Arthur Debowski on Joe's Valley Adopt A Crag 2015

Volunteers at the 2015 Joe's Valley Adopt A Crag - Salt Lake Climbers Alliance  

"It’ll look like we were never here”

And with that small bit of direction from our crew boss for the day, we put shovel to dirt and began the process of stabilizing the landing below Dem Bones (V3) and Sling Blade (V4), at the Warmup Area in the right fork of Joe’s Valley.

After five hours and a fair amount of work, it turned out the crew boss was right. What happened in that half day was educational for our group of nearly 60 volunteers, both in terms of trail building and rock work fundamentals, but also in terms of human connection. By working side by side, we got to know our fellow volunteers that morning in Emery County, Utah, most of whom had driven two and a half hours from Salt Lake City to lend a hand.

A real variety of people participated in this year’s Adopt A Crag. Most were climbers, some had never been to Joe’s Valley, a few had never done any trail work, and pretty much everyone had an interesting reason for being there. My own motivation for attending was somewhat selfish, as I climb on the warm-up boulder with relative frequency and figured it made sense to preserve it for the future. Others were there for the sake of volunteerism, for the experience of the beautiful natural area, or because they wanted to encourage the positive impact of climbers on the local economy, etc.

Volunteers working at the 2015 Joe's Valley Adopt A Crag - Salt Lake Climbers Alliance


As climbers, it was great to have a chance to converse with locals from the surrounding area and with land managers, who seemed impressed and grateful that climbers as a user group cared enough to show up and do something to maintain the resource we hold so dear. There was a feeling of pride evident in the people I worked with that morning, and I felt it myself as well.

It’s common to feel that writing a check or dropping a couple of dollars in a bin is the main way to contribute to a good cause. I applaud that mechanism, as money does make a difference. But if you're the type of person who wants to have a more direct physical connection to local access and conservation efforts, I encourage you to show up, pick up a shovel, and get to work. There’s a very rewarding sensation that comes from transforming our environment for the better. I’m sure most of us felt it that morning.

Our work during the Joe’s Valley Adopt A Crag entailed digging a trench beneath the warm up boulder; making piles of the large rocks, gravel, and sand from the trench; then replacing all of those guts back into the trench in a jigsaw arrangement that would interlock all of that stuff and resist weathering and erosion. The work left the site looking essentially as it had when we began, but in a more enduring state for the future generations of climbers who will warm up on the boulder.

Volunteers working at the 2015 Joe's Valley Adopt A Crag - Salt Lake Climbers Alliance


The SLCA brought a great crew of people out to Joe’s that morning to reinforce landings, build a staircase, remediate fire pits, pick up trash, and generally foster a sense of stewardship and connection for one of the best bouldering areas in the world. Most of the people I spoke with felt it was successful and looked forward to the next opportunity to volunteer at a local crag.

Be sure to check in with the SLCA events page to get word of those upcoming events as we are always trying to get people involved.

—Arthur Debowski, SLCA Education & Outreach Committee Member