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Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival 2016 Recap

By October 31, 20162 Comments

WOW, we got so lucky with weather!

Throughout the Fest, I was like a broken record. Memories of last year’s frigid fest were all too vivid. As a festival organizer, there are two hypotheticals that you are terrified of: no one shows up, or the weather is too bad to do any of the events you spent the last year coordinating. And, even though Fall is prime Joe’s Valley season, the desert is still unpredictable. Just the week before the Fest this year, there was a huge rain storm that caused moderate flooding. I imagined what kind of festival that would be…


Well, I guess that’s not too far from last year’s fest… HA!


Yea, the decision to move the fest to October was an easy one. The weather this year did not disappoint. It was sunny and dry during the day, and crisp and clear at night. Perfect outdoor festival temps.


Shiny, happy people.

The first festival was so late in the year because the idea didn’t emerge until a few weeks beforehand. We didn’t want to stall the support and momentum we had locally, so we went forward with the festival despite having very little time to plan. It was a test run, and this year looked much more traditionally festival-like, but with a Emery County twist. 😉

The twist.

The twist.

Local Flavor

So what’s the point of the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival?

We want to introduce climbers to the towns that surround their beloved Joe’s Valley, and the people that make up Emery County. At the moment, the vast majority of climbers don’t go beyond the Food Ranch for sustenance or the Aquatic Center for showers.

We aim to change that.

The overarching goal of the festival is for climbers and local community members to meet each other. We want climbers to go into town to explore and strike up conversations with locals. There are lots of other things to do on rest days besides watching climbing videos in the Spartan Den. The Rock Shop AKA Braun Lapidary Rock & Gift Shop has thousands of different rocks and minerals for you to nerd out on, and beautiful gifts for the whole family. The Orangeville City Park is a great place to do yoga – anytime you want, not only during the fest (If you’re going to sit on the computer, there’s WiFi all over town that you can freely connect to – you don’t have to be stuck indoors. There’s even power outlets in the park, just sayin’.)

This is why we had registration at the Rock Shop, instead of somewhere closer to the entrance of the canyon. This is why we only used local food vendors, like R Pizza and Gordon’s Garden Cafe – to show climbers options to eat that they might not be aware of.

This is also the main reason we were so excited to have the two Local Artisan Clinics this year.


Yea, we had the registration for the rock climbing festival at the Rock Shop.

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All Braun Lapidary photos from ETV News website.

Yoga in the park led by Rebecka Cooper.

Yoga in the park led by Rebecka Cooper. Photo: Adriana Chimaras.

Mr. Ungerman showing 'em how it's done during Ungerman Meat's 1-hour beef jerky clinic.

Gordon Ungerman showing ’em how it’s done during Ungerman Meat’s 1-hour beef jerky clinic.

On Friday afternoon of the Fest, climbers got to participate in all parts of the jerky process, and take home a gallon bag! Gordon Ungerman and his family at Ungerman’s Meat in Huntington, UT are a riot, and are true meat experts, so Makin’ Beef Jerky was bound to be a blast. Spenser and I look forward to going to their meat shop every trip to Joe’s to pick up whatever Gordon recommends to grill on the campfire.

Locals x Climbers

Every event during the Fest tries to bridge the gap between folks that live in the towns surrounding Joe’s Valley, and the climbers that come to climb on those famous boulders. We want the climbers and locals to understand each other. The history of this area is incredibly interesting.

Steve Jeffrey working what would become the most famous climb in Joe's Valley - Black Lung. Photo: Mark Hammond.

Steve Jeffrey working the climb that put Joe’s Valley on the map – Black Lung. Photo: Mark Hammond.

Steven Jeffrey puts up a new line in Joe's Valley, 10 years after the Black Lung photo was taken. Photo: Cody Allen.

Steven Jeffrey puts up a new line in Joe’s Valley, 10 years after the Black Lung photo above was taken. Photo: Cody Allen.

The Legends & Lore presentation provides the historical backdrop of this area – the Lore behind settling Castle County, and the Legends that developed the world-class bouldering. Prolific climbing developer Steven Jeffery and ex-Mayor of Castle Dale, and current drama teacher, Neal Peacock gave us a lively tour through the history of their respective expertise. Steven spoke about coming to Joe’s for the first time, riding flat on his back in the open bed of Boone Speed’s truck all the way from Salt Lake City. And Neal walked us through the ups-and-downs of Emery County, starting with the original government snafu of the name swap – apparently, Orangeville should have been Castle Vale and Castle Dale was supposed to be Orangeville. Orangeville was to be named after a prominent figure in the community whose first name was Orange, while Castle Vale was short for Castle Valley…although Dale is what they ended up with. The building that Legends & Lore takes place in should not be ignored, the Museum of San Rafael is a beautiful historic building that houses a multitude of dinosaur bones, and various other local historic artifacts.



Then there’s the Cowboy Games at the Blue Sage Indoor Arena, where climbers got a taste of what it’s like to try to tango with wild beasts. It was at least as much fun to watch as to participate.

This year, there was also the Castle Dale Ghost Tour. This spooky hay ride (and drama department fundraiser) took you to the haunted spots around the the town of Castle Tour while reciting the scary (and true!) tales that happened there. Did you know there’s a Ghost Road in Castle Dale? You’ll have to wait until next year’s ghost tours to find out why it has its name!

And, of course, the climbers got to show locals how it’s done during the Climber Games:




Photo: Johnny Dunn

In addition to the Local Artisan Clinics, we had some amazing climbing clinics this year. FiveTen athlete Chris Schulte led a clinic on commitment, and Organic Climbing athlete Alex Johnson shared her tips and tricks to climbing in Joe’s. Prana photographer Savannah Cummins taught two photography clinics, and Organic Climbing athlete Flannery Shay-Nemirow helped Steven Jeffrey with a beginning climber’s Meet Up!

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The top goal for next year is to get more local community members to come out climbing!

Everyone Loves Stuff

After the morning clinics, climbers and locals met at the Emery County Rec Center for the Trade Show. There were booths from climbing companies and, of course, the raffle. People love winning stuff – see below.


Keepin’ it Local – we were stoked to have the Salt Lake City-based brewery, Uinta Brewing, provide beer for the Athlete Happy Hour during the Trade Show.


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Behind-the-scenes shot of right before the raffle. Yup, it’s a cluster.

Stewardship Sunday

The Food Ranch graciously provided the crew with caffeine and sugar to start our engines for the clean-up with the SLCA on Sunday morning. If we have enough volunteers next year, I think it would be great to have two clean-up teams – one that stays in town, and one that goes into the canyon.

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Speaking of next year, the main organizers met on Sunday afternoon after the clean-up to start the planning process. This is not to give us a big pat on the back, but to say that we are so psyched on how this year turned out that we are motivated to make 2017 even better.

And I’ll just leave these here with you…


Ridiculously rad design by Angel Lopez of Outdoor Traditions.




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