words:: Leslie Timms
Lion’s Head: the Quintessential Ontario Climb
Lion’s Head is home to the best rock on the Niagara Escarpment. This 40-metre blue streaked limestone cliff band on the shore of Georgian Bay boasts over 200 technical sport routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.14d. The climbing is just as incredible as the views and yet it is still quite common for climbers to leave disappointed after their first experience on the cliff. The best way to describe the style of rock climbing here is “adventure sport climbing”—a character much different than the easy-access sport routes commonly found on the Escarpment. Climbers need to expect difficult orienting and come prepared with an array of technical skills for the wide range of climbs on this top-accessed cliff. A perfect example of a quintessential Lion’s Head experience is climbing the classic, Mainline 5.10a, arguably the best 5.10 in southern Ontario. Start Mainline with an exposed rappel down to the base of the route, then navigate 40 metres of sustained 5.10 climbing (with a notable run-out on easier terrain), summit the cliff, build an anchor and belay your partner back up. Also scattered throughout the cliff are several standard sport routes with anchor loweroffs, but even these climbs require a rather serious approach that is not to be taken lightly. Many routes here are wet in the springtime, but peak season (July through September) is perfect on the cliff and the water. The Bruce Peninsula is a beautiful laid-back place, with many campgrounds and beaches. Come prepared with patience and climbing skills as you navigate this complex cliff.
Old Baldy: Beaver Valley’s Big Wall
The Beaver Valley is loaded with limestone and each climbing area has its own character. Generally the cliffs here are nestled amongst trees (most notably, ancient white cedars) with dark limestone corridors, technical faces and cracks, and a variety of sport, traditional and top rope climbing. Old Baldy (also known as Kimberley Rock) is unique to this stretch of the Niagara Escarpment, as it sits high and exposed on the Valley edge. This proud band of white fossilized limestone stands just outside of the town of Kimberley and the climbing is generally sustained and technical sport climbing, with quality rock and amazing views. The hike in is relatively short (20 mins) and the cliff was retro-bolted (old bolts were replaced) about nine years ago by a group of local climbers. Routes are now equipped with newer bolts and rappel anchors, and there are a few traditional/mixed routes spread throughout the cliff as well. The highest quality climbing starts at about 5.10c, with the majority being in the 5.11-5.12 range. A perfect route to test your skills and feel the rhythm of this technical stone is Appalachian Ballroom, 5.11a. If you enjoy this dance then you will certainly like the many nearby classics. This is a beautiful area to visit, climber or not, as it offers some of the highest views in the Beaver Valley within a reasonable 15 minute walk to viewpoints. The cliff itself is relatively easy to navigate and the routes are fairly concentrated.