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Comprehensive guidebooks and closed crags

We’ve received questions about the OAC Approved program and the new Ontario Climbing: Volume 1, Southern Escarpment guidebook’s inclusion of closed areas.

credit: Gus Alexandropoulos

credit: Gus Alexandropoulos

Gus Alexandropoulos and Justin Dwyer have produced an well-researched and comprehensive guidebook. This guidebook furthers the goals of the OAC by including accurate access information, educating climbers about best practices at the crag, and advocating that climbers follow these practices. We’re pleased to endorse this guidebook as being OAC Approved.

Some climbers have asked about the guidebook’s inclusion of closed crags. Our position is that the closed crags are clearly identified as such and that the guidebook authors are in no way advocating that climbers visit these crags. Of course these crags exist. We even list the fact that they exist on our crag status document. In the guidebook, the authors argue that describing closed crags has two positive effects: 1) it documents historic practices (climbing has long been practiced in Ontario); and 2) it encourages climbers to work towards getting these areas re-opened. Closed crags can re-open, and when they do, having them in the guidebook is helpful. A recent example is Roadside at the Red River Gorge. The OAC Board of Directors agrees with this reasoning.

We’d be happy to discuss this at greater length. Feel free to send us an email at or find an OAC Board member at one of our upcoming events!

OAC 2015 Survey Now Open

It’s time for the 2015 OAC survey! A good chance to reflect on your climbing from the previous year and to think about your goals for the upcoming outdoor season.

Like last year, we are running a prize draw for two $50 MEC gift certificates. We’ll draw one cert on March 21st (in two weeks) and the second one on April 4th. If you complete the survey before March 21st, you’ll be in both draws.

Please answer! Your answers help us better understand the community that we are representing, and we use survey information in communicating with stakeholders. Help us beat our record of 214 responses from last year.

Curious about last year’s survey results? Here they are:

Ice climbing on Hamilton Conservation Authority lands

In November 2015, along with One Axe Pursuits and the Alpine Club of Canada, the OAC engaged in discussions with the Hamilton Conservation Authority about the future of ice climbing and risk management on their properties. For the winter season ending in March 2016, group ice climbing will be allowed for One Axe Pursuits and Alpine Club of Canada members. The OAC is continuing to work towards the HCA properties being enjoyed by more recreational climbers and at more locations. The program will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Grey County and Bruce County’s climbing knowledge share forum

On September 11, 2015 in Owen Sound, the Ontario Access Coalition played a key role in the first ever rock climbing and bouldering knowledge share forum for Grey County and Bruce County. The OAC met with many of the conservation land owners in Grey/Bruce to formally introduce rock climbing and bouldering as sustainable recreational activities on the Escarpment.  As an active steward on the Escarpment, the OAC seeks to promote sustainable recreational activities and support stewardship initiatives and regional tourism.20150911_100730

The goal of the forum was held to promote a coordinated approach to rock climbing and bouldering as recreational activities where appropriate in the Grey/Bruce region. Community agencies had the opportunity to share and learn about the environmental, social and economic impacts of rock climbing and bouldering. The forum fostered dialogue on how management plans examine recreational activities and also improve liaison, shared resources, and coordinated action among various community agencies.


Participating agencies include:

  • Alpine Club of Canada
  • Grey Sauble Conservation Authority
  • Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
  • Ontario Parks
  • Owen Sound District Office, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
  • Regional Office, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
  • Niagara Escarpment Program, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

This was the first meeting with more to come this fall. Important take-away messages from the first meeting include the following:

  1. Many at the meeting think rock climbing and bouldering have the potential to be sustainable tourism generators within the region much more so than they already are.
  1. Land managers who have partnered with the OAC in the past for sustainability initiatives value the climber-manager relationship and wish to explore ways to increase involvement and trust.
  1. Recreational environmental impacts at locations such as Lions Head, Devils Glen, and the Swamp are actively being monitored by provincial specialists. Now, more than ever, is a time for climbers to do more to minimize all recreational environmental impacts and to practice self-regulation and restraint.

