Cave Valley near Auburn drawing climbers 7 days a week

Surf Tower, Tilting Vertex and Wreckage Wall may sound like roller coaster rides at a favorite amusement park, but these routes along the limestone cliffs at Cave Valley climbing area provide a different kind of adrenaline rush for local enthusiasts.

Cave Valley reopened to allow daily access to climbers last year, but a few climbing routes are off-limits this summer as the California Department of Parks and Recreation works to protect a nearby aerie, or nest, of peregrine falcons. The partial closure is an experiment to strike a balance between providing recreational activities to the rock climbing community and fostering local wildlife.

“It’s exciting and interesting that they were able to find a compromise between industry, recreation and the environment,” said Eric Peach, board member of Protect American River Canyons.

Jason Flesher, Sierra marketing manager for REI, an outdoor company that contracts with the Parks Department to teach classes in the canyon, said the partial closure has disrupted only one of REI’s classes so far. That class was moved to another location and subsequently was rained out.

“We were worried the whole area would be closed,” Flesher said “We’re glad it’s only a partial closure. REI is also interested in (protecting) the environment.”

The closure doesn’t seem to have slowed down activity in that area of the canyon. It was 90 degrees on a recent Sunday, but the quarry was full of climbers, coiled ropes and clinking carabiners. One experienced climber scaling the cliff face that day was Gordon Ainsleigh, founder of the Western States Endurance Run. Ainsleigh rides his bike from the trailhead to the climbing site a couple of times a week in preparation for a Yosemite climb later this summer.

“The falcons are usually noisy in the morning,” Ainsleigh said. “That’s when they’re hungry.”

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