Outdoors

Friends hope to honor adventurer with Point Defiance climbing facility

An artist rendering of bouldering rocks similar to the climbing facility friends of Liz Daley hope will be built in her honor at Point Defiance Park. Daley, an accomplished climbers and snowboarder, was killed by an avalanche in 2014.
An artist rendering of bouldering rocks similar to the climbing facility friends of Liz Daley hope will be built in her honor at Point Defiance Park. Daley, an accomplished climbers and snowboarder, was killed by an avalanche in 2014. Courtesy photo

Liz Daley was 29 when the life she packed with adventure, enthusiasm and charm ended.

She was filming her first project for new sponsor Eddie Bauer on Sept. 29, 2014, in Argentina. As the snowboarder descended a steep gully, an avalanche swept her into a crevasse.

The shock waves quickly reached Tacoma, her hometown.

Her friends soon started looking for ways to honor the woman who’d established herself as one of the nation’s top splitboard mountaineers. (Splitboards are snowboards that convert into a pair of skis, allowing users to travel into the backcountry as easily as skiers without having to haul extra gear such as snowshoes.)

They held a kickball tournament because Daley loved the game. They launched a “Live Like Liz” program to establish a guide scholarship and avalanche education program in her honor.

And now those friends are working on a permanent tribute to Daley.

On Sept. 26, at an auction in Seattle, Daley’s friends and family hope to raise at least $50,000 toward Liz Rocks, a Tacoma bouldering facility they hope will be located at Point Defiance Park.

Brady Bekker attended Mason Middle School and Stadium High with Daley, and says Liz Rocks is an ideal way to pay tribute to the climber.

It would give the local climbing community another place to train and being in Point Defiance could inspire future generations to try the sport.

Bekker is Liz Rocks’ liaison to Metro Parks Tacoma, and in June received a letter from the parks agency expressing support for their fundraising effort.

“It’s kind of perfect timing,” Bekker said, referring to the Metro Parks current efforts to update its master plan for Point Defiance.

The letter, signed by Metro Park’s chief planning manager Doug Fraser, expressed a similar sentiment. Fraser described a potential facility as “a gift of permanence that advances the master plan.”

Fraser also wrote that “a significant program area will be the creation of a new adventure-recreation facility in the Baker Tract/Former Camp 6 Area.”

Another possible location for the facility is Swan Creek Park, the letter states.

Much is still up in the air with the Liz Rocks project.

Seattle’s Elevate Climbing Walls provided an artist rendering for a partially covered bouldering facility. However, Bekker says the designs are intentionally vague.

There are still many factors that could impact the design, Bekker said. He says they hope the initial concept will help “raise interest and funds.”

When it comes to fundraising, Daley’s friends have a large mountain to climb. Bekker estimates they need to raise $140,000 to fund the initial design.

“We really want this to be state of the art,” Bekker said. “A climbing destination for people around the South Sound.”

The South Sound rock climbing scene has grown dramatically in the past 12 years with the emergence of three indoor rock gyms: Tacoma’s Edgeworks and Climb Tacoma and Olympia’s Warehouse Rock Gym.

However, the region’s most notable, free outdoor climbing facility is SPIRE Rock at Spanaway’s Sprinker Recreation Center. The 25-foot, 39-year-old rock isn’t challenging enough, some climbers say. Others say it’s become so worn over the years that it looks and feels polished.

The SPIRE (Sprinker Ice and Rock Education) facility opened in 1976 after two years of work and fundraising by volunteers. The project cost $4,016.

And while the South Sound is, indeed, in need of a state-of-the-art upgrade, the old glossy rock still does what Liz Rocks hopes to do. It’s more intriguing than intimidating, beckoning people to try a new sport.

Wherever Liz Rocks ends up, however big the facility becomes, it’s likely to take several years to become a reality, Bekker said. But he says they’re not intimidated by the work ahead. “We’re looking forward to the journey.”

LIZ ROCKS YOUR SOCKS OFF

What: A fundraising auction for Liz Rocks, a proposed Tacoma bouldering facility that would pay tribute to Liz Daley. Daley, an accomplished extreme athlete, was killed by an avalanche in 2014.

Where: MOZ, 1100 Second Ave., Seattle.

When: 6:30-11 p.m. Sept. 26.

Tickets: $40.

More info: lizrocks.com.

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