Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition gifted Slug’s Buff


Photo courtesy Vaughn Rodriguez

CLIMB HIGH — A climber scales up Slug’s Bluff, an 80-foot tall quartzite cliff located in the Upper Peninsula. Slug’s Bluff is the first climber-owned area in Michigan, with the Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition recently being gifted the land.

Andie Balenger

The Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition (UPCC) has become the owner of a climbing area in Palmer, MI, making the property the first climber-owned land in Michigan, according to a recent UPCC press release.

The climbing area, commonly known as Slug’s Bluff, has been accessed and utilized by climbers since the early 1970s. Nicknamed after the land’s first owner in 1904, Leo “Slug” Arbelius, the Arbelius family has been granting sportsmen access to the 80-foot-tall quartzite cliff that’s sat on the land for the past several decades.

To show their gratitude for free usage, the UPCC, a local non-profit organization dedicated to protecting access to climbing areas in the U.P., and the South Superior Climbing Club (SSCC), Northern Michigan University’s student-run climbing club, have organized several clean-ups of the area.

“There has been washers and dryers thrown off the top. Just a ton of junk,” Vaughn Rodriquez, president of the SSCC, said. “Northern’s club has helped out a lot with that, so the owners are really cool with climbers. We have built a great relationship with them over the years.”

When the UPCC approached the Arbelius family about purchasing the land for climbing use earlier this year, the family gifted Slug’s Bluff to the non-profit on the condition that the space is preserved for outdoor recreation. A kiosk dedicated to the Arbelius family is set to be installed at the space’s trailhead as well.

A tentative date for a social climb and celebration at Slug’s Bluff, is scheduled for Nov. 5 at 2 p.m.

The SSCC will be hosting a general interest meeting for NMU students wishing to learn more about the UPCC and its functions on Sept. 29 at the Cohodas Pavilion on the south side of campus.

Vaughn and the SSCC have been organizing one to two social climbs a week for NMU students interested in climbing. According to Vaughn, no experience or gear is needed to participate and have a successful climb. 

“We try to foster positive climbing experiences and teach people how to climb so that hopefully they love it, can do it themselves and be self-sustained, but also with the club too,” Vaughn said.