Ralston Buttes, aka The Coors Crag, has a forty year long history of climbing. Back in the 70s Jim Erickson, Steve Wunsch, Roger Briggs and many others cleaned up a slew of old aid lines turning them into a handful of classic trad routes. In the early 80's I had a chance to hump in and check out some of Jim Erickson's lines. I never returned until the mid 90s when the relentlessly energized and organizational mastermind, Tod Anderson, commandered a crew of folks to start picking off the blank faces. In the ensuing years, dozens of new routes have been established, largely under Tod's driving force but with the whole Head crew spinning drills. What has resulted is the development of one of the most stunning crags on the Front Range, and much still remains to be done.
Ralston Buttes is broken into two tiers, an upper (Easterly) band and a large, lower (Westerly) crag. Most of the routes presently developed on Ralston are on the lower formation. Since Rossiter's book has the only current data (some old stuff can be fetched out of Jim Erickson's Rocky Heights) route numbering follows his precedent and tracks from the North to the South. The lower crag varies in height from from 100 or so feet to over 200 ft. The rock is Eldorado sandstone. The crag sits high on the hill, faces due West, and resides in a spectacular location, despite the presence of a Uranium mine at the base of the hill.
The sore point concerning the Ralston Buttes, and the reason for posting it here on cb.com, is that this crag and servicable access were purchased by JeffCo several years ago moving the crag into the public domain. The same tax dollars, your own, have subsequently gone into closing the crag to public access pending "environmental analysis". However, many years have elapsed and little has been done to meet the conditions of public land. Plenty of time has elapsed in which to assess raptor nesting, for example. Ralston Buttes should be given the same treatment as Mickey Mouse, Eldo, or any other sensitive area - temporary closure as needed. The exclusionary policy of JeffCo Open Space needs to come to an end with access to this public crag restored to the public.
Well, this is what sucks. Current access is via the Jefferson County Open Space property, the White Ranch, off Co 93. This is a long hike. Alternative access is through private property, and in the past, before the housing development got revved up, this was a reasonable approach. Since your tax dollars are hard at work keeping you off public lands that you bought, one interesting option is to stimulate JeffCo Open Space to provide access to this public property without recourse to trespass. It is high time to press the county commissioners for access to this crag. Their phone number is 303 271 8525.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Ralston Buttes:
Spanky was one of the first routes completed in the modern sweep through Ralston Buttes. Begin 100 or so feet right of and a bit down slope of the A-frame roof (The Viper, aka The Wishbone). While only 60 or so ft long, Spanky delivers enough cruxy climbing that its name is well deserved. It is hard off the deck and delivers several back to back 5.12- moves in the middle. The rock is a bit friable in places and very crimpy as well. An excellent technical problem in its own right, Spanky also off...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Here's an update... About a year ago after many frustrating "meetings" with Jeffco I contacted the other major climbing organizations headquartered in Jefferson County (The American Alpine Club, The Colorado Mountain Club and The American Mountain Guides Association) and informed them of the situation. The intent was to build a coalition of more than just the Access Fund, hopefully with some clout from organizations actually located in Jefferson County. The support from the three organizations mentioned above was phenomenal and a meeting was held with Commissioner Lawrence and Open Space Staff. JeffCo's response was basically F*%$ off, we'll take your tax dollars to buy land for way more than it is worth from rich developers and then reserve it for our personal use. In this case JeffCo bought a climbing area with over 40 years of climbing history and finalized their plans for management without ever consulting climbing organizations. They do, however, meet regularly meet with the Colorado Heritage Program (aka CSU Biology Department). Ralston Buttes is officially closed permanently as it is biologically sensitive. The reasons given are that bears and mountain lions frequent the area and that cliff dwelling birds use the cliff, such species are swallows and wrens. Obviously they are using any excuse, no matter how weak to keep their $5 million private park intact. Jeffco Open Space personnel also routinely trespass on private land in violation of the restrictions of their easement deed. It should also be noted that at least one county commissioner lives immediately adjacent to this closed area and probably doesn't want climber scum in her backyard. It is also curious to note that the rich developer who sold this land to JeffCo had his house assessed for tax purposes for less than 1/3 of its $1.3 million sales price. Do you think that any climbers who live in Jefferson county get such preferential treatment? It goes on and on. We need to vote all of the current commissioners out and get new leadership in Open Space as well as within the Sheriff's department (remember them waiting for hours outside Columbine while people bled to death inside?).
