- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) - The climbing community is an intrepid bunch by nature, and some crags are just too good to pass up.

And it’s a fact that there are some trespassers within their ranks.

But dodging private property owners won’t be an issue for climbers with their eyes on a well-known pair of cliffs in Unaweep Canyon, recently purchased by a group of nonprofit advocacy groups and their partners and volunteers to ensure permanent public access to the routes.

“While, of course, the hedonistic climbers are primarily interested in the access to the crags to climb on . our second highest goal is to preserve the land so that it’s always preserved in a permanent way,” said Eve Tallman, secretary of the Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition.

Her group and the Access Fund, a national climbing advocacy group, were finally able after two years of negotiations to come to terms with the property owner of the Television Wall and Lower Mothers Buttress, 500-foot-tall granite cliffs that cover 40 acres of land and host more than 50 high-quality climbing routes.

The total project cost is $185,000, according to Tallman. The Access Fund provided the climbers’ coalition with a $134,200 low-interest loan and a grant to help cover closing costs. The coalition will fundraise and seek grant money to pay the fund back over the next few years. The Access Fund will take the money paid back to it and flip it into the next project - sort of paying it forward for cliff conservation.

The fund has secured more than a dozen projects this way. Its first project in 1991 was the Sunday Wall, a craggy neighbor of the recently purchased cliffs. Another neighbor, the Upper Mothers Buttress, was secured in 2010 by the coalition with the help of Colorado climbers John and Marti Peterson.

“They’re definitely committed to Unaweep Canyon,” Tallman said about the Access Fund.

To help pay back the loan, Tallman said her group is hoping to land a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, which could be a tall order considering the statewide competition for state lottery dollars. Their case could be helped by the support for their application, from the Mesa County Commission, Mesa Land Trust, Conservation Colorado and other prominent groups.

Funding also came from the Aspen-based Alpenglow Foundation, the family foundation of climbers John and Laurel Cotto, and Shaw Construction.

As for the climbing, the granite cliffs in Unaweep Canyon are unique for the area, Tallman said, compared to the popular sandstone climbing of the Colorado National Monument and in Moab, Utah. That makes the newly purchased cliffs all the more attractive to regional climbers.

Protection of the cliffs opens up more than 50 established routes that can now be legally climbed. While the Television Wall is the much more difficult climb - “with a lot of potential for new route exploration,” Tallman said - Lower Mothers is a great place for novices to try climbing. That new section will attract school and outdoors groups to learn the basics of climbing from guides.

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Information from: The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com

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