Love Joe’s Valley? Speak up about it!

It’s no secret that Joe’s Valley is one of my favorite places on the planet. I could fill a book professing my love for the desert valleys, sharp sandstone boulders, cozy campsites, lazy river, and even the deer that love to jump out in front of cars at dusk. This spot is one of the greatest things to ever happen to bouldering – and now Joe’s Valley needs our help.

The Access Fund and SLCA are working with the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service to address some of the impending big issues with the area (hello, poop in the river washes). There’s a lot of work to be done, but the first thing you can do to get involved is to write a letter to the BLM making your voice heard about the issues. Access Fund has a super simple letter writing tool to help you, but comments are due by March 1st!

Show your support for Joe’s Valley bouldering here.

Photo: Andy Wickstrom

Photo: Andy Wickstrom

I wrote a letter, which you can read below. It isn’t perfect, and it only took me about five minutes to write – but every voice matters here. It would break my heart to see Joe’s Valley turn into an overdeveloped, over-regulated area where I have to pay $20 to pitch my tent, and the only way to prevent that is to get involved.

First, thank you for taking the time to take the climbing community’s comment into consideration while assessing the land use at Joe’s Valley. I first visited the area during a yearlong climbing trip – and out of the many places I visited from coast to coast, Joe’s Valley remained my favorite. It is one of the most incredible places on the planet, and deserves to be treated as such.

While you are assessing the area, there are a few key issues that need to be addressed to ensure the valley’s longevity as a recreational hub:

The trails, camping areas, etc. need proper establishment/maintenance to reduce erosion and overuse of the surrounding areas (clear trails = less brush crushing!). However, while I fully support proper trail establishment and infrastructure improvements, I believe it is absolutely vital to the spirit of Joe’s to prevent overdevelopment. Human waste is a major issue in the valley, and proper waste facilities are crucial – but turning camping areas into expensive sites with running water and paved driveways would be a travesty to the wild attitude of this destination.

In the event that fees are collected for camping areas (which I believe is unnecessary pending the commitment of the climbing community to take full responsibility for the area and work to keep it sustainable), I believe that all fees collected should directly support the resources for which they are collected.

I have spent a lot of time in Orangeville and the surrounding towns, and truly believe that the climbing community drawn to Joe’s Valley makes positive economic contributions to the county. During a city clean-up day I volunteered at a few years ago, I was able to really connect with some of the locals and was moved by their great perspective on the climbers who frequent their small slice of Utah. Climbers have an indescribable connection to Joe’s Valley, the sandstone boulders, the dry landscape, the freshly baked donuts in town, and every moment spent out in the wilderness.

While I realize my comments may not directly lead to any actions, I want to express my interest in continuing to be a part of the conversation about Joe’s Valley. There is much work to be done to protect the future of this climbing area, but there is a strong force of climbers willing to stand behind Joe’s and make an impact.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Katie Boué

Being a climber is about more than just clawing your way up rocks – living this lifestyle also comes with a responsibility to the places where you play. As climbing gets bigger and bigger, it’s on our community to make sure we’re doing things right.

A friendly reminder from the Access Fund – with a focus on scoopin’ yer poop!

Spending nearly every day of the past two months living at climbing areas has opened my eyes to a number of general guidelines that folks should (but often don’t) remember while adventuring outdoors. The issue of poop at the crag has been of particular concern for me, along with a few other key concepts like packing out trash. Conveniently, the Access Fund posted a great PDF in their latest issue of Vertical Times, which spells out a few of the things that really bother me when uneducated gym climbers go outside for the first time:
An excellent PDF from the Access Fund about making the transition from gym climbing to outdoor crags.

Frankly, most of these seem like no-brainers to me – but I still encounter plenty of folks who just don’t seem to get it. Most of the offenses seem to be out of pure ignorance for the details, like straying off trail, crushing delicate vegetation with crash pads, and peeing way too close to the trail/climbs. Beyond the general trampling of terrain, my most encountered issue in the outdoors is of a crappy nature: poop. The Access Fund has a great resource for waste disposal strategies for climbers, but I thought I’d offer a quick and easy guide for how to poop in the outdoors.

