OAC 2020 AGM Recap

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Thank you to everyone who tuned in for our AGM last Monday!  We had great turnout, with at least 71 members tuning in.  Congratulations to Randy Kielbasiewicz, Patrick Lam, and Mike Makischuk, who have all been re-elected to the Board for another two-year term.  Randy and Mike Penney will also continue to serve as Co-Chairs of the Board.

Our meeting minutes and a summary of our Access Sends for the 2019-2020 year can be found below:

A complete recording of the meeting is available below:

Thanks everyone, we’ll see you soon!

Support the Metcalfe Toilet Fund

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We decided to spruce up the Metcalfe parking lot with the addition of two porta potties for the rest of the season!

The surge in visitors to our green spaces has unfortunately meant that our parks are becoming littered and filled with waste.  In an effort to help keep our crags clean, we’ve fronted the $1000 bill for toilet service which will help climbers and hikers alike.

Please consider making a donation to support this initiative!  We’d like to recoup the costs so that we can continue to finance crag improvements on an ongoing basis.

Thank you, and see you out there!

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!

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.

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

An Update on Climbing in Ontario as We Move to Stage 1 of Reopening

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It’s been a week of hope and change as Ontario prepares to loosen certain COVID-19 restrictions.  Collectively we’ve worked hard to flatten the curve, enduring weeks of difficult social distancing measures and uncertainty about the future.  We’re now at a point where the province is ready to slowly begin the process of reopening, which is an exciting milestone.  What does this mean for Ontario climbers?

Crown Land may officially be accessed for recreational activity, including rock climbing where access is secure or tolerated. However, visitors must continue to respect all physical distancing recommendations.  Visitors must maintain a distance of 2 metres from other people, avoid gathering in groups of more than 5, and follow local restrictions.  Please keep in mind that some smaller communities, including Grey County, have issued official requests that non-residents or seasonal visitors avoid visiting.  Provincial enforcement officers continue to patrol Crown Land, which is managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.  You may be questioned regarding non-essential travel.  Please strongly consider not traveling to access Crown Land if you are not a local resident.

Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves have opened for public access, but permitted activities in these spaces are still limited to walking, hiking, cycling, and birdwatching.  Climbing is not yet permitted.

Conservation Areas are independently managed by their respective Conservation Authorities.  Please check with the appropriate Conservation Authority to determine if they have opened to the public, and what their restrictions are.  Conservation Halton plans to open Mount Nemo and Rattlesnake Point in the coming week via a reservation system for all visitors, but climbing is not yet a permitted activity.  Climbing at the Niagara Glen is also not yet permitted.

We understand that things are moving quickly and it can be confusing to know where climbing is permitted.  Please adhere to all local guidelines.  Undertake research on the areas  you wish to climb at before planning your trip to ensure they are open for climbing.  Respect requests for visitors to stay away from vulnerable communities.  Be patient and wait for local crags to open up again.  If ever in doubt, please err on the side of caution and avoid putting access at risk.

We’re just as eager as you to be able to get out on real rock, but we must remember that COVID-19 poses a serious threat to health and well-being, and that the loosening of restrictions does not mean that the threat is gone.  Let’s do our best to continue preventing community transmission while enjoying the outdoors in order to maintain access!

With that in mind, we’ve established a list of guidelines to help you choose whether to climb, and if you climb, how to do so responsibly.  Please read them, and do your best to stay informed.  Be safe, be patient, and be considerate!

Ontario Parks Survey — Fill it out now!

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We want your help! From now until November 25, 2019, the Province of Ontario is collecting public feedback on how they can improve access to and raise awareness of nature’s health benefits.

As someone who visits our provincial parks, the province wants your feedback. Let them know what rock and ice climbing means to you, in your own words. Let them know if you’d like to see more Ontario Parks opened up for climbing activities. We would be pleased to work together with Ontario Parks to open up climbing access at more of our Provincial Parks.

Please go and fill out the survey, and pass it on to all your friends!
https://www.ontario.ca/form/survey-healthy-parks-healthy-people

Introducing the Rattlesnake Bolting Project

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During the winter of 2018, Conservation Halton (CH) and the Ontario Alliance of Climbers (OAC) opened discussions regarding ongoing concerns about climber safety and the impact of climbing on Mt. Nemo. The OAC proposed a plan which would address several key points. This plan was approved with support from Conservation Halton, as well as feedback from the guiding and instructional community.

Why was this project necessary?

