Cliffs, Canyons & Climbers

The majestic cliffs and towers of southern Utah’s Greater Canyonlands region have long been a draw for climbers.  On May 17, renowned climbers Lynn Hill and Steve “Crusher” Bartlett spoke to a crowd of about 150 at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, CO about the love climbers have for Greater Canyonlands, why the area should be protected and how climbers and others can take action to help protect the region.

The crowd at Neptune Mountaineering asks President Obama to protect Greater Canyonlands!

The night was full of laughter, beer (thanks Avery Brewing!), a celebration of desert climbing and a recognition that climbers can play an important role in advancing the protection of Greater Canyonlands.

After some light-hearted stories about the Utah wilderness from the event’s emcee Malcolm Daly,  a general discussion followed about the threats facing the various areas within Greater Canyonlands – off-road vehicle conflicts with sensitive areas, tar sands mining, and oil and gas development.  Then, Lynn started off with a clip of her climbing in Indian Creek to remind the audience about why climbers feel that the area is such a special place.  Almost everyone in attendance had climbed in or at least visited Greater Canyonlands – I think only about 3 people raised their hands when I asked who hadn’t been to southeastern Utah!

Desert Climber. Copyright Chris Noble.

Crusher followed with a slideshow climbing tour of Greater Canyonlands, complete with entertaining accounts of his own first ascents of desert towers, as well as some of the other historic ascents in the region.

“Canyonlands National Park encompasses some of the most colorful, otherworldy scenery on Earth. What makes this park so special are the vast, empty, inhospitable vistas–as of 2012, still amazingly pristine–that extend far into the distance in every direction. These fragile landscapes have barely changed in tens of thousand of years, yet today they are under threat. We need oil, we need gas, we need roads. But perhaps some places are worth leaving alone, worth preserving for the future. This is one such place. The lands around Canyonlands National Park should be protected so that future generations can experience the same clear skies, hear the same eerie silences, climb to ascend to summits that have never been stepped on, explore canyons never before visited by humans.”

Next came an inspiring speech by Fran Bagenal calling on the crowd to ask President Obama to use his authority to designate Greater Canyonlands as a national monument, followed by a raffle of Patagonia swag and Sharp End guidebooks.

Lynn closed the evening with a talk and video about the change occurring in the sport of climbing from an outdoor adventure to a growing number of participants almost solely climbing on plastic in the gym.  Growing up, she explained, she developed an early love for the outdoors through family camping trips and other excursions – something that is often missing from many childhoods today.  While the audience had fun with the movie of Lynn taking some of the strongest gym boulderers in the world out crack climbing in the Utah desert, the underlying message that it remains important to develop an appreciation of the outdoors was clear.  And that some special places, such as Greater Canyonlands, “should be just left as wild” and were worthy of protection.  To finish, Lynn urged everyone to visit to take further action.

The enthusiasm that night for protecting Greater Canyonlands was incredible.  We collected about 140 postcards to President Obama and a number of photos for the Protect Greater Canyonlands Facebook campaign.  We hope that Lynn and Crusher have inspired climbers to get involved in the campaign to protect Greater Canyonlands, and to spread the word that this is a place deserving of protection!

Jackie Feinberg, Lynn Hill, Fran Bagenal, and Crusher Bartlett

The event was cosponsored by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Boulder Climbing Community and Coloradans for Utah Wilderness.  We thank Avery Brewing Company, Patagonia, and Sharp End Publishing for their generous donations and support, and Neptune Mountaineering for hosting the event.  And, of course, a special thanks to Lynn and Crusher, and to Malcolm for emceeing!

Visit and the Protect Greater Canyonlands Facebook page for more on how you can get involved in the campaign to protect the spectacular region surrounding Canyonlands National Park.