New San Luis Valley Sport Climbing Area Secured

San Luis Valley Climbers Alliance (SLVCA) and Access Fund are pleased to announce they have secured permanent access to Denny’s, the go-to crag for steep sport climbing in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. SLVCA now needs help to ensure the area remains stewarded and protected forever.

Denny’s is located on the ancestral lands of Jicarilla Apache and Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) © Gabriella Baumeister

In 2015, local climbers approached the private landowners, Denny and Crys Wallace, to ask permission to climb on their property. The Wallaces were incredibly open and generous, inviting climbers to enjoy their cliff, develop sport routes, and even park on their rural homestead. The climbing area is fondly referred to as “Denny’s” after the owner.

“For years, we drove by Denny’s on our way to other climbing areas,” says local climber and longtime steward Jeff Elison. “Every time, I would say, ‘If that wall has holds, it would be amazing.’ As it turned out, the cliff is well-featured and offers incredible movement.”

Over the last five years, local climbers built a close relationship with the landowners and respected their privacy by keeping information offline. In 2019, the newly formed SLVCA stepped up to continue this good work with the landowners.

When Denny and Crys began thinking about selling the property earlier this year, they contacted SLVCA first to find a solution that would protect climbing access, so that locals wouldn’t lose access to San Luis Valley’s best sport climbing venue.

“We saw a critical conservation opportunity and jumped into action,” says SLVCA President Angela Lee. “I reached out to Access Fund for support, and we were showered with resources, expertise, guidance, and even received a grant.”

SLVCA and Access Fund worked together on a recreation easement that allowed Denny and Crys to permanently grant climbing access, even if the property is sold, and provide liability protection for themselves and future landowners. The easement covers parking, trail access, and the entire crag.

“Over the years we’ve gotten to know some of ‘our’ climbers and enjoy watching them do things with their bodies that I can never do,” Denny says. “I like knowing that for the foreseeable future, folks will be straining up that old rock and the place will echo with shouts of joy and struggle. A person can hope for little more to leave as a legacy.”

Denny Wallace, in blue, and his climbers. © Angela Lee

“We are incredibly grateful to the landowners for donating this easement to SLVCA and the climbing community,” Access Fund Access Director Joe Sambataro says. “Without their generosity and commitment to provide lasting climbing access, Denny’s could have been lost forever.”

In just their second year since inception, SLVCA was able to secure this incredible climbing area for the local community. Now they need help from Colorado climbers to build out a small parking area, install signs, and establish a fund to maintain insurance and climbing access. SLVCA is already partway toward its goal of $15,000, thanks to a $4,000 Climbing Conservation Grant from Access Fund and in-kind contributions of survey work and parking lot materials. Please donate today.

“We are excited to welcome the greater climbing community and invite climbers of all backgrounds and statuses to this special place,” Lee says. “Now we need your help to protect one of the San Luis Valley’s best climbing resources.”

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Access Notes

Interested in visiting Denny’s? Learn more and get directions at www.slvclimb.org/dennys. The easement stipulates no more than 10 climbers at any given time—please self-regulate and climb elsewhere if it’s busy at the crag. Please park in the designated area only, stay on the climber approach trail, and follow all Leave No Trace rules noted on the signs. The cliff is close to the landowners’ house, so it’s important to keep a low profile and keep noise to a minimum—but please say “hi” and thank the landowners if you see them. Please consider leaving your dog at home.