Neighborhood Non-profit: Salt Lake Climbers Alliance

SALT LAKE CITY — Formed in 2002, the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) is a non-profit organization with a mission. “To serve as the unified voice of all climbers in the greater Wasatch region, engaging as an advocate to protect outdoor climbing access and as a steward to maintain sustainable climbing resources in the Wasatch and surrounding regions.”

The SLCA achieves its mission through advocacy, stewardship, community, and education. Relationships with land managers are vital to keeping climbing areas open. The organization works closely with like-minded advocacy groups, including Wasatch Legacy Project, Mountain Accord, and the Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement. The SLCA meets with Representatives in Washington D.C. to advocate for public land protection and human-powered recreation opportunities.

The SLCA oversees large-scale infrastructure developments. For example, in 2017, the climbing access trails project won “Stewardship Project of the Year” from the State of Utah’s Outdoor Office of Recreation.

One crucial ongoing undertaking is the fixed anchor maintenance program. The SLCA Executive Director, Julia Geisler, explains the project’s mission, “To assess the current condition of established anchors, identify and monitor current and future maintenance needs, and replace antiquated and unreliable anchors as necessary and in partnership with landowners and agencies.”

Anchor Replacement in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: SLCA

The SLCA will continue repairing Jacob’s Ladder Trail, the route to Lone Peak in spring. “This ambitious re-route project will focus on a section of the trail approaching the Lone Peak Cirque where it gains about 3,000 feet in just one mile,” Julia describes. “There, natural run-off and heavy use have caused severe erosion that’s as deep as six feet in some places. The plan is to convert the steep trail that currently runs straight up the slope to a series of switchbacks, which will be ultimately more sustainable as well as safer for climbers and hikers.”

The SLCA aims to increase the climbing communities’ skills and knowledge by cultivating a sense of ownership. “Each year as part of our educational initiative, the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance hosts the only climbing festival in Salt Lake City,” Julia explains, “Set in our beautiful backyard of the Wasatch Front, our local guide outfitter business community facilitates skills-based climbing clinics for both beginner and seasoned rock climbers.”

The festival serves as an opportunity to bolster and unite the climbing community and welcomes climbers of all ability levels and identities to enjoy base camp, dinner, and clinics. “All proceeds from the festival fund the SLCA’s year-round work of advocacy, responsible recreation education, and environmental stewardship for climbing in the Wasatch,” Julia explains.

Currently, the SLCA is committed to preserving Little Cottonwood Canyon’s iconic bouldering zones.

Little Cottonwood Canyon Bouldering. Photo: Jeremiah Watt

“UDOT’s proposals of a gondola or additional lanes both threaten iconic roadside bouldering resources and will impact the overall climbing experience in Little Cottonwood Canyon,” Julia exclaims, “THIS CONSTITUTES THE GREATEST THREAT TO CLIMBING IN THE WASATCH REGION IN DECADES!”

Julia encourages climbers and canyon users to consider the long-term effects of transportation changes. “Infrastructure that physically and permanently alter Little Cottonwood Canyon should only be considered after less impactful options have been implemented and shown not to be effective. Expanded electric bus service coupled with tolling and other traffic mitigation strategies must be tried that include dispersed recreation transit needs before permanent landscape changes are made,” she says.

The SLCA engages and educates as tools for conservation and access. “The more informed outdoor recreationalists are about the places they play, the better outdoor citizens we can all become to steward and enjoy these incredible outdoor landscapes,” Julia states.

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