior owners of the property began posting it as closed. County commissioners have expressed concern about the liability of owning a rock-climbing area and are expected to be advised on that aspect during Wednesday’s discussion.
With south- and east-facing aspects, Gold Butte would offer climbing most of the year, according to Wade, who said he helped establish routes there years ago. Aspen’s other popular climbing spot, on Independence Pass, is inaccessible much of the year.
“It would open up climbing in the valley for a much longer period of time than we normally have,” Wade said. “I don’t know the plat issues, but I hope those issues can be worked out because this would be a dynamite little recreation area.”