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Climbers Voice Concerns Over Murrin Park Access

A recent land transfer between B.C. and the Squamish Nation leaves future access to Petrifying Wall up in the air

In June, we published a letter by the Squamish Access Society detailing a land transfer that took place in March between B.C. and the Squamish Nation. The province promised to transfer Crown land back to the Squamish Nation in exchange for support of the local Woodfibre LNG project. Read the letter here.

One of the areas that is part of the land transfer is known as the Watts Point parcel, it includes land near Murrin Provincial Park and has a number of popular rock climbs. The Squamish Nation spokesperson Khelsilem said that once the land is returned, they’ll decide as a community what the future of the area will be.

The agreement was signed in spring, but was brought up at a recent Squamish district council meeting. Earlier in October, a number of prominent climbers wrote letters to council regarding the potential loss of access to Petrifying wall.

“I am astounded that climbers and climbing advocacy groups were not consulted,” wrote Marc Bourdon, owner of Quickdraw Publishing. “Murrin Park is one of the oldest and most significant climbing areas in Squamish… I urge you to take this seriously. Please protect Petrifying Wall and all the valuable climbing cliffs adjacent to Murrin Park from future access closures or threats during the upcoming negotiations.”

“As far as I can gauge, no one with detailed knowledge of Crown land recreational use in the Squamish area was consulted,” wrote Toby Foord-Kelcey. “Had climbers been consulted, it is likely that a lobbying effort would have been made to request Pet Wall’s exclusion from the transfer parcel.”

Squamish climber Ben Webster, wrote, “Pet Wall has been a marquee climbing area in Squamish since 1986 and contains a unique character of glacial rock that doesn’t exist elsewhere in Squamish’s assortment of sport climbing cliffs. Squamish’s climbing community is strongly aligned with both First Nation’s and environmental concerns and l believe continued usage of Pet Wall for climbing will embrace that stewardship. The Murrin Loop trail, a publicly accessible hike, was a project of the climbing community and a prime example of contributing beyond strictly the lens of climbing in the area.”

Leading climber Steve Swenson, wrote, “I live in Seattle and have been climbing at Squamish for almost 40 years. The significance of the climbing resources at the Petrifying Wall are enormous. This crag is visited by several thousand climbers each year, and this land transfer will result in an uncertain future for this very important recreational asset. As rock climbing becomes more popular, these destinations become more crowded and if access to any of these cliffs is eliminated in the future, then it further aggravates this problem.”

Alex Honnold climbing on Pet Wall Photo Jamie Finlayson

Access to Petrifying Wall will remain open for now, but its future will come down to the Squamish Nation. “People need to respect Squamish Nation’s history and culture and understand the context in which they are asking for consultation,” said Khelsilem.

“Rock climbing has also become an important part of the tourism industry in Squamish and threatening or restricting access to any of the important climbing areas will also have economic impacts to the community,” wrote Swenson. “No matter how the final disposition of this land is decided, it will be very important to preserve the existing rock climbing land use.”

Read the letters in full here. And read the land transfer agreement here.

Petrifying Wall was first climbed on back in the 1970s. In 1970, Kon Kraft and John Wurflinger aided Beers are Not Enough, which was later freed by Bruce Kay and Howie Richardson in 1986.

While a few routes were added in the early 1980s, nearly 20 were climbed in 1986, including Mr. Fun 5.12a and Pleasant Pheasant 5.11a. One of the hardest routes on the wall is Force Ten 5.13d, opened in 2007 by Scott Milton.

Watch Drew Marshall climb the classic Pet Wall trad route called Flight of the Challenger 5.12.

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