Building sustainability and community: Helena climbers make improvements at Winter Wall

Nolan Lister

A group of local rock climbers spent the weekend improving a favorite Helena-area climbing spot in an effort to make use of the site more sustainable as the sport’s popularity grows.

Helena Climber’s Coalition with some assistance from Access Fund, a nationwide nonprofit advocating for access for climbers, built a retaining wall along the base of Winter Wall, a massive limestone face tucked into Hellgate Gulch on the far side of Canyon Ferry Reservoir.

An adjustment to the motorized trail recently caused the loose earth at the base of Winter Wall to slough away, making it difficult to hike along the rock face.

The coalition was formed in 2017, and Chairman Brad Maddock said this project is its biggest.

Access Fund, based in Boulder, Colorado, administers an annual climbing conservation grant program. Only 10 projects across the country were selected to receive a grant. Winter Wall was one of those projects.

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“It is a really big deal,” Maddock said.

Access Fund spokesman Garrett Garner-Wells said as the sport becomes increasingly popular, it also becomes more important to advocate for it. 

“We want to show people that climbing is

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