What can you do to make a difference? First, join the OAC if you haven’t already done so. We have strength in numbers and the more members we have, the better we are as a community at sharing concerns, best practices, and mobilizing when necessary. Second, be vigilant about “Leave No Trace.” We know climbers are amazing stewards of the land but here are a few reminders for us all based on the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. Check out ( for further information.

14741-check-list-clip-artPlan ahead and prepare
Make wise decisions during your climbing day so you will not require rescue. Rescues are hard on the natural environment. Pack appropriate gear and clothing for the conditions and bring extra food and water in case the day goes longer than anticipated. Remember to bring a first aid kit. Make sure your footwear, clothing, rope bags, backpacks, etc. are free from dirt, seeds, or any other residue from non-native environments. Parks specialists have noted that invasive species are becoming especially problematic in climbing zones. Finally, know which climb you’re on and always have a plan for safely backing off if needed.

event-tent-clipart-tent-clip-art-TentTravel and camp on durable surfaces
Park your vehicle in designated areas only. Use the main access points and do not create new crag access. Stay on established trails and do not create new ones. Avoid rappelling and trampling cliff-top areas – access climbs from the ground up. Do not disturb vegetation, insects, birds or other wildlife encountered on cliff faces. Brush chalk off holds carefully.

img-thingDispose of waste properly
Bring extra garbage bags and pack out all trash from climbers and non-climbers alike – leave nothing behind. Use the washroom before going to the crag. If disposing of human waste needs to happen, dig a cathole. “Catholes are the most widely accepted method of waste disposal. Locate catholes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult steps) from water, trails, the crag and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. With a small garden trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. The cathole should be covered and disguised with natural materials when finished. Placing toilet paper in plastic bags and packing it out as trash is the best way to Leave No Trace….” (, 2015). And don’t forget to wash your hands with hand sanitizer or a small amount of biodegradable soap!

Graphic1Leave what you find
Leave any indigenous artifacts encountered where found. Take a photo instead. Do not pick flowers, plants, mushrooms, and anything else that grows wild unless you have permission from the land manager to do so. Minimize site alterations. There is no need to build benches or other structures at the crag – keep it natural.

Minimize campfire impactssnoopy-camping_crop_north
Have fires only in sanctioned areas where it is clearly allowed. At most Ontario climbing areas, having a random fire is unacceptable, especially near climbing zones. If you see a fire ring that is clearly not supposed to be there – take it apart and disguise the area.

rdpayRespect wildlife
– Do not feed wildlife and do not leave food containers open while climbing/belaying. Pack food away while at the crag. Observe wildlife from a safe distance and do not chase, yell, or otherwise disturb wildlife encountered.



Be considerate of other visitors – Be respectful to others that you may encounter and keep a low profile. Help lost hikers find their way. Answer questions in a friendly way if asked about climbing. If you meet a land manager, stop and say hello and ask her/him about the important work they’re doing. More and more, Ontario climbers are being viewed as stewards of climbing environments and that stewardship extends to the ways we interact with the non-climbing population.


Finally, share all of this information with other climbers you meet and remind people of how to leave no trace if necessary. Unfortunately, the poor behaviours of a few people can shape perceptions about the whole community. We should all feel comfortable talking to one another.

We don’t mean to sound “preachy” – we just know a little refresher on how to “leave no trace” never hurts, so thanks for reading.

And finally, have a great fall climbing season of sending! Maintaining access to Ontario’s diverse climbing resources is something the whole community is responsible for and should be proud of – so go out and send that elusive project as the temperatures cool down and don’t forget to take in the views of your beautiful surroundings while you’re at it.

We will update the climbing community of what comes from future meetings with the various stakeholders from Grey and Bruce counties. We view the first meeting as a major success and look forward to future collaboration and partnerships.

Photo Contest: OAC 2016 crags calendar


Credit: Photographer Corey Rich by

The Ontario Access Coalition (OAC) is calling on photographers to submit their best photos of Ontario crags for the annual Ontario Crags Calendar!

