Southwest Colorado Update

Steve Johnson, Southwest Colorado Regional Coordinator

Falls Wall and Bridal Veil Falls, Telluride, Colorado.
The Falls Wall is located next to Bridal Veil Falls at an elevation of over 9500 feet. It has recently seen development of several hundred sport climbs of up to 300 ft. on high quality conglomerate rock. The Falls Wall is covered in Charlie Fowler and Damon Johnstons guide, Telluride Rocks, 3rd Edition, and is one of the premier alpine sport crags in Colorado.

The Falls Wall cliffs are located on United States Forest Service property. The approach from the Bridal Veil Road (County road K-69), at the base of the tram that connects to the Bridal Veil powerhouse (one switchback below the base of Bridal Veil Falls), crosses private property currently owned by Idarado Mining Company. The Town of Telluride has obtained a large Great Outdoors Colorado grant for acquisition of this property, known as the Kentucky Placer. The Kentucky Placer extends for almost a mile to connect with the Telluride Town Park. Telluride is in the process of completing its due diligence investigation and additional fund raising for the purchase. If all goes well, the purchase will legalize the access to the Falls Wall in time for the 2007 climbing season.

In addition, the base of the Kentucky Placer appears to extend to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. A pending survey should help locate the exact corners, as problematic as it is with steep cliffs, etc. This may or may not prove to be the solution to legally getting to and up Bridal Veil Falls, though it would not cover the walkoff at the top.

Railroad Grade Ice, Ophir, Colorado.
A section of the old Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad known as the Ophir Loop below Ophir, Colorado provides a flat base along several hundred yards of moderate to hard short ice slabs and mixed smears known as the Railroad Grade Ice. This base area is also known as the Galloping Goose Trail which the United States Forest Service has established in the region. The Railroad Grade Ice is located on private property and there are conflicting jurisdictional claims to the Galloping Goose Trail itself.

A federal land exchange was proposed several years ago that would result in acquisition of the Railroad Grade Ice area by the Forest Service. That land exchange, unfortunately, has recently fallen through. The United States Forest Service, however, appears determined to secure ownership of the Galloping Goose Trail and access to it over an intervening parcel from State Highway 145 at the top of Ophir Loop. In the meantime, the Railroad Grade Ice remains closed to the public.

Wilson Peak.
Wilson Peak is a scenic 14,000 ft. peak featured on the Coors beer commercials. It crowns a massif with three of Colorados southwestern most 14ers. Two years ago, a land owner closed trails in Silver Pick Basin which provided access to the classic Southwest Ridge of Wilson Peak, as well as trails also connecting into Navajo Basin for climbers interested in summiting Mount Wilson and El Diente Peak. The landowner did so following USFS denial of his numerous efforts to exchange 38 above-timberline mining claims (constituting approximately 238 acres) for over 2000 acres of developable properties on Wilson Mesa outside of Telluride. The claims include a strip of land near the summit of Wilson Peak.

A Wilson Peak Protection Fund has been set up to evaluate alternative access, provide signage and education to hikers, and possibly to restore access over existing historic trails. Initial efforts may include funding a USFS-led survey to definitively establish trail and claim locations, estimated to cost over $57,000.00. Donations may be sent to the Colorado Mountain Club, 710 Tenth Street, Ste. 200, Golden, Colorado 80401, ATTN: Cathy McGuire. Checks should be made out to the Colorado Mountain Club with a notation in the remarks line of Wilson Peak Fund.

The Wilson Peak Protection Fund was established after extensive negotiations with the landowner over one year failed. The goal was to acquire a recreational easement over the mining claims. During the negotiations, the landowner expressed major concern over liability to hikers and climbers as a major reason for its closure. In 2005, the Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill 1049, which afforded immunity to landowners who allow members of the public to cross over historically used trails for recreational purposes at no charge. While this bill was pending, the landowner instead decided to offer, pay to play access, charging $100 per climber/hiker per day. As a result, the new liability protections will not available to the landowner. The landowners website can be found at www.wilsonpeakaccess.com. The Telluride Mountain Club discourages the public and guides from paying any access fee.

The landowner has also announced plans to commence gold mining in Silver Pick basin as part of an apparent effort to force the public and the Forest Service to approve the unbalanced land exchange proposal.

In the meantime, Wilson Peak climbers can skirt the mining claims by crossing very loose scree slopes above and east of the Silverpick Road and traversing on trails and scrambling into the upper Silver Pick Basin. This leads to the West Face, where the summit can be legally accessed up steep snow or scree and talus. The two other 14ers can continue to be legally accessed from Navajo Basin. For more information, see: charlieontheloose@blogspot.com; www.summitpost.com; www.14ers.com.