Absorbing some of the early morning sunlight, Rick Weber watches several climbers send their first routes of the day. He pulls a length of rope between his aged fingers and clips into his manual belay device.
A young man rises from his reclined position on his bouldering mat and approaches. “Hey Rick, you’ve got to let me install a fixed draw on Sunny Side,” he says.
Rick shuffles slightly toward the route, a 5.12, and examines the existing gear. “I’ll have Liz bring one up from the house," he says.
Rick stands with his hands on his hips surveying his and his wife’s land, all 350 acres of Muir Valley. Below him lies seven miles of cliff line, over 300 routes ranging from 5.3 to 5.14a. It’s hardly time for an early lunch and the large gravel parking lots are already full.
“When we formed Muir Valley and decided to open it up to the public we thought we’ll probably get a couple hundred people a year that come by,” Liz says. “We can handle that no problem. We had no idea that it would grow as fast and to the extent that it has.”
With over 30,000 visitors last year, Muir Valley has become the most popular climbing destination in the eastern half of the country. For eight years, Rick and Liz Weber have shouldered the property and developmental expenses as their gift to the climbing community. But, now in their late 60s and facing declining health, the future of the valley is unclear.
LOVE AT FIRST CLIMB
“You look at yourself and think, ‘How did I get this old all a sudden?’” Liz sighs, now 68.
Rick leans back with his hands on top of his head, gazing intently at his wife of 45 years. His tan Muir Valley shirt stretches over his shoulders, thick biceps framing his face. His wispy gray hair, bifocals, and delicate pattern of wrinkles are the only indicators of age.