  • Climbing in both Ontario and North America are growing at an exponential rate.
  • New climbers lack an area which offers a sufficient number of routes in a controlled environment.
  • Climbing instructors and guides do not currently have access to an appropriate outdoor teaching area for training new climbers.
  • Mt. Nemo as a climbing area poses challenges to conservation efforts.
  • Mt. Nemo is not conducive to emergency services and evacuation of injured individuals.

The Solution
Several routes have been identified at Rattlesnake Park and have been updated to the modern standard of sport climbs. In addition, a teaching stations has been installed to better facilitate anchor management practice.

Rattlesnake Park is the only climbing area in the CH properties which allows for guiding or teaching. Teaching stations at all other climbing areas will be removed. Several routes at Mt. Nemo will be reviewed and may be removed if deemed necessary.

The equipment for the project was purchased by the OAC with support from MEC in the form of discounted pricing. All equipment was installed by qualified volunteers. Conservation Halton will not test these protection bolts and were in no way part of the installation process. As with bolts located on all Ontario cliffs, climbers must view all fixed protection as being used at their own risk. NO ADDITIONAL BOLTS SHOULD BE PLACED ON HALTON REGION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY LAND WITHOUT EXPRESS PERMISSION.

Project Details

Randy Kielbasiewicz and Richard Messiah share a combined 75 years of climbing experience. Both individuals share a deep-seated respect for the history of climbing and an understanding of the complex issues facing climbing in today’s context.

Richard Messiah is a Level 3 Rope Access Supervisor with a long history of climbing instruction, first ascents, and sustained efforts to preserve traditional rock climbs.

Randy Kielbasiewicz is Co-Chair of the OAC, working closely with land managers in several areas. Randy maintains a long history of first ascents in both traditional and sport climbing styles.

The newly bolted routes follow the following guidelines:

  • This project is limited to Rattlesnake Point. No routes at Buffalo Crag have been altered.
  • Routes that are recognized as classic or that are safely protectable crack lines were not considered for this project.
  • Routes with excessive rock quality challenges not in keeping with the modern sport climbing model were not considered for this project.
  • Routes with significant historical value were not considered for this project.
  • Where possible, the new sport routes limited infringement on existing routes.
  • All routes are bolted using glue in bolts with ring anchors.
  • Existing Pin placements on traditional lines will be replaced with conventional bolts and hangers. Some traditional routes will receive ring anchors to facilitate rope work.

This project will help re-establish Rattlesnake Point as a climbing area specifically targeting routes graded 5.10 and under. The area is well suited to large volumes of climbers.

THE OAC DOES NOT CONDONE THE ADDITION OF BOLTS TO EXISTING ROCK CLIMBS WITHOUT EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE FIRST ASCENT PARTY. This is a unique project addressing specific challenges in a specific area. TAMPERING OR REMOVAL OF BOLTS AT RATTLESNAKE PARK WILL BE CONSIDERED AN ACT OF VANDALISM AND WILL BE ADDRESSED ACCORDINGLY.

The OAC believes this project represents an excellent example of the climbing community self-managing their activity and looks forward to using this as a reference in future discussions with land managers.

OAC Annual General Meeting: June 26, 2017

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The OAC invites all members to partake in our 2017 annual general meeting on June 26, 2017. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions about the organization and our on-going projects in addition to sharing your input on the future direction of the OAC.

The meeting will be held at True North Climbing (75 Carl Hall Road Unit 14, Downsview Park, Toronto, ON) on Monday June 26th at 7:30 PM. Discounted climbing daypasses ($17) are available for all attendees (but not required to attend!)

To be eligible to vote at the AGM, one is required to be a member of the Ontario Access Coalition. To allow for the processing of new members, please ensure applications are submitted prior to June 9th. Please visit our membership page at https://www.ontarioallianceofclimbers.ca/join/ for further details.

The OAC is very interested in increasing its capacity by attracting new ideas, leadership, and energy. At this meeting, we will elect three members to the Board of Directors (all for a two-year term). As always, we are also looking for portfolio managers and general volunteers. While members can be nominated to the Board at the AGM, any nominations submitted by June 9th will have their profiles distributed to the membership in advance. This will facilitate a structured voting process. Interested members are encouraged to contact the OAC in advance.

Potential board members should have:
– An interest in (learning about) outdoor climbing access issues in Ontario
– A varied skill set with a self-starter attitude
– A positive, proactive team-based approach to problem solving

As a board member the individual will:
– Attend bi-monthly board meetings
– Lead projects and/or access portfolios
– Participate in developing and executing the OAC’s strategic plan

Further details will be provided to members 14 days prior to the AGM. If you do not receive notification by email, please send us a note (info@ontarioaccesscoalition.com).