The Current Status of Outdoor Climbing in Ontario

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With the recent announcement of Grey Sauble Conservation Authority properties reopening for public use on June 6th, climbing areas across the province are finding themselves under varying levels of restrictions.  We’ve created a table to help the community more easily understand what crags are open for climbing. You can access the table here.  This is a living document and will be updated as permissions change. 

Please keep in mind that some smaller communities, including Grey County, have issued official requests that non-residents or seasonal visitors avoid visiting.  We’ve listed resources for the Public Health Units and municipalities that correspond with the various crags in our document — please use these to determine if there are any regional restrictions.

Currently, climbing is permitted on crown land, where access is tolerated.

Old Baldy is re-opening to visitor access on June 6, but at the time of this posting, climbing will not be a permitted activity. We are in direct communication with Grey Sauble Conservation concerning this. Please stay tuned for updates.

Climbing is still not yet permitted on Conservation Halton properties, which include Rattlesnake Point and Mount Nemo — but we are working with them to determine when we can do so safely. 

Bouldering is also not yet permitted at the Niagara Glen, but the NPCA is actively working on a plan to reintroduce it.  We hope to be able to share news of progress here soon!

We previously established a list of guidelines to help climbers decide whether to climb, and if they choose to climb, how to do so responsibly. You can access the complete list of guidelines here. A condensed version suitable for use as a poster is also available below.

If you do go out, this is an important time to make a good name for the climbing community!  Take the time to educate yourself on the best practices for climbing during this pandemic.  Remember to take care of the crag, yourselves, and others.

Please keep in mind that as our situation is constantly changing, it is important to be in the know before you go.  Stay up to date and do your research before you head out.  Please respect all government guidelines and be considerate of vulnerable communities.  Stay safe!

Guidelines for Climbing in a Pandemic Poster

On Being Thoughtful During Times of Need

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A lot has happened over the course of the past week. Restaurants, bars, entertainment facilities, and climbing gyms have been closing in efforts to slow the transmission of COVID-19. It’s a time of uncertainty for everyone, and it can affect us all both physically and mentally.

Climbing, physical activity, and being outdoors are all ways to alleviate stress. With the inability to climb indoors, it’s easy to think that heading out to the crag is a safe and viable option right now.  But should we be climbing outside at this time?

We encourage everyone to be responsible and respectful of the population as a whole. Even if we feel well, we may be asymptomatic carriers and not know it. By traveling outside your hometown, you increase the risk of transmitting the disease to other communities, many of which are remote and have limited access to supplies and healthcare services. All provincial parks are now closed, as well as many other public services. Additionally, if we get injured climbing outside, we can increase the load on an already overburdened healthcare system.

Tommy Caldwell provided the Access Fund with the following quote: “I cancelled my upcoming climbing trip to the southwest, not because I think my family will get sick while we adventure in the desert, but because it’s the responsible thing to do to slow the spread and protect vulnerable people. It’s our responsibility to stay put. But it’s also a great opportunity to stay home with your family, practice low-impact living strategies, and get some fresh air.”  We’re in accordance with this line of thinking.

Many climbing destination communities are urging visitors to stay away. We ask that you consider how your actions can impact the lives of others at this time. We all want to climb, and getting some fresh air is crucial to staying both healthy and sane. But the crags aren’t going anywhere, and staying local is only a temporary sacrifice that will protect our community.

There are many resources coming out that will help us stay in top climbing shape while at home, and we’ll be sharing some tips and inspiration to keep you motivated! But for the time being, we’re willing to put the health and safety of our community before our own desires.  We hope you’ll join us.

Lion’s Head Climbing Access

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Climbing access at Lion’s Head has always been an extremely delicate issue.  We would like to update the community and provide some clarity to the events which have transpired over the past few months.

On May 12th, we were notified by a community member about hanger removal from select routes on Latvian Ledge.  The OAC did not consult on, nor condone the hanger removal.  We have made attempts to reach out to the individual(s) responsible, and while they have not come forward directly, we believe that the hangers were removed in order to reduce large group impacts and encourage regeneration of Latvian Ledge. More recently on June 25th, we were notified that the Stinger Gully fixed ropes have also been removed. Though not confirmed, we believe the fixed lines were removed to discourage hikers from descending and finding themselves unable to exit safely.

The OAC does not condone unilateral route removal.  However, we acknowledge that the impact observed on the Latvian Ledge is an increasingly important issue that needs to be addressed in order to preserve access. Upon careful reflection, the OAC does not feel it is in the best interest of the long-term access at Lion’s Head to replace the removed hangers and fixed lines at this time.  

