Old Baldy: an OAC success story

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courtesy Mike Penney

courtesy Mike Penney

Old Baldy is an excellent Escarpment cliff with almost 100 rock climbs of varying grades. One of the first cliffs to dry in wet weather, Old Baldy features pocketed limestone sport and trad routes in a beautiful setting looking out over the Beaver Valley. We’re ecstatic to announce that, with the help of our partners and the Ontario rock climbing community, we have secured access to Old Baldy for rock climbing. On this page, you can read about the history of Old Baldy as a climbing area and how we have secured access to it.

Historical Context
The cliffs at Old Baldy are on Grey Sauble Conservation Authority (GSCA) land, near the village of Kimberley. Old Baldy abuts the Bruce Trail and hikers have enjoyed the views for decades. The cliff base, as well as access to the cliff, have been on private land, and the GSCA has historically had an arrangement to permit access to recreational users.

Rock climbing’s recorded history at Old Baldy dates back to a visit by John Kaandorp and Pete Zabrok in 1982. (A pinnacle-top cairn and various documentary evidence indicate that technical climbing occurred even earlier; there are mentions of an outing to “Kimberly Rock” on June 17-18, 1972, led by Dave Read.)

Sport climbing became popular at Old Baldy around 1989. Soon thereafter, the GSCA closed Old Baldy to climbing, as reported in the 1991 Escarpment guidebook. [1] In the mid-90s, the Alpine Club of Canada Toronto Section’s Access Committee and the GSCA negotiated a permit system to allow climbing access. This system was primarily negotiated by the important Ontario climber Judy Barnes. The permit fees covered the cost of administering access to the crag, including the arrangement with the private landowner.

Recent Events

courtesy Mike Penney

courtesy Mike Penney

The 90s-era fixed hardware at Old Baldy has been replaced in the past few years, thanks to an OAC initiative supported by donations by Mountain Equipment Co-Op and local volunteers.

In 2013, the private landowner listed the land adjacent to Old Baldy for sale. This land is key to Old Baldy access; a friendly landowner ensures that access will continue, while an unfriendly landowner would threaten access to the cliff. The GSCA indicated that it would be interested in helping to preserve access to Old Baldy by administering this land, if the OAC could find money to purchase it. Over the next 18 months, we’ve managed to build a coalition of institutional and grassroots donors. Our many supporters have worked hard to make the land transaction a reality. Much thanks!

Gus Alexandropoulos, who runs the ontarioclimbing.com internet forum, organized a climber-focussed fundraising campaign which raised over $6,000. This contribution helped improve the viability of an OAC proposal to Mountain Equipment Co-Op’s Land Acquisition grant program. We gratefully acknowledge MEC’s significant support of $100,000, a capstone donation for this project. The Grey Sauble Conservation Authority and the Bruce Trail Conservancy also made large donations of $25,000 each, along with the Alpine Club of Canada Toronto at $10,000, ACC National at $5,000, and the Nature League at $2,000, which were instrumental in enabling us to complete the transaction.

The Future
The Old Baldy transaction has been made official. What does this mean for you as a climber?

  • GSCA and OAC have agreed (in writing) that rock climbing is a permitted activity on some GSCA lands (e.g. Old Baldy);
  • Going forward, GSCA will own and administer the Old Baldy lands.

Enjoy the rock!

See also: Old Baldy Press Release

[1] “Unfortunately, the cliff has been closed to climbing, as both the private landowner and Grey Sauble Conservation Authority have refused to grant climbers permission to use their property. Please respect their decision, and climb at the other cliffs in the area where access is not a problem.” p138, Escarpment: A Climbers’ Guide


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The OAC is pleased to announce that on Nov 8, 2013, Canadian Retail Cooperative – MEC, stepped forward as a major contributor towards the purchase of lands adjacent to Old Baldy Conservation area. MEC has agreed to fund $100,000.00 towards the purchase of a crucial parcel to help solidify sustainable and safe climbing access to the cliff at Old Baldy while promoting tourism in the Beaver Valley region for generations.

Additional funds are still required to make the purchase, and the OAC will continue partnership with the Toronto section of the Alpine Club of Canada, the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, and the climbing community towards gaining the additional funds. This presents a significant opportunity for the climbing community to step forward and become relevant in large scale conservation efforts in the region.

The cliff at Old Baldy provides sport and traditional climbing opportunities at all grades in a picturesque setting above the Beaver Valley. The OAC has previously partnered with MEC, and the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority to successfully replace the existing climbing hardware at the cliff to enhance the safety of the cliff at Old Baldy.

Please donate via the PayPal option at www.ontarioaccesscoalition.com or email Randy Kielbasiewicz for inquiries.