I think it's high time that the citizens of JeffCo and surrounding communities demand more from their government. The list of restricted areas includes not just Ralston Buttes, but Ralston Reservoir by the Denver Water Board, and Arapaho Glacier by the Boulder Water tyranny, and significant portions of North Table by limiting effective access.
Public land is public. Colorado people love their state, and by enormous majority want it protected. But they seek this protection so that they can enjoy the land responsibly. The same county commisioners that are blocking off the buttes are alowing huge scrape gravel pits along CO Hwy 93.
All this, and they are killing all the deer up at White Ranch to prevent the spread of mad deer. The deer I see up there aren't stumbling around. Why kill them?
"When it is benevolence in mind, the governemnt will almost always achieve the exact opposite of what it sets out to accomplish in the first place." Careful what you ask JeffCo to do for you. Government has been blurring lines between public and government ownership gradually over the centuries. Don't believe me? Why do "Public Schools" get "Governement Funds" ??? My observations lead me to believe that Government Schools are getting Public Funds. So are you all so sure that you support the concept of Open Space? Is it just JeffCo? No, and if you don't believe me, go to the Third Flatiron in March, or July. The Falcons won't mind, but the Rangers will fine you. Or go to the Sacred Cliffs, even now. Just remember, government is an industry, a GROWTH industry, and the CEOs are not usually interested in what a minority wants or should be entitled to.
Thanks Tod for your update. Sad to hear of the uncompromising attitude of the JeffCo Open Space folks. Opening up some access for somewhere like Ralston Buttes requires a lot of unrewarding work, by people and organizations like the Access Fund. Nice to hear that the AAC and CMC have been helping (both Jeffo-based organization). A combination of talking to these commissioner folks, and listening to their concerns about wildlife, and asking them to allow some climber access to less sensitive areas, or at less sensitive times, might work. I hope so. Perhaps we should push for access in winter, when the bears are hibernatiing, and vegetation is dormant.
The comments from AC, who wrote the rambling rant about "mad deer" and "The Boulder Water Tyranny" are not very helpful. Neither are Tony Bubb's remarks about the Third Flatiron, and the Public School system (I'm still baffled about this bit). The JeffCo commissioner folks will read this kind of stuff and laugh. It will only reinforce their desire to keep silly Boulderites out of the open space they are in charge of.
Interesting to see Crusher's comments on what, by all rights, should be one of the premier crags in the Front Range. It is beyond comprehension when a few people with influence in minor divisions of our state and local government can exert the kind of influence that Tod has described. It is even more incomprehensible when the situation created by the selfish interests of these same few people can persist for as long as they have, and persist with as little justification as they have been able to show for this "Biological Eden". As so well perloined by one the route established at this crag, the "Closed Open Space" created by the JeffCo Gang of Three is in need of an urgent fix. You pay for it, they buy it, and they kick you out. Were there any substance to the biological sensitivity argument, then we could come to terms with the concerns as we have in nearly every other climbing area in Colorado. Seasonal nesting closures have been in place for over a decade in many climbing areas, except this one. Restrictions for the purpose of preserving sensitive historical sites have been in place in many other areas, however, no such concern can be voiced in this case. If Ralston Buttes are to be closed for sensitive biological issues then it is about time that we were presented with the evidence.
If my comments seem baffling or obtuse, try to integrate them with the perspective and point of view I intended- that when you get the government involved in something, they will frequently take control of it without interest in the public needs.