If you plan on climbing at Lions Head, please be aware of the removed routes on the Latvian Ledge.  Please also be prepared to Leave No Trace by descending into the crag using your own equipment, and ascending to exit at the end of the day.

This recent series of events has emphasized some of the current issues facing Lion’s Head. As a result, we have developed some best practices in order to promote ongoing access and assist you in your visit to Lion’s Head.

BEST PRACTICES

Know Before You Go. Lion’s Head is an advanced crag and requires advanced technical rope skills to access the base, ledges and hanging belays. It’s critical you know how to rappel, ascend, self-rescue and navigate vertical terrain.

Do Not Tailgate, party or drink open alcohol on Moore Street or in the Bruce parking lot. Please arrive at the trailhead organized. Grab your stuff and quietly head in for a day of climbing.

Slow Down when driving in town and on Moore Street. You’ll get there soon enough.

Be Kind to Locals. Smile and say hello to anyone walking, running or biking on Moore Street. When speaking to locals in town, if climbing comes up, stress that climbing is safe when performed responsibly.

Pick Up Garbage along the trail whether it is yours or not – at both the top and bottom of the cliff

Leave No Trace. Stay on established trails as much as possible. Learn how to go to the bathroom outdoors. Do it far from any trail, and use a wag bag or bury your personal waste (not your garbage). When possible, go before you arrive at the cliff.

Be Kind to Trees. The escarpment is home of some of the oldest trees in Ontario, as well as sensitive cliff edge ecology. Lion’s Head is no exception. Please do no top-rope off the trees. If you must use a tree or two to access ledges or hanging belays, please take measures to protect the trees and anchor through fixed hardware as soon as possible.

Find Appropriate Accommodation. Sleeping in your car/van in town will not be tolerated. If you must sleep in your vehicle, do your research to find a place to stay beforehand

No Large Groups. If you arrive in a group, split up and swap partners periodically. You’ll get more done in pairs anyway.

Leave Pets at Home. Dogs are not permitted off leash in Lion’s Head Provincial Park at any time. Lion’s Head does not lend itself well to the inclusion of pets due to its sensitive ecology, challenging logistics and confined staging areas.

Stay Safe and leave the ego at home. Do your very best to avoid accidents. Be diligent and help others who might be in need.

Speak Up. If you see climbers acting poorly, please speak up and respectfully ask for their support in keeping Lion’s Head open.

If you see anyone from the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, or the Park, please let the OAC know and refer them to the OAC should they have any questions.

Have Fun!

Follow Up Study on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Outdoor Recreation Participation

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Brock University and ALIVE Outdoors have launched a follow up study to explore how Canadians have been impacted by the closure, and now reopening, of outdoor recreation areas. Study participants are asked to fill out a survey which takes about 15-20 minutes to complete and focuses on how outdoor recreation affects their physical, emotional and overall health. You may participate in this study regardless of whether or not you completed the Phase 1 survey.

This is an opportunity to provide land managers and outdoor recreation service providers with insight into how you feel about the reopening of these spaces, and what policies would need to be implemented for you to feel safe recreating outside.

The survey is only open until July 10th. If you have the time, please fill it out to ensure all outdoor recreationists are represented!

Link to survey:
https://brock.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_799N0OEnC2LLiCN

Rattlesnake Point opens to guided climbing

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Conservation Halton is now allowing guiding companies to run courses and lessons at Rattlesnake Point. As the first step in lifting restrictions on climbing, these small groups will allow them to easily manage the number of climbers at the crag, as well as test that appropriate protocols are in place for when restrictions are eased further.

Please keep in mind that ONLY guided groups are permitted to climb at this time.  Conservation Halton is looking forward to opening their crags to the general climbing population as soon as possible!

Bon Echo and Kingston Mills reopen to climbing

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Bon Echo has reopened to climbing access. The cliff top trail is now open, and the park is also open to car camping! Please remember that to climb at Bon Echo, you must either be a member of the Alpine Club of Canada and access the park through the Bon Echo hut, or register at the park with office staff. Also note that due to the presence of peregrine falcons, routes 1-23 are closed until further notice.

Kingston Mills has also removed the gate locks and is open for climbing. As always, you must stop by the lock office to sign in and fill out the waiver before climbing.

Please keep in mind that we must continue to recreate safely. Follow all government guidelines pertaining to COVID-19, and use our guidelines for climbing responsibly during this time. Be safe, look out for each other, and have fun!

Guidelines for Climbing in a Pandemic Poster
A simplified version of our guidelines for climbing during the coronavirus pandemic.