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Michigan Gets its First Climber-Owned Crag

Slugg's Bluff has roughly two dozen existing routes and more on the way. Permanently protecting this area is a big win for Upper Peninsula climbers.

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The Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition (UPCC) and Access Fund have just announced permanent protection for Slugg’s Bluff, a minimally developed crag near the small mining town of Palmer, Michigan.

The 80-foot-tall quartzite cliff sits on a 10-acre parcel of land and is currently home to 10 sport routes and more than a dozen gear-protected lines up to 5.12 in difficulty. The crag boasts high-quality face and crack climbing in an assortment of styles, plus grand views of the Palmer area and potential for a number of additional routes. The property will also be open for non-climbing recreation.

“As the first climber-owned crag in Michigan, Slugg’s Bluff is a testament to the value our community places on conserving open space for future generations,” said UPCC President John Miller in a joint press release with Access Fun.

The access sign at Slugg's Bluff
Access to Slugg’s Bluff. Ancestral lands of Oma͞eqnomenew-ahkew (Menominee), Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. (Photo: John Miller)

The property was donated to the Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition by the Arbelius family, and the crag is named for Leo ‘Slug’ Arbelius, who with his wife, Alice, operated a local grocery store and raised cows on the Slugg’s Bluff parcel. The UPCC had originally approached the Arbelius family intending to buy the property, but they instead chose to donate the land. In their press release, the UPCC noted that Michigan climbers would “preserve this area for sustainable outdoor recreation and build a trailhead kiosk celebrating [the Arbelius family’s generosity].”

“We’re proud to permanently showcase the Arbelius family’s record of generosity at Slugg’s Bluff,” said Miller. “Their long-standing support for climbers as private landowners helped build this community. Now that Slugg’s Bluff is in climbers’ hands, we know that community will continue to grow.”

The Arbelius family
The Arbelius family with UPCC Vice President Kelly Laakso. (Photo: John Miller)

Slugg’s Bluff has been a climbing area since the 1970s, and climbers have a long history of working with the Arbelius family to preserve access and remove trash and graffiti from the property.

“There are so many ways for private landowners to support conservation and recreation, and we’re thrilled that the Arbelius family worked with the Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition to make this incredible gift,” said Access Fund National Acquisitions Director Brian Tickle. “The family’s donation does more than create Michigan’s first climber-owned crag. It’s a model for other landowners to protect and conserve privately owned land beyond their lifetimes.”

Maintaining and managing the new property will not be easy or cheap, so please consider donating to the UPCC.

Also: become an Access Fund member. And donate to them too.

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About the Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition

The UPCC is a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to creating and preserving sustainable and responsible climbing in Marquette County and the surrounding areas of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For more information, visit upperpeninsulaclimbing.com

About Access Fund:

Access Fund the national organization that leads and inspires the climbing community toward sustainable access and conservation of the climbing environment. With nearly 25,000 members nationwide, we inspire and serve the entire climbing community through our conservation, stewardship, policy, and other programmatic work. Access Fund is an accredited land trust that manages a $1.3 million revolving loan fund and holds conservation easements across the country. Since its formation in 1991, Access Fund has successfully completed 90 land acquisition projects resulting in the permanent protection of thousands of acres of climbing areas and millions of dollars in land value. For more information, visit accessfund.org.