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SLC BOULDER VANDALISM: Halloween night in Little Cottonwood Canyon

On the evening of October 31, 2016 an unknown person attacked several boulders in Little Cottonwood Canyon with what seemed to be a hammer.  They broke several holds on routes that are beloved, have been climbed by thousands and established decades ago. Kati Hetrick and I went into LCC two days later after news of the attack spread through Salt Lake City climbing community like wild fire.  We met with Steve Maisch and Mike Beck to get the inside scoop.  Article below written by Kati and myself.

 Mike Beck cleaning and re-stabilizing the affected holds on Super Fly that were damaged by what appears to have been a hammer

Mike Beck cleaning and re-stabilizing the affected holds on Super Fly that were damaged by what appears to have been a hammer

Mike Beck and Steve Maisch talked amongst themselves, dipping their hands in and out of the their chalk bags while touching and analyzing the broken hold. After a lengthy discussion, some brushing, re-stabilizing and a few quick laps around the boulder they determined it was as close to feeling like the original hold as it was going to get. Satisfied, Beck and Maisch packed their gear and prepared to move to the next damaged area.

This isn't the way Beck or Maisch prefer to spend their Wednesday afternoon at the crags in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Halloween morning, news rapidly spread in Salt Lake City that one of America's oldest and most iconic bouldering areas had been brutally vandalized (with what appears to be a hammer) the previous night. Beck and a small crew of respected local developers immediately jumped into damage control.

  Super Fly boulder in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Super Fly boulder in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

"I think when I last counted the holds damaged are connected to roughly 20, or so, problems," Maisch leaned against a tree and pointed to the hold most damaged on one the most historic problems in Cottonwood, Super Fly (V8). "That hold alone connects to about five different lines.  If you wanted to do some damage, that’s the hold to destroy."

 Steve Maisch trying out different routes on Super Fly after re-stabilization efforts. 

Steve Maisch trying out different routes on Super Fly after re-stabilization efforts. 

Who would rampage around a canyon and pound away at beloved bouldering routes that have been climbed for decades?  Why would someone do that? The Salt Lake climbing community is dumbfounded and saddened by the destruction.  Although local authorities have a few leads, concrete answers surrounding the incident continue to go unanswered. What is known is that sometime on the evening of October 30th an unknown person went on a destructive spree severely damaging several key holds on half a dozen boulder problems in Little Cottonwood Canyon outside Salt Lake City, UT.

 Beck checking one of the main holds on Super Fly that is used in five different lines.

Beck checking one of the main holds on Super Fly that is used in five different lines.

Beck's history with the area goes all the way back to the beginning "I went on a trip to Fontainebleau when I was 18," said Beck, "when I came back I saw a lot of potential in Little Cottonwood so we immediately started putting up boulders.”  From that point on Beck and a small group of friends started exploring new areas in the canyon and have continued ever since.  To date there are over 3000 problems in the canyon at over 25 distinct areas.

According to Maisch and Beck, none of the damage from Sunday night  went above eye to chest level and only seems to have affected three zones: The Gate Boulders, Secret Garden and Five Mile. Among the many boulder problems affected were Twisted V4, Copperhead V9, The Standard Overhang V3, Smiley V6, Lances Dihedral V6 and Superfly V8. All of the problems affected are still climbable, and most of them became easier with the breakage, though they are definitely different than before.

 Mike Beck climbing routes on Super Fly to test out holds.

Mike Beck climbing routes on Super Fly to test out holds.

Something to consider through this unfortunate time is the attention it’s raised to the complicated issues facing this and many other great urban bouldering resources available to the climbing community. The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance posted some of the first news of the vandalism, and their social media channels have received thousands of views and supporting comments.  It is the hope of the local community that people would be encouraged to get more involved with the work the SLCA is doing in some of the climbing areas around Salt Lake and promote better stewardship of these areas other climbing areas around the country.

A message from the SLCA:  What can I do to protect the places I love to climb?  Get involved with local and national climbing advocacy grounds. This is why they exist. To ensure we can all go climbing. It takes the greater climbing community (that means all of us) to protect these valuable climbing spaces. Join the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance and the Access Fund (AccessFund.org). Contribute to the effort to make climbing area environments sustainable for the growing population of climbers by volunteering at an Adopt a Crag, donate and help to replace aging fixed hardware (i.e. bolts and anchors), attend a climbing festival or fundraiser, or join a board or committee for your local climbing organization. It's not about what the climbing community can do for you, but what you can do for the climbing community. Oh yeah, and if you see vandalism in the Cottonwood Canyons of Salt Lake City, be sure to report it to UPD at 801.743.7000 & try and get a license plate number if you see the vandals on the run.