Story published: February 2020

Quarry Park, an official city park in Duluth, Minn., was once the site of a blighted and abandoned rock quarry, known more for secluded under-age drinking gatherings and unauthorized rock climbing forays. But today, the quarry cliffs, which offer 80-foot ascents up both dry- and ice-mixed routes, draw climbers from around the region as one of the best places to train for climbing mountains out west and beyond.

Since the 1970s, climbers had found their way to the quarry by word of mouth. In the winter, the rocks offered challenging ice formations that climbers like Rick Kollath and others sought out. But a few years ago, Hans Johnson, with the Minnesota Land Trust, approached them to see if there was any interest in making the property an official city park. Since then, enhancements such as parking, greater accessibility and a disc golf course have been added.

“It was kind of a daunting moment, to see if they wanted to get behind it, and I really talked about legacy,” Johnson said. “I talked about how they developed the climbs, name the climbs, cleaned the rocks. But they were essentially trespassing, and it could all go away,” he recalled.

The quarry straddled tax-forfeited county land and private property owned by a cemetery. Ultimately, the climbers decided to get behind the plan, and it was brought before city leaders. The Duluth Climbers Coalition was formed, and members helped raise money to formalize the deal.

And the park has been catching on ever since.

“Very few places have mixed routes – and the quarry is full of them. And that makes it pretty special. I think that’s one of the reasons folks from all around will drive to Duluth to practice mixed climbing at the quarry,” Kollath said.

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