Contact: Randy Kielbasiewicz
Email: randy@riversideopticalab.com

Downloadable Old Baldy Funding Press release

OAC participation at the 2013 Niagara Escarpment Leading Edge Conference

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The OAC continues to increase its visibility among stakeholders by participating at this year’s Niagara Escarpment Leading Edge Conference, held October 24 at Country Heritage Park in Milton, Ontario. The Niagara Escarpment Commission hosted the conference in partnership with the Ontario Professional Planners Institute and celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act (NEPDA). The NEPDA aims, in part, to provide for outdoor recreation. Stakeholders at the event included the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Parks, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and Parks Canada. Presentations and panel discussions ranged from how to revitalize quarry sites to the intangible values of Escarpment lands.

At the conference, the OAC displayed its informational bouldering poster, typically housed at the Niagara Glen Nature Center. The poster generated a lot of interest in the state of climbing in Ontario and the OAC’s role in protecting climbing environments. Overall, the conversations were progressive and positive. The OAC hopes that continued representation at this conference will bolster collaborative efforts between climbers and land managers in Ontario to make climbing a more sustainable and accepted form of outdoor recreation along the Niagara Escarpment.

Niagara Glen bouldering permit enforcement starts today!

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As of August 16th, 2013 the two year trial period for purchasing bouldering permits at the Niagara Glen has lapsed. If you have not done so already, make sure to purchase your bouldering permit before bouldering at the Niagara Glen. Your cooperation is critical for climbers and the OAC to maintain a positive relationship with the NPC. If you are approached by NPC personnel, please gladly show them your permit and encourage others to do the same. The NPC made this decision in concert with OAC representatives and the OAC continues to support the NPC in its environmental and recreation sustainability efforts. Bouldering without a permit may result in loss of bouldering privileges. For details see the attached NPC press release: 2013-Bouldering in the Niagara Glen (NPC Press Release)

Official NPC bouldering rules and permit information can be found here: http://www.niagaraparksnature.com/things-to-do/bouldering.html

As always, make sure to practice ‘Leave No Trace’  principles and help educate other users to mitigate potential environmental impacts to the Niagara Glen.

Urgent! Donors needed to preserve access to Old Baldy!

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An opportunity to secure access to Old Baldy has arisen—the OAC and the ACC Toronto Section have been in discussions with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority(GSCA) on the subject of land acquisition. We hope to find suitable large-scale donors to raise half of the purchase price of land next to the crag. If you, or someone you know, can help us by leaving a lasting legacy for future generations of climbers, please contact the OAC immediately.  For detailed information, see attached PDF letter here: OAC – Old Baldy – Land Acquisition

Mount Nemo Access Update

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Conservation Halton (CH) manages climbing policy for Rattlesnake point, Mt. Nemo, Kelso, among others. These crags are home to hundreds of routes that have been enjoyed by climbers for decades.  The OAC has just received the following email from Conservation Halton regarding the installation and recent removal of fixed hardware at Mount Nemo:

“Hi guys,

This was just brought to my attention. I thought I would forward to you as there are two points here that are bothersome. One is that bolts are removed by someone and the second is the call to replace the anchors without consultation with Conservation Halton. I would really like to try and get a handle on this so that bolts are not replaced until we see Nigel’s report and discuss the recommendations that he might have. 

I am hoping that the OAC may take this matter over and bring some calming affect to this situation. Would you mind seeing what can be done from your end. 

Ron Kindt

Conservation Halton”

The OAC would like to request that the individuals involved in this matter respect the wishes of the Land Manager who is, and has been for many years, a leading supporter of climbing at some of the province’s most popular cliffs.  The OAC is meeting with CH in January and we are hopeful that a mutually agreed upon plan can be approved for the Spring.

Mount Nemo Update

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A number of members of the climbing community have contacted the OAC regarding concern over the removal of fixed protection at Mount Nemo.

Through 2011 and 2012, the OAC has worked with Conservation Halton (CH) in conducting an environmental assessment to determine a climbing anchor strategy at Mount Nemo. The strategy aims to eliminate cliff-top impact, manage mid-face impact caused by climbing, and maximize climber safety.

An ecologist from CH documented the condition of the entire cliff line managed by CH, with the help of an OAC representative. The report from this assessment, which is currently pending, will guide the development of the strategy by CH and OAC.

The OAC continues to collaborate with CH in the official process to develop a detailed anchor strategy for Mount Nemo. Once the strategy is approved, we anticipate inviting volunteer work teams to implement the strategy, and hope to enter into potential funding agreements for the cost of hardware. Modification of the cliff-top, mid-cliff or cliff-bottom environments jeopardizes the process.

The OAC remains committed to maximizing climbing opportunities while collaborating with CH to help them effectively manage their properties. CH is a leader in incorporating climbing management into the operational models that they manage.

Kelso re-opening delayed until October 15th, 2012

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Unfortunately Kelso will not be re-opening this weekend. The revised target date is now October 15th. Stay tuned for the latest updates.

The Kelso area manager just sent us an official update this morning. Here is what he said:

“Unfortunately we will not be able to re-open Rock Climbing this weekend. We have some work to do on the grading which is the reason for the delay. Contractors have assured me they will be able to take the fencing down on October 15th.

I apologize for the delay.

Thanks for your understanding”