Check out our top photos of fall and winter in Ontario from the latest print edition of ML Blue Mountains.
Behind the Photo:
As temperatