Zero to Four: Ontario Climbing Gets the Guidebook it Deserves

For many climbers, any time they head to an Ontario crag one of the essential pieces of gear they throw in their pack is The Escarpment: A Climber’s Guide. Published in 1991, this 270-page book is a fairly thorough look at most of the crags on the Escarpment in Ontario. Listing the routes up the face, where to climb, how hard each climb is, where to place protection, who climbed it first, and the etiquette for each and every crag, it’s an essential tool for climbers.

 

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Leslie Timms at Metcalfe Rock. Photo: Colin Field

by Colin Field

But the rumours of a new guidebook have been circulating for nearly a decade. In fact, they’ve been circulating so long, they’ve taken on mythical proportions. And former Gripped editor Gus Alexandropoulos has been at the centre of those rumours.

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Meanwhile, Jesse Wong got sick of waiting. “For the longest time, I climbed outside of Ontario because of the lack of a good guidebook,” he says. “Throughout my travels, I’ve always maintained that Lion’s Head is the most beautiful place I’ve climbed at. I was at Lion’s Head last year and it was a perfect day and I was the only person there. I thought, ‘Wow, it’s kind of sad that this beautiful place has just lost its traffic.’”

So Wong decided to tackle the Herculean task himself. “Honestly, I didn’t have any solid plans on becoming a guidebook author,” he says. “If another guidebook had come out last year, I would’ve bought it and my project may never have materialized. I started building the content for the app first because it was lower-risk, but when friends saw how far I got and how much work I did, they pushed me to go all the way with the print guidebook. This was a lot of work on my own. I had a lot of people help me in the final months.”

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That help came in the form of nearly $11,000 raised on Kickstarter. Then climbers like Greg Williamson, Mark Smith and Leslie Timms started helping out.

While Wong’s Ontario Rock Climbing Guidebook hasn’t yet printed, he’s proud of the design. “It’s a really pretty book. It’s got a really beautiful theme to it. I can rave about that for sure.”

Wong recently uploaded digital guides on rakkup.com. There you’ll find detailed guides to The Swamp, Metcalfe Rock, Lion’s Head, Devil’s Glen, Mount Nemo and Old Baldy. Printed copies for the Kickstarter supporters printed in June. Wong hopes to do a second print run shortly after that. Keep watching ontariorockclimbing.com for the latest.

“I worked closely with the Bruce Peninsula National Park to ensure we included any access and environmental concerns to make sure we keep the area open.”

But just as Wong’s book is printing, the rumours of Alexandropoulos’ book have come true. Ontario Climbing Volume 1: The Southern Escarpment printed in early 2016. Covering crags south of Orangeville, the book is available online at ontarioclimbing.com and at many climbing gyms and MEC.

So why has it taken so long? “There have been huge access issues that seem to change every week,” says Alexandropoulos. “That and tracking down accurate route and first ascent info made this an epic project.”

Ontario Climbing Volume 2: The Northern Escarpment printed in June and contains info on all the crags north of Orangeville. A stickler for detail, Alexandropoulos has been meticulous in his research, ensuring that the history of each crag is recorded. In fact, he’s described the book as a guidebook/history book hybrid. “It was important to accurately document what has happened since the last comprehensive guide was published almost 25 years ago,” he says. “Since then, a lot of new routes have gone up, but we’ve also lost a number of crags due to access issues. It would be easy to ignore these closed or secondary areas, but then we would risk forgetting the accomplishments of the climbers that came before us. The goal was to have a really functional guidebook that celebrated our rich climbing history and highlighted the fact that people have been climbing in Ontario since the 1950s.”

 

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So Ontario is going from a place with zero recent guidebooks, to three? Well, that’s not all folks. Set to publish later this summer is a guide to bouldering at Halfway Log Dump. While Alexandropoulos planned on including Halfway Log Dump in his Volume 2, he simply couldn’t. “The Halfway Log Dump bouldering guide is Joe Ho’s project,” says Alexandropoulos. “He’s done so much research and created so much original content, that we would be hard pressed to do a better job of documenting the area.”

“After seeing some of the books from other crags like Horse Pens 40, Red Rocks and Hueco, I felt we really needed to give Halfway Log Dump a book it deserves because it’s such a beautiful and awesome area,” says Joe Ho. “Most importantly, I worked closely with the Bruce Peninsula National Park to ensure we included any access and environmental concerns to make sure we keep the area open.” The book is also available on ontarioclimbing.com, at select climbing gyms and MEC.

While this time last year there were zero recent climbing guides for Ontario, now there are four. Which one should you get? Why not support all the thankless work that goes into them, and buy all four?

 


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