As rock climbing guides in Southern Utah, we have the coolest job in the world. Every day we’re out hiking, biking, climbing, rappelling, canyoneering or doing some fun, crazy activity in the beautiful St. George area with clients that love this kind of thing as much as we do. One of the questions we often get asked by our clients is, “what do you do on your days off?”
Honestly, most days we do the exact same thing we do as when we work. We climb, hike, bike and play in the outdoors doing the things we love.
As long time climbers, though, we also recognize that playing every day is not enough and some days we need to give back to the community and this area that gives us so many awesome recreational opportunities.
One of the ways we do this is by partnering with the Southern Utah Climbing Coalition (SUCC, great name, we know) to replace old, rusting out climbing bolts in the St George area.
When you first think of rusting bolts you probably wouldn’t think that St. George would have many. Isn’t that something that just happens in Thailand and other tropical locations? While it definitely happens faster in the tropics, the same thing also occurs here for two basic reasons.
First, there has been a lot of climbing going on in St George for a long time. It’s a simple fact that older bolts, no matter how dry the conditions, will rust, corrode or otherwise be in need of replacement. Also, climbing bolts have come a long way since the first expansion bolts placed in rock 30 years ago and many of the older bolts around here are in need of replacement. SUCC works with local climbers to make sure these bolts, especially when they are in popular climbing areas, are replaced with newer, better bolts that will last a long time (think 30+ years) and that you can be confident climbing on. If you’ve climbed at Chuckawalla Wall lately (just outside of St George) you’ll see a great example of the work SUCC did there replacing all the old expansion bolts with shiny new glue-in Wave bolts. Many of the climbs in Snow Canyon State Park are on the list for the next round of replacement bolting.
The second reason bolts need replacing around here is, believe it or not, there are some climbing areas that are almost tropical in nature. Can’t guess where? Crawdad Canyon off of Highway 18 in Veyo (about 20 minutes from St George) is a beautiful, lush canyon with the Santa Clara River running right down the center of it. Now, a lot of the bolts in Crawdad are in serious need of replacement after years of exposure to the moist conditions.
So what does it take to replace old rusted-out bolts? It’s a surprising amount of work. New holes have to be drilled, new bolts placed in the new holes and the rusty old bolts have to be removed. Sometimes the old bolts slip out of their old holes after they’ve been loosened but more often than not they have be broken off. All this is taking place while hanging from a rope. Let’s just say it’s certainly not an easy day off from guiding. But it is worth it. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from seeing a route newly-bolted, knowing that it will be safe for people to enjoy for many years to come.
One of the greatest things about replacing bolts in southern Utah is how it is all funded. New bolts, especially the high quality bolts that SUCC uses on its routes, are not cheap. The money to pay for those new bolts comes from membership dues paid by the members of the Southern Utah Climbing Coalition ($30 for new members and $20 for renewing members). Those new bolts are then placed on routes in the area that are most in need of attention. Often when a route is re-bolted, the bolt hangars from the route are still in good condition and can be salvaged. When this is the case those hangers are given to route developers in the area that are working on putting up new routes. In this way nothing is wasted and southern Utah climbers not only get old routes safely re-bolted, they also get new routes put up. It’s a great deal for everyone involved.
Want to know how you can get involved? While you may not need to go out and re-bolt climbs yourself, joining SUCC (if you’re not already a member) is the best way to help make sure the routes in this area are safe and receive the attention they need. When you join SUCC, not only will your fees go to making local climbs safer, you’ll also get a huge discount on the fee you pay to climb at Crawdad Canyon (which is on private property, thus the fee). Instead of paying $9 each time, you’ll pay just $3. You can join SUCC at the Desert Rat climbing shop, located at the intersection of Bluff Street and St George Boulevard.
And if you haven’t climbed at Crawdad yet, you need to. Shady climbs, right next to the beautiful Santa Clara River with temperatures 20-30 degrees cooler than St George make it the best place to climb in the summer hands down. Whether we’re up there climbing ourselves or working on re-bolting a route for you to enjoy, we hope to see you up there!