First, asess the environment. The only time it is acceptable to take a crap and leave it outside is when you are in a low altititude forest. You should never, ever leave poop in a desert. If you are in the desert, hold it until you get to a proper facility, or pack out your waste like you would your trash. It’s not that difficult; I’ve even resorted to pooping in an empty Big Gulp cup I found littering the boulderfield at Red Rocks. Remember that the desert is unable to break down your crap, and it will remain there for far longer than your footprints will. Imagine if every climber took one poop a day at Hueco Tanks. Let’s say the standard 70 climbers are there each day – that’s still 25,550 poop mounds desecrating your crag. Not cool, dudes.

So what if you are in the type of landscape that allows for popping a squat outdoors? There’s a simple process for relieving yourself:

First, hike away from your campside, any nearby climbs, or trails – at least 200 feet, because no one wants to smell the wafting scent of your poo. Next, dig a hole at least six inches deep. You want your poo to coil up nicely in the bottom of the hole. Now squat and take that dump. If you can, pack out your toilet paper – or use natural TP like smooth stones. Most importantly, cover and disguise your poop hole properly. Fill in the hole completely. I’ve developed my own style, which includes finding a nice rock, lifting it up (sometimes this jumpstarts the whole “dig a whole” step), then replace the rock over my covered poop area.

It really, truly isn’t that hard to do your part in keeping crags free of poop piles. If you’re guilty of unsavory crapping habits, be ashamed of yourself – but it’s not too late to start pooing properly. And for goodness sake, DON’T PEE OR POOP UNDER THE OVERHANGS. If you don’t know that already, you need to seriously review your knowledge of outdoor climbing etiquette.

 Climb on, poop on, do your thang, folks. Just make sure you do it right. 

Trip Report: Southeastern Climbers Coalition Trail Day and Climbing at Boat Rock

During the planning process of the Simply Adventure trip, Niko and I felt strongly inclined to explore the ways we could make our adventure more than just a climber “vacation” – we wanted to give back to the climbing community. After meeting the two fellas of the Access Fund’s Jeep Conservation Team at Red River Gorge last spring, we realized the most obvious way we could contribute: trail days.

While the Simply Adventure journey will take us across nearly every state in the country, our hearts and souls will forever remain in the southeast – so we wanted to kick off our year of trail days with our local climbing organization, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. This weekend, we loaded up the van (for its first climbing trip ever!), and headed out to the Atlanta area for a trail day at Boat Rock.

After a night spent sleeping in a Walmart parking lot, we arrived to an empty gravel lot at the base of the Boat Rock crag. Within minutes, the entire lot was filled, and cars overflowed along the streets beside it. I had envisioned a dozen or so dirtbags lined up with shovels, but the scene I was greeted with was far more impressive: Upwards of 30 kids showed up to do their part in preserving Boat Rock.

It was incredibly humbling to witness the community spirit that was demonstrated during the Boat Rock trail day. Young people lined up with buckets to shuttle an enormous pile of mulch up to the boulders, and they eagerly tromped through the woods filling up garbage bags with half-decomposed trash – including two rusty tires, a broken mirror, and heaps of discarded metal.

What had been planned as a lengthy trail day turned into an affair that only lasted a few hours – the dedicated crew of trail day goers managed to accomplish hours’ worth of work in half the time. It’s absolutely amazing what a group of hard-working climbers can accomplish when we rally together and focus on cleaning up our crag.

After running out of mulch to haul into the boulder field, I joined Urban Core Climbing’s Emily Taylor, and her impossibly adorable daughter Milo, for an impromptu tour of the crag – and we were hard-pressed to find even a single piece of litter leftover. With nothing left to pick up, I enjoyed meandering through the woods and snapping way too many photos of adorable little Milo. 

The crew gathered for a gear toss, with swag provided by event sponsors like Access Fund and REI, then we settled down for lunch before the group dispersed into the crag for some much-earned climbing.