Amateur and professional photographers will have a chance to be featured in the 2016 calendar and to win a $100 MEC gift card! To enter the OAC 2016 calendar photo contest, post your best photos (landscape orientation) on the Ontario Access Coalition Facebook page or on Twitter by Sept. 25, 2015. All Facebook and Twitter entries should include the hashtag #OACcalendar.

Only photos with landscape orientation (i.e. horizontal) of climbers at Ontario crags will be considered – this is due to the measurement specs of the calendar. Wide-angle shots are preferred as the goal of the calendar is to highlight the beauty of our crags and the wide variety of climbing that Ontario has to offer, i.e. ICE, SPORT, TRAD and BOULDERING at various points in the year.

Submit your photos before Sept. 25 to be eligible to win. Three finalists will be chosen by the OAC board of directors for an online public vote. From Sept. 25 to Oct. 2, OAC followers will be invited to “like” their favourite photo in an online Facebook gallery; the photo with the most likes will be awarded the grand prize.

All photo submissions will be considered for the 2016 Ontario Crags Calendar. If one of your photos makes the cut, it will be credited and you will be gifted a free calendar.

Share your photos and help raise awareness and funds in support of the Ontario Access Coalition!

Thinking of entering? Here are the OAC 2016 Calendar Photo Contest Rules.

Position on Niagara Parks Commission Enforcement

By Garrett Hutson, writing on behalf of the OAC Board.

The OAC was recently alerted to presence of police officers in the Niagara Glen asking to see bouldering permits as part of their efforts to increase monitoring at the Glen. The OAC is also aware of an email exchange between the NPC and a Glen boulderer who expressed concern about Glen permits on Facebook. This message provides additional context given the attention this exchange has received.

The argument against having a permit only for boulderers makes sense and the OAC appreciates why this is frustrating for many within the climbing community. However, the Glen is a unique climbing resource and the OAC continues to support the use of bouldering permits at the Glen for the following reasons:

1. The permit system at the Glen is a product of serious consideration within the NPC to ban bouldering beginning around 7 years ago due to negative environmental impacts to the area by all user groups. As a response, many climbers at the time suggested the use of a permit to formalize bouldering as a sanctioned activity within the park for a small fee. To some degree, developing a fee-based permit system was an idea by climbers for climbers and the NPC agreed that this was a positive way forward. Since the launch of the permit system, the NPC has been very friendly to boulderers who do not hold permits and only reminds them to purchase one, which is what they’re currently doing. The NPC has made no indication to the OAC that they plan to do anything further at this point in terms of enforcement.

2. The issue of fairness regarding who has to pay at the Glen is worth talking about. Yes, it seems unfair that climbers pay and no one else does at the Glen. However, as reported by the NPC, monies generated from the permit system are used for trail work, maintenance, and help pay for additional insurance costs required as a result of bouldering being a sanctioned park activity. Every year since its inception, bouldering permit purchases have gone up, which means more boulderers utilize the resource, have more impact, and create more risk for the NPC to take on. While the OAC will continue to bring this concern to the NPC, it is worth reiterating that the NPC is a self-financed entity. From the OAC’s understanding, the NPC has the full right to charge a fee for any activity they choose on any of their properties for any reason. The NPC has deemed certain activities to be free like hiking, while others have an associated fee like bouldering or parking in certain areas. Is it a perfectly fair system? Probably not – but no system is, and this one has worked out in a way that has kept bouldering open for a small fee not unlike other fees that climbers pay at other locations. This is a unique situation compared to other climbing areas and is part of the framework the OAC negotiates within when discussing bouldering with the NPC.

3. The issue of vandals and others degrading the Glen environment has always been a frustrating reality for boulderers and the NPC. This is a larger issue that the NPC continues to deal with and is part of the reason they report an increased presence at the Glen. The bottom line is that the Niagara Glen sits within one of the most densely populated regions in North America inside of one of the most visited cities in Canada. It sees a lot of visitors and many of them have complete disregard for the Glen’s sensitive and beautiful natural surroundings that most boulderers love so much. This is a fact of life for many urban parks. The OAC acknowledges the complexity of park management and feels the NPC is doing the best they can given the resources currently at their disposal. Further, and as the NPC highlighted, there are past examples of boulderers behaving poorly at the Glen including the development of social trails, climbing in closed areas, illegal placement of bolts, playing loud music, and congregating in large groups. While those examples are limited in number, the NPC has made note of them. Please remember to remind other boulderers to adhere to leave no trace practices if any of these activities are observed.

