The Mormon church and a Utah rock climbing coalition have reached a formalized agreement that will allow climbers to continue using prime routes on church-owned land in the Little Cottonwood Canyon while implementing plans to better protect the land.
Climbers have long flocked to the area about a mile from a massive church vault, but the paths they use to reach prime routes are eroding and could degrade Little Cottonwood Creek, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Salt Lake Climbers Alliance Executive Director Julia Geisler said the new agreement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will allow the group to do infrastructure improvements to reduce erosion on the 140-acre parcel.
“This lease not only secures access for climbing at the property, but also allows the community to be better stewards of the places we love to play,” she said. “The SLCA is actively planning for recreation infrastructure improvements to begin in 2018, including trail and staging area work that will reduce erosion and impacts on the Salt Lake City watershed.”
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson was among the climbers who set the first routes on the granite in the canyon more than 50 years ago.
“The church has always been gracious about it,” said Wilson.
Climbers once considered the granite in Little Cottonwood Canyon too smooth compared to the quartzite of Big Cottonwood Canyon, but Wilson and other climbers got interested after seeing Yosemite Valley attract top athletes. While the route he and a partner first installed in 1961 is now considered easy by modern standards, Wilson said it helped dispel ideas about the terrain.
“It was good enough that we would go back and tell our buddies,” Wilson said. “We were working against this myth that the rock was too smooth.”
The lease agreement that also ensures access to nearly 600 climbing routes was signed Saturday in the Gate Buttress parking area. The well-known routes there include Dihedrals, Kermit’s Wall, Lizard Head Buttress and Plumb Line.