Building Sustainable Climbing Access in Cottonwood Canyon, UT

The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team is on its way back to lower Little Cottonwood Canyon outside of Salt Lake City, Utah to help Salt Lake Climbers Alliance with the largest climbing access improvement project currently in the US: the Alpenblock Climbing Access Project.

In addition to being one of the most popular climbing and recreation areas in the metro area, Little Cottonwood Canyon also supplies drinking water to the Salt Lake valley. Recreation in the canyon has increased over the last decade, causing heavy erosion and increased run-off at climbing sites, which has raised concerns over water quality.

Last year, the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance partnered with the Conservation Team to break ground on critical improvements to trail systems and staging areas at Crescent Crack, Mexican Crack, Bongeater Buttress, and Copperhead Boulder. These projects helped to divert traffic to durable surfaces and reinforce soil levels around essential trees—all to mitigate erosion and help preserve the quality of the water running through the canyon.

Beginning this April, the Conservation Team (West) will partner with SLCA on phase two of the Alpenblock Climbing Access Project, working to improve trail systems and staging areas at Cabbage Patch, Egg Buttress, Crack in the Woods, and Coffin. Again, these projects will focus on hardening and reinforcing trails and staging areas to minimize erosion.

The Conservation Team will be working in Little Cottonwood Canyon for eleven consecutive weeks alongside AmeriCorp Youth Crews, US Forest Service crews, professional trail crews, and Cottonwood Canyon Foundation crews. The team will be looking for volunteers to help with this work. If you're a Salt Lake local and want to come give Conservation Team a hand, please check the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance website for a list of volunteer opportunities.

The Alpenblock Climbing Access Project is not only improving this world-renowned climbing area, but it also sets a new standard for bringing a historic and complex climbing environment up to our current standards of sustainable management. It’s also a great example of collaborative climbing management with the US Forest Service.