Gate Buttress Recreation Infrastructure and Restoration Project
The Central Wasatch Commission is partnering with the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) to help fund the Gate Buttress Recreation Infrastructure and Restoration Project.
The mission of the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance is 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.
This project builds off of a partnership with th CWC
and SLCA that began in 2018 when the CWC granted SLCA $50,000 to support recreation infrastructure efforts atthe multi-year effort to form the Alpenbock Loop Network in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon. The Alpenbock Loop Network is the largest climbing trail access project inthe nation and is a model for climbing area stewardship that is now being applied up canyon at the Gate Buttress. The one-mile loop is a great hiking and climbing access resource not to be missed.
The multi-year Gate Buttress Recreation Infrastructure Project is seeking to address more than 60 years of human-caused impacts on a 140-acre plot of land in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon. This plot of land is privately owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in 2017, the SLCA signed a recreational lease with the Church and became the organization tasked with stewarding the Gate Buttress plot. This lease between SLCA and the Church authorized public access to this plot of land for recreation, which is mostly used for rock climbing.
The plot of land at Gate Buttress is in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, which sees more annual visitors than all five of Utah’s National Parks. As outdoor recreation, like climbing, continues to grow, overcrowding is negatively affecting outdoor landscapes to the point that they cannot naturally recover. Some examples of this degradation include soil erosion, soil compaction, and degradation of vegetation. These impacts lead to excess runoff that contribute to dirty waterways. This degradation affects environmental and more specifically watershed health. Poorly maintained trails with lack of signage are another issue, which can hinder search and rescue operations and confuse recreationists. In a nutshell, areas, where we recreate, are getting loved to death and need infrastructure with well-built trails and trailhead facilities to protect these beautiful and fragile landscapes.
Recreation Infrastructure at climbing areas can be thought of as a climbing system. Everything that a visitor will use when visiting the forest needs tobe addressed to limit human impacts to the landscape. This includes the mode of transit and parking, to restrooms, to the trails, and fixed anchors on the rock faces. The SLCA aims to steward the entire system with professional trail and anchor replacement crews supported by volunteers from the community.
“The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance works closely with multiple land managers to advocate for sustainable and well-managed access to climbing areas in the Wasatch. We support a forest-wide approach to management, which is why we supported Mountain Accord and now the CWC and the National Recreation & Conservation Area Act. We recently provided comments to the UDOT LCC EIS that highlight the breadth of world-class climbing that exists in LCC as the future of transit will impact all aspects of LCC. The Central Wasatch is seeing more visitors than ever due to the pandemic and population growth. With this visitation comes huge impacts to the landscapes where we play. Public-private partnerships pitching in to ensure human impacts don’t destroy the places where we recreate are paramount. It takes all of us working together with this common goal in sight.” Julia Geisler, Executive Director, SLCA.
The Gate Buttress Recreational Infrastructure and Restoration Project aims for long-term stewardship of this land. The Gate Buttress project will focus on improving trails and trail signage leading to rock climbing areas, replacing aged hardware on climbing routes, and protection of land for public recreation.
Below are specifics of each project category:
- Trail improvements will be made to access trails to popular climbing areas including East Gate Buttress and The Hill Boulders. Roadside parking problems will also be addressed with connector trails to the Gate Buttress parking lot.
- Fixed anchors have been installed by
climbers since the 1960s in Gate Buttress. Many of these anchors are now showing signs of corrosion and must be replaced for climber safety. The goal for 2020 is to professionalize anchor replacement in the workplace by creating work at height standards in order to hire the nation’s first professional anchor replacement crew. Volunteers within the SLCA’s Anchor Replacement committee have been actively replacing fixed anchors in the Wasatch.
- Long term maintenance of the Gate Buttress plot will be stewarded by SLCA and volunteers.
The total cost of this project is $70,870 and the CWC is funding 28% percent of that cost ($20,000). A $50,000 Recreational Trails Program Grant will match project costs. (Note: Due to COVID-19, trail work and the SLCA’s Adopt a Crag program have been postponed until 2021 at which time these funds will be applied.)
Why does this matter to the Central Wasatch?
The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is the heart of the Central Wasatch Mountains. The CWC strives to increase environmental stewardship in the Central Wasatch. Improving trail quality to reduce erosion and clarify the flow of traffic on trails will contribute to improvements in the overall ecosystem and watershed health. The CWC also strives to steward recreational areas. The Gate Buttress Project will steward this popular recreational area by increasing the quality of the visitor and climber experience as well as make the climbing routes safer by installing new fixed anchors.
How does this connect to the mission of the Mountain Accord?
The Gate Buttress Project aligns with the tenants of the Mountain Accord Charter because it will protect the environment and ensure high-quality recreational experiences.
Written by Quinn Graves
Information provided by Julia Geisler, Executive Director, SLCA
Edited by Lindsey Nielsen
Header photo of Julia Geisler climbing at Gate Buttress taken by Jon Vickers