Niko and I gave a few folks a little tour of our van, then threw our new Stonelick pads on our back and trekked towards the climbs with a fellow trail day participant, Jordan, who would become our guide for the day.

Let me tell you, Boat Rock is easily one of the most humbling crags I have ever climbed at.

Suddenly, V3s feel like V5s, arêtes lose their edge, and it’s nearly impossible to find a top-out that includes actual holds. And foot holds? What foot holds? Boat Rock don’t need no foot holds. Climbing at Boat Rock is both frustrating and empowering. You don’t ‘get’ sends; you earn them.

Our first stop was the Spiderman boulder, one of the ultra classic climbs at Boat Rock. This hunk of rock also happens to be one of the few with features and deep holds – so don’t let it fool you. After sending every line on the stand-alone boulder, we headed for Paint Can, a V5 climb that flows like butter until you hit the barren, bulging top. I watched a few locals run through the problem, and was quickly discouraged when I attempted to pull myself up on the “crimpers” the fellas had tugged on – there was literally nothing up there.

I quickly abandoned any attempts at sending problems at my limit, and refocused my efforts on finding sweet problems that suited my style. This led me to discover my new favorite style of climbing: cracks. Jordan suggested that I hop on a sweet V3 finger crack called “Lost Digits,” and after a frustrated series of attempts, I nailed the most bomber foot jam of all time – and was instantly hooked.

We immediately hiked over to another easier climb called “Blues Crack,” which I may or may not have climbed three times in a row. There’s just something about the methodical nature of climbing a crack, and that satisfying moment when you’ve locked your fingers into a solid section, or jammed your toes perfectly into the wedge of rock. It’s an entirely unique style of climbing; and I’m obsessed. 

Have I mentioned yet how much I love climbing cracks?

Next to Blues Crack sat a funky problem aptly named “Tough Guy.” It was one of Jordan’s projects, so we all got stoked on working out the beta. It’s rated at a V3, but I’d easily give the top-out at least a V4. As with most climbs at Boat Rock, the key is to trust non-existent foot holds, and make hand holds out of nothing. Jordan and Niko made it look easy, while I ended up spending no less than five minutes on the top-out – but it was a send, folks.

We ended the day at Yellow Arete, a towering boulder problem that offers inviting features until you get to the committing top-out. Naturally, Niko crushed it effortlessly, although even he admits that the finish was bleak. It was one of those climbs that’s tall enough to force you to finish the problem, purely because you really, really don’t want to come back down.

Jordan hopped on Yellow Arete next, projected it until his fingers were ready to shred, and then our little trio hiked back to the parking area to conclude our day.

As Niko and I fueled up for the drive home with instant mashed potatoes and avocado, we reflected on the impact of our first trail day. Yes, we had pitched in to help ensure that Boat Rock access is preserved for climbers – but far more importantly, our eyes were opened to the vital future of the climbing community. The kids from Urban Core and Adrenaline Climbing are setting the stage for the next generation of climbers. These young people aren’t just getting into the sport of climbing; they’re fully embracing the lifestyle and responsibilities that accompany the true meaning of being a climber.

I think we all could learn a thing or two from the kids who came out to the Boat Rock trail day – and I hope the Simply Adventure journey can continue to spread the hopefulness and genuine appreciation demonstrated out at that Georgia crag. I had a blast with everyone who came out, and will be posting the complete set of photo on the Simply Adventure Facebook page – so stay tuned!

Did you hear? I’m the new voice of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition’s revived Twitter account! I don’t think it’s rocket science to calculate that Niko is much more helpful during trail days than I am (c’mon, he could carry 10x more mulch up a cliff than I can), so it is truly meaningful to me to be able to use my social media skills to help the SCC. Give @SEClimbers a follow, and send us a Tweet!

Want to help the Simply Adventure team successfully spend a year traveling around the country to spread the good tidings of land conservation, and work with local climbing communities to preserve the future of our crags? 

Donate to the Simply Adventure fundraiser – and help equip us with the tools we need to make our mission a reality. We’re running out of time, and still have over $4000 to raise within the next two weeks.