Story by Nik Berry
Joes Valley is Utah’s most popular bouldering area. I believe it has gained this popularity first and foremost from the Butterfinger donuts made daily by the Food Ranch in Orangeville and secondly from the aesthetic bullet hard sandstone. As areas increase in popularity, mandatory changes must be made to maintain the environment. The first changes in Joe’s were initiated by the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance seven years ago by installing seasonal latrines allowing us to have a more comfortable morning. This has also reduced the amount of disgusting scenarios of us stumbling upon fecal matter while bouldering. The SLCA has our backs and they are working with land managers to maintain relationships so we can continue to eat donuts and boulder. Justin Wood is a SLC climber and SLCA Board Member who is helping to head up this operation. His climbing resume is lengthy with more double-digit boulders than most of us could dream about. He was nice enough to answer some questions about the future of Joe’s Valley and was good humored about some jabs.
How did you start climbing? My Uncle gave me a pair of his old EBs, took me up LCC and sent me up the slabby face of a tall boulder. No chalk, no pad, just oversized EB high tops and my grandpa spotting.
What inspired you to work with the SLCA? Having grown up climbing in the canyons around SLC, I felt it was my responsibility to help care for these areas. I have always tried to be involved with the clean ups and other volunteer projects put on by the SLCA and this work inclined me to further my involvement with the organization and help direct some of the projects, like the improvements to Joe’s Valley.
What is your role with the SLCA? I am a Board Member of the SLCA and I also serve on the Policy Committee
How long have you been climbing in Joe’s Valley? About 14 years
What are some of the major positive changes that have occurred since you started climbing at Joe’s? The positive changes I have witnessed have only come about recently as we, the SLCA, have started funding latrines and working with the land managers in Joe’s Valley. We did our first Adopt-a-crag day this spring and just had another this last weekend. We cleaned up trash, dispersed oversized fire pits, cleaned out ash and delineated campsites. We also installed information kiosks with the help of the BLM in Right Fork and in New Joe’s.
What are some major negative changes you have seen? The negative changes I have seen are mostly just high use. The landscape in Joe’s valley is pretty fragile and lots of the boulders are on steep slopes, so erosion has become a big issue. More and more people come each year to enjoy the climbing in Joe’s Valley, which is great, but it contributes to high impact in camping areas and bouldering sites.
Do you think being a vegan helps to keep Joe’s Valley free? That is my main reason for continuing my vegan protest
Are people doing a good job practicing Leave No Trace? For the most part, climbers do a good job of packing it out. Since the installation of the Port-o-potties by the SLCA during the peak seasons, the human waste has been packed out. This is really important as the wash in the Right Fork ends up going down to the Emery county water shed.
Where are the bathrooms located? As of now, there is a Port -o-pottie in the Right Fork at the Man Size Area and at New Joe’s next to the kiosk on the old Area 51 access road.
Is not eating carbs for dinner the secret to climbing harder? Ill let you know after this season, are you going to finish that bread? I’m starving!
What is the low down on the new policies at Joe’s? A lot is in the works for Joe’s Valley in the future. This past fall, the SLCA had a meeting with land managers including the BLM, Forrest Service and Emery County. A representative from the State of Utah was there as well as representatives from the Access Fund. The SLCA presented the findings of the Joe’s Valley Recreation Impact Assessment that was completed this past spring to the land agencies and discussed how to move forward. Improving climbing areas in Joe’s Valley is now a “high priority” for the BLM, Emery County, and the Forest Service. They are talking about 2 campgrounds in Joe’s, one in Right Fork and one in New Joe’s, each with double pit toilets. The New Joe’s camp could resemble the Pleasant Valley Pit campground in Bishop, CA, 50 or so delineated camp spots with minimal infrastructure and a nominal fee, $2-3 a night. It would include a double pit toilet and probably some picnic tables and fire rings.
The Campground in the Right Fork would move across the road from the Man Size Area, the BLM doesn’t want camping and fires under power lines, and Man Size would become a day use area. Left Fork would become a day use only area from the Forrest Service boundary up canyon and some of the parking may be deemed unsafe and no parking signs will be going up. UDOT has some concerns about our traffic patterns in that canyon.
Reinforced trail systems and landing zones are in the works as well.
What is the best way to approach people who are not following proper ethics? Help to educate those that may be new to climbing outside or new to Joe’s Valley. Be friendly, share the knowledge and lead by example. If they don’t listen, make them carry your pads up to Black Dahlia and spot you as punishment. The PACT is a great climbing ethic resource to point people towards.
You are well known for your epic wobblers. What is the worst wobbler you have thrown? The wobblers come from the fires of desire deep inside of me. The worst wobbler would be the one that doesn’t come out. Let it rage!!
What is the SLCA doing to help mediate the current situation at Joe’s? The SLCA has been working closely with the land managers and the local community to be the voice of the climbing community. We have had Adopt-a-crag events in Joe’s, funded a climbing area assessment to present to the land managers, paid for latrines every year and sat at the table of multiple meetings in Emery country to represent climbers’ interests. We will be helping to raise funds for more sustainable camping and climbing areas.
How can individuals help to keep Joe’s wild and free? Trying to minimize our impact on the land and pack out all waste is obviously a start. Attend an Adopt-a-crag and clean up day! Not only do these events help create a cleaner and nicer camping and climbing area, they also demonstrate to the BLM and Forrest Service that we, as a user group, are serious about the area. Also, volunteer hours are counted at each event by the BLM and logged. The BLM uses these hours to ask for federal funding for their region. The more hours a user group contributes, the easier it is to get funding for more projects for the future.
Use the Port-o-potties, or if you are not able to get to one, use a wag bag or dig a hole, Ideally, the hole should be six to eight inches deep, four to six inches across, and 200 feet from any water source, trail, or camp. Pack out all toilet paper.
Avoid social trails and redundant trails. Try to keep a single track into bouldering sites, don’t short cut trails or just punch it up the hillside. The slopes are quickly eroding and steep shortcut trails only make things worse.
How many days have you tried Black Dahlia? I don’t keep track of frivolous data like that
Why have you failed so many times? Much like the Chinese mountaineers that turned around before the summit of Annapurna, I know I can send it so I don’t need to.
In short do these things and Joe’s Valley maintain its greatness!
- Pack out your trash
- Don’t have fires under power lines or at the base of boulders
- Participate in Adopt-A-Crag and clean up days
- Follow MAIN trails
- Poop in toilets? Yes, like normal people go to a latrine and enjoy being comfortable
- Commit to the Pact! Click here and commit to keeping our climbing areas open.
Here is a link to the whole assessment from the SLCA
If you see Justin Wood around tell him about the incredible euphoric feeling of sending Black Dahlia (even if you have not done the problem). Then ask him if he has done the problem. When he says, no, tell him he should try Frosted Flakes first.