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.

Fall 2019 Newsletter

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Ontario’s Healthy Parks, Healthy People SurveyNov. 25th Deadline
The Province of Ontario is collecting public feedback on how they can improve access to and raise awareness of nature’s health benefits. Part of Ontario’s Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative, the deadline for submitting feedback is Nov. 25th, 2019. 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. 

Submit Your Feedback

Access Updates: Campden & Halton
On November 8th, OAC volunteers hosted the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) for a chilly but sunny day of climbing at Rattlesnake. It was a great chance for the NPCA to learn about climbing and the potential for sustainable climbing in areas like Cave Springs (aka Campden).On November 15th, Halton Conservation hosted a meeting attended by Randy Kielbasiewicz and Mike Makischuk of the OAC, Burlington Fire and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.  Topics included an updated evacuation plan for Mount Nemo created by the Burlington Fire representative, climbing access to the currently closed Campden Crag, and discussions regarding climbing at Conservation Halton Properties. 

OAC 2020 Calendar
The 2020 OAC Calendar has been printed & will be available in a MEC near you in just a few weeks. The calendar makes a great gift and all funds go towards projects like the Rattlesnake bolting project. Stay tuned for more details soon!

A special thank you to Dennis Barnes, Jessica Best and Bonnie De Bruijn for coordinating the calendar creation & to all of the photographers that submitted their beautiful photos!

There’s more to outdoor climbing than just roping up. 
We all have a role to play in keeping climbing access open to all of our favourite crags in Ontario.

If you’re already a lifetime member, thank you for your support! We’d like to ask you to consider a donation to further our work with the community and on the frontlines of climbing access.Make a donation to support Ontario crags and climbing

If you aren’t a member, please join us! We work hard to advocate for climbing and are on the ground keeping access open to over 1500 routes and boulders in Ontario. A lifetime membership is only $5, but getting in our good books is priceless.
Become a lifetime member

Member Exclusive: Giveaway Alert!
Win tickets to see National Geographic Live Mark Synnott: Life on the Vertical at Roy Thomson Hall on Sunday, Nov. 24th at 7pm. See the big wall rock-climber of the highest order. He’s made legendary first ascents of some of the world’s tallest, most forbidding walls, from Baffin Island to Pakistan. Today, he uses his skills to break scientific ground, reaching incredibly inaccessible environments in search of rare species. It’s all in the spirit of adventure and exploration to educate about these sites of strange, remote beauty.

The first 5 OAC members to email info@ontarioallianceofclimbers.ca by 1:30pm on Friday. Nov. 22nd. will each get a pair of tickets for this weekend’s show! Use “NGL Tickets” in your email subject line! 

Join Us at Reel Rock 14Dec. 3rd
Join the OAC for Reel Rock 14, hosted by True North Climbing. You can catch this exciting lineup of films at the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema on December 3rd. The first showing is at 7pm and, by popular demand, a second show has been added at 9:45pm.Want to get in touch with us? Maybe you have a question about something you read here. Or maybe you’re at the crag and need a little extra support on how to minimize your impact. Email us at info@ontarioallianceofclimbers.ca; we’re here to help!

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

Submit your photos for the 2020 Ontario Crags Calendar!

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Dear amateur and professional photographers, have you ever wanted to see your work published and hung on walls? We are putting together our annual Ontario Crags calendar and we need your help! Please consider donating a photo to help raise awareness and funds in support of the Ontario Access Coalition.

Mark Masley at Lions Head by Jessica Best

The Ontario Crags calendar aims to celebrate and highlight the wide variety of climbing that Ontario has to offer. We want to showcase everything from as many different crags and seasons as possible — ICE, SPORT, TRAD and BOULDERING are all honoured here. Valid photo submissions must have LANDSCAPE orientation (i.e. horizontal), and be of climbers at Ontario crags only (of course!).

Andriy Kolos on Triple S by Pete Hoang

Please send your best shots to submissions@ontarioaccesscoalition.com by SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6th for a chance to have your photo featured and credited in the calendar! Chosen entrants will get a free copy of the 2020 calendar as well as a credit complete with your name and website.