In summary, the OAC has built, actively maintains, and is grateful for the positive relationship it has with the NPC. The OAC is extremely happy that the Glen remains open to bouldering with the permit system in place. The OAC will also continue to bring the concerns of the climbing community to the attention of the NPC in the future including the bouldering permit system.

2015 Beaver Valley Climbing Festival

IMG_6756The 2015 Beaver Valley Climbing Festival was a huge success, we attracted close to 200 people and raised funds to support future OAC projects.

The day was packed with games, clinics, vendors, competitions, entertainment, yoga, massage, music, dancing, a huge bonfire and tasty food. The event was a rare opportunity for the Ontario climbing community to come together and celebrate the beauty of the Beaver Valley.

7D3_1674-X2This year, climbing and clinics took place at all 4 crags in the Beaver Valley with Metcalfe as a hub for alternative activities such as yoga by City Yogis, massages by Living in Balance, hula hooping by Hoopla Hula Hoops and much more. Thanks to The Alpine Club of Canada – Toronto Section, On the Rocks, Free Spirit Tours and Overhang Adventures Inc. for running your clinics!

A pre-dinner aerial silk performance by Aerial Silks Collingwood wowed the crowds at the Rob Roy Dogsled Farm. The Flying Chestnut served up vegetarian curries and meaty pulled pork chili to satisfy festival goers. Activities continued into the evening; featuring an insanely stocked raffle, a strongest grip competition and the Canadian National Ice Climbing Team’s figure-4 challenge. The Whiskey River Band and The Good Acoustics kept crowds dancing with musical performances throughout the night.

MANY thanks to all of our amazing volunteers, supporters and sponsors who allowed us to make the 3rd annual festival a reality:


On the Rocks
Climbers Corner
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Alpine Club of Canada – Toronto Section
True North Climbing
The Landscape Company
Creative Paradox PhotographyIMG_1065-X2
Living in Balance

Prize sponsors:

Maxim Dynamic Ropes
Outdoor Research
Omega PacificIMG_0830-X2
G6 Rock Climbing
Outland Adventure Gear
La Sportiva
Mountain Hardwear


*images by Peter Hoang and Creative Paradox Photography

2014 Climbers’ Survey Results

The OAC survey was back in 2014 and bigger than ever. We had a record 213 responses; we believe that this is due in part to our increased Facebook presence. Many thanks to Laura Duncan for survey design beta and for processing the results.

PDF survey summary results

A majority (60%) of respondents indicated that they were not OAC members, indicating substantial potential membership growth for the OAC. Consider joining the OAC if you are not already a member!

Up-to-date survey information continues to be a key source of facts about the vitality and economic importance of the Ontario climbing community. We always use selected survey results when negotiating with stakeholders.

Some highlights:

  • survey respondents estimated that they had been out for over 5,000 climber-days in 2014, a quarter of which were in Milton. 75% of the climber-days were on day trips. Spending was over $150,000.
  • almost half of the respondents reported climbing at least three times a week (that’s a lot of climbing!)
  • the largest cluster of respondents live in the Greater Toronto Area, with a smaller clump in the National Capital Region and communities in Barrie, Kitchener-Waterloo, and London
  • a majority (65%) of respondents were in the 18-35 age group
  • the most popular occupational grouping (20%) was education, law and social, community and government services.
  • Devil’s Glen was the favourite Ontario crag, preferred by 16% of respondents, followed by Lion’s Head and Bon Echo.
  • the vast majority of climbers (80%) practiced sport climbing, while 53% practiced trad climbing, and 33% ice climbing. Bouldering was practiced at 50%.

Thanks again for your participation in the OAC Climbers’ Survey. We appreciate your help in carrying out our mission.

