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MOAB — Federal land managers say they are investigating a puzzling case of who put mechanical grease over parts of boulders in a popular climbing area in southeast Utah.
The Bureau of Land Management said Thursday it is investigating the discovery of greased hand holds found on boulders in the Big Bend Bouldering Area. The area is located east of Arches National Park, by the Colorado River and state Route 128.
The discovery was first reported on a Moab climbing Facebook page on Feb. 11, according to the Moab Sun News. It was reported to the BLM, while news of the incident quickly spread through the rock climbing community.
The bureau did not release many details about the incident. However, the climbing group Friends of Indian Creek posted on Sunday that parts of Black Box, Chaos and Punisher boulders in the area were impacted by the vandalism. They advised climbers to avoid all the affected areas until cleanup can be completed.
"We don't yet know the long-term effects of mechanical grease on the porous sandstone and what — if any — additional steps should be taken to remove the residue," the post reads, in part. "Further, cleaning efforts involve copious use of water and that could temporarily affect the integrity of the sandstone holds."
Climber Steph Davis posted a video from the scene to Instagram over the weekend, calling it "very strange." In the post, she wrote that she hopes the person behind the incident is "apprehended and heavily fined" for potentially damaging the natural wonder.
As speculation grew quickly behind who put grease on the rocks and why, the Friends of Indian Creek also asked for people to use "a little restraint for the time being" and focus on the cleanup first. A board member of Friends of Indian Creek, told the Moab Sun News Thursday that the group is working with others to find "nonobtrusive ways of cleaning" off the vandalized areas.
A spokesperson for the BLM did not say if they believe the grease is damaging to the rocks. They said anyone with information about the case is encouraged to contact the Bureau of Land Management investigators at 435-259-2131.