Please see additional rules of submission here:

Thanks in advance for your efforts to support the OAC!

Swamp incident

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This past Sunday, August 18, emergency services and nearby climbers successfully evacuated a climber from the far end of the Swamp, following a ground fall. The climber sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Please take this opportunity to refresh and update your safety systems while climbing. Some safety tips: Remember, the most important safety tool you have is your awareness and attention. Consider bringing a headlamp when you go to the crag, as well as wearing helmets. Renew your wilderness first-aid training—not all of our crags have cell phone service, and the furthest point of the Swamp is more than an hour from definitive care.

The OAC communicates on your behalf with emergency services about evacuations from our local crags. As always, thanks to our emergency responders for their excellent work!

Collingwood Community Discussion Summary & Announcement of Next Community Discussion

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We’d like to send out a big THANK YOU to everyone who came out to our first community discussion at Climber’s Corner last week.  We had great turnout and a productive conversation, with proof that the Ontario climbing community is dedicated to ensuring we’re following best practices and building a strong reputation as climbers. 

Meeting minutes can be found at here for those of you who could not make it:

We are also announcing our second community discussion to be held at Grand River Rocks next Wednesday, July 24 at 7pm!  Come on out to learn about local access issues and make your voice heard!

Access Threats at Devil’s Glen: A Community Discussion

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Rock climbing access at Devil’s Glen (DG) is facing steep environmental, social, and logistical challenges.

In response, the Ontario Alliance of Climbers would like to invite you to a community discussion about the important issues that are facing our beloved crag. Thursday, July 11th, we’ll be meeting at Climbers Corner in Collingwood from 7-9pm

The topics we’ll be discussing include:

1. The history and current state of rock climbing access at DG
2. DG’s primary access threats
3. What climbers are seeing when they visit DG
4. What we can do, as a community, to improve access
5. The formation of the Beaver Valley Climber’s Collective

So, come out for a few pitches and some productive conversation about the important issues that are facing our beloved Devil’s Glen!

We look forward to chatting with you!

Lions Head and Devil’s Glen Climbing Access – AT RISK

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Lions Head and Devil’s Glen climbing access is AT RISK. 

The OAC is currently in talks with Ontario Parks to address their concerns regarding the impact of climbers in these areas. 
As these sensitive discussions progress, please continue to be great ambassadors for our sport by minimizing your impact at all Ontario crags. Steps you can take include:

  • Avoid visiting these crags in large groups.
  • Please visit other areas when possible. Ontario is home to many great climbing areas. Please do your part by spreading the love to other, less traveled areas! 
  • Continue to practice good crag etiquette and leave no trace ethics. This also applies to human waste. 
  • Be proactive in communicating best practices to other climbers.
  • Do not visit these crags without the appropriate level of skill. 
  • Reminder: Lions Head is an advanced crag and it is not suitable for new climbers.

For more information, read our Gym-to-Crag best practices.

We’ll provide updates as conversations with Ontario Parks progress.

Q&A from the 2019 OAC Annual General Meeting

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Every year, the Ontario Alliance of Climbers holds an Annual General Meeting. We appreciate Conservation Halton’s support in hosting us at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area this past June 1st, 2019. The short formal portion of the meeting allows OAC members to elect Directors for the coming year (as legally mandated). Afterwards, the AGM gives us the opportunity to connect with the membership in a loosely structured Q&A discussion session.

Discussions during this year’s Q&A included:
* Why were glue-in bolts chosen for the Rattlesnake project?
* Does the OAC need help with (other) bolting projects?
* When is the OAC going to start buying crags?
* What are the different ways volunteers can support the OAC?
* Why does the OAC not provide funding to individuals engaged in retro-bolting?
* Does the OAC have policies in place about who can bolt?
* Are records being kept of hardware specs when bolting/retro-bolting is being done?
* Will more 2019 OAC calendars be available?

Thanks to those who came out to the meeting!

2019 AGM materials (Q&A, minutes, access sends)

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.