Access Sends 2014/2015 & 2014 Survey & AGM materials

See the complete AGM materials here: OAC-AGM-2015


Old Baldy – We’re thrilled that the Old Baldy transaction has closed and that the access to Old Baldy will be managed by the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, with rock climbing being a permitted activity. This was the culmination of a long fundraising campaign and a complicated land transfer process. The purchase is a significant milestone for the OAC, creating new bonds and strengthening existing ones. Donations came from MEC, the Alpine Club of Canada Toronto Section, the Alpine Club of Canada National, the Bruce Trail Conservancy, Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, the Nature League, and numerous individual donors, many organized by the online forum.

The Swamp – The joint OAC/Ministry of Natural Resources Environment Study of The Swamp was completed in 2014. The completion of this study gets us closer to a creating a formal access arrangement for The Swamp. The results of the study will also help with negotiations at other areas.

Niagara Glen – We remain on good terms with the Niagara Parks Commission and constantly work to improve our connections. We are in communication with them about the future of the Niagara Glen permit system. The NPC encourages boulderers to purchase their 2015 permits if they have not already done so.


BVCF – The 2nd Annual Beaver Valley Climbing Festival took place in August 2014 and raised over $6000 for the OAC. Organized by Jennie Elmslie (Free Spirit Tours) and Leslie Timms (On The Rocks Climbing) the festival showed significant growth over the inaugural event. Major sponsors of the event included MEC, True North Climbing Gym, Climbers’ Corner Climbing Gym, The Alpine Club of Canada, and the Landscape Company, among others. The OAC is helping to organize the 2015 BVCF.

OAC calendar – The OAC continues to produce a high quality calendar showcasing the beautiful and diverse climbing areas in the province that we are lucky to call our local spots. All proceeds from the calendars goes to the OAC to support access. Last year saw an exciting new element in the calendar creation process – a photo contest! Our social media outlets were absolutely inundated with submissions: over 50 amazing images vied for a new rope. It was hard for us to narrow it down to the final three who would battle it out in Facebook likes. The public voting phase drew over 550 combined likes, with dozens of shares and comments!

OAC survey – A record 213 climbers responded to our annual survey. The results of the survey provide data which inform our ongoing discussions with land managers.
OAC Facebook group – We reached 1000 likes as a result of revitalizing the OAC Facebook group and regularly posting updates relevant to the climbing community.


Gym rep program – OAC volunteer coordinator Laura Banks created an OAC Gym Rep program whereby each gym would have at least one volunteer who would work an OAC table on a regular basis. We are always looking for keen volunteers to assist with this program. Email if interested.
Gym to Crag – the OAC partnered with the Access Fund to co-brand our logo onto their Gym To Crag poster. The poster promotes responsible crag practices in a fun way. The poster should be found in most Ontario climbing gyms and MEC locations.
Crag Status Doc – We released an up-to-date version of our Crag Status Document which provides a quick reference to the access status of all the commonly asked-about crags in the province. This version also provides more detailed information: links to route information, Google map links, and notes on typical conditions, permits and fees.
Video – OAC volunteer Elli Levene created a video and wrote an article about sustainable climbing and bouldering for The video features OAC volunteer Garrett Hutson and OAC co-chair Tony Berlier. The video and article can be found here:
Niagara Glen – The OAC contributed a display about bouldering at a Niagara Glen tree planting event on May 2nd, 2015. The reforestation event was the result of a strong partnership between the Niagara Parks Commission, Forests Ontario, and the Friends of the Niagara Glen.
Conferences – Garrett Hutson is representing the OAC at Biosphere Reserve Network events led by the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Patrick Lam attended a workshop “Building an Effective Board” run by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Conservation Halton – We continued to cooperate with Conservation Halton to run the annual Crag Stewardship Day in early May 2015. OAC volunteers once again helped fight off the invasion of Garlic Mustard. This event improves climbers’ visibility at some of our most popular crags.

OAC submission to Niagara Escarpment Parks and Open Space review

For those of you who would are really interested in the technical details of what the OAC is up to, here’s a submission we made to the Land Use Planning Review for the Niagara Escarpment. Developing relationships with stakeholders is key to our success.

Ontario Rock Climbing Access Coalition Co-ordinated Review Response