I suppose my public school comment may seem odd- at the time it was written, that was something on my mind- having been a teacher, being the son of two teachers, the brother of a teacher, and having a live-in girlfriend who was a teacher, I have pretty intimate knowledge of 'how it works' and how it applies to this situation. Sorry, lost reference on a different audience.
However, the idea that is quite applicable, and surprising that it was not lucid is this: The government, like anyone else, uses rhetoric to sell their self-interested ideas as well.
Everyone supports the idea of using the government's money to support a public enterpirse... ahh, the use of rhetoric. Did the government 'earn' the money? No, it's the public's money. Who sets the schools' standards and policies? ...the government. Now maybe, just maybe, they are government schools. Let's reverse the rheroric- Who wants to use public money to support a government enterprise? Few people like the sound of that.
The fundamental idea is that someone gave JeffCo the power and the cash to obtain the land for the public, but that it got switched. You approved the use of 'government money' to obtain 'public land' but what you GOT was the use of 'public money' to obtain 'government land.' If you don't believe me, go look at your tax sheets, and go try to climb on Ralston. The PUBLIC paid for it, but the PUBLIC has no say in the matter; It's government land now.
On second thought, please don't listen to that Tony Bubb kid, he's totally crazy. Next thing you know he'll say that the government give subsidies to timber companies to cut trees out of your national forests and builds road for them and stuff... Or that Boulder County grazes cattle on open space- closing it to the public in exchange for grazing fees. Sheesh- total loon!
PS- I am more than willing to donate a considerable amount of cash to the pool if someone wants to take this up as a lawsuit and can win it. Let's talk turkey- I'm a plaintiff to the case if someone wants to bring it. Please contact me by Email from the link on this site.
How about shedding some light on this issue in the form of publicity, like gettting one of the major newspapers to do a story on this. Maybe that would put a little bit of pressure on these county commissioners. How about running an article a few months before their next election?
I can't imagine that many people would not side with climbers on this issue. Colorado seems to be a place where people care greatly about outdoor recreation and public land use. Or maybe I am just biased because I am a climber.
What does everyone think? Is it worth a shot? I am inclined to call a reporter.
Thus far, what has been explained to us about this area -- The CDOW is emphatic about this area as being a threatened habitat of the Black Bear. It is closed to all user groups by JeffCo OS within their mgt policy designated as Sensitive.
What possible good could using the media do to gain access here? I believe they will report the similar statement I have just made and relate to the community that climbers wish to infringe upon the designated CDOW threatened habitat area. Upon which, more public land managers/park mgt personnel will review their policies to effect more restriction against a user group that will be viewed as irresponsible toward conservation of the environment. So again, what good would a media report do at this time with the current CDOW threatened habitat designation?
Your assuming that the media would take a negative stance against climbers and I don't think it necessarily would have to be that way if someone took the time to explain the situation.
I also just don't understand how this area can suddenly become a "sensitive" area when the historical land-use of the area has included rock climbing and, even worse, major rock quarrying operations. I can't think of another land-use that has more negative impact. Furthermore, what about the multi-million dollar homes that surround the area?
I have tried to find information on the CDOW's designation of the area as sensitive with no success. If they can provide some valid justification as to why this designation came to be, I think this issue would be much easier to stomach.
Yes, Kirk, I agree with your point that development is the main cause of this area becoming a concern with the CDOW. I don't follow exactly what you need to know from the CDOW, not that I don't agree with you; I don't quite understand what you want to know.
From what I gather, the CDOW has indicated a threatened habitat that needs to be kept from all use; JeffCo then designated the area as "Sensitive" under their OS mgt definitions for park mgt. JeffCo also listed other reasons for the closure that I don't personally agree with; which I think is what every climber I've talked to has issue with, not to mention JeffCo handled this situation poorly from the start of their decision to designate the area. That climbers have an issue with JeffCo's reasoning is fine with me. I can see the issue with what JeffCo has done. But, I can't justify to myself going into an area to climb wherein an independent wildlife agency has specifically asked to be preserved from all human contact.
There are a number of important facts to be aware of before assuming that this crag is in any way more sensitive than any other Front Range climbing area. To the best of my knowledge it is not the Colorado Division of Wildlife that has made any statements about Ralston Buttes, rather it is the Colorado Heritage Program. It is important to understand that the Colorado Heritage Program is synonymous with the Colorado State Biology Department, an anti-climber organization that has made the statement that "Climbers are taking out species before they're even discovered." What astonishing science! I wonder how they figured that one out.
Let's consider impacts to bears as they were mentioned above. First, black bears are not threatened or endangered in Colorado. Furthermore, bears visit the Ralston Buttes area at most 2 weeks per year to eat the ripened berries as noted by JCOS. Then, they leave. This is hardly justification for closing this area to all public access in perpetuity. There are no other threatened or endangered species in this area, nor have there been any credible scientific studies showing any impact that the 40 years of climbing have had on this area. JCOS even has draft plans for a trail right through the area that contains the raspberry fields, while still maintaining that the cliff is somehow too sensitive for any low life taxpayer to set foot on. The bottom line is that JCOS bought Ralston for a private biology park for their friends from Colorado State with no consideration for any other use.
This area contains routes of historical value to the climbing community dating all the way back to the early soloing days of Jim Erickson and is documented in his 1972 guidebook. There are a number of routes up to 4 pitches long that are as good as any at Mickey Mouse Wall. Since access through public lands would require a fair amount of hiking, it is very unlikely that there would ever be any discernible environmental impact from climbing. Climbers who did make the walk would be rewarded with some solitude as opposed to gambling buses and gravel trucks, as is the case in other "sacrifice" areas tolerated for climbing by JCOS. Applying the same basis used by JCOS for this closure would result in all of your climbing areas being closed, think about that.
Does anyone have any updated information on this area/issue? I'm doing a reasearch assignment for school on "Public Management Agencies and Partners in the Private Sector" or the lack there of. I would like to gather as much info as possible I will try to contact JeffCo and some of the other agencies already mentioned but would like to talk to some people who have already spoken with them to get some feedback. Feel free to shoot me an email.
If JeffCo has designated this area as biologically "sensitive", explain to me this: If you look at a satellite image of Ralston Buttes, you will notice a new HUGE house built immediately east of the main summit area at the end of a road built just for access to the house. A round-about offers easy in and out. There appears to be a mini-golf course built in the backyard. A large road extends NW of this house up to a clearing that would suggest another location for a mansion. What on earth is going on here? Isn't it time (again) for someone (or some group) to step in and call them out on their hipocracy? There is a much greater chance a bear will be disturbed (or killed) by a local landowner driving back in his BMW or Suburban than would be by the occassional rock climbers.
As you noted noted the closure of this area is completely unjustified and utter BS. It took a long time, but the taxpaying public was able to gain changes to the restrictions in the Flatirons, maybe the same could be done at Ralston. The Access Fund, Colorado Mountain Club, and Alpine Club may be able to assist.
To quote TZ: "Closed Open Space". Your tax dollars at work. It might be useful if anyone knew of a mechanism by which the tax paying public could influence the status of Ralston Buttes. How would one go about pushing an agenda to open up this area? It is also interesting that a similar scenario is evolving at the Staunton State Park. This park was slated to open early in 2012 and is presently a long way from opening. It is understandable to fall behind a construction schedule, but this should not preclude access to those trails that have already been established. The situation with Staunton is beginning to look like a closed Colorado State Park that is in an indeterminate state of development. Climbing opportunities at Staunton are terrific, include climbing on the Lion's Head formation, numerous other good crags, and a climbing management plan has been in place for at least two years. In fact, the Staunton State Park web site touts climbing as one of the major public uses of the park, showing numerous climbing photographs of "visitors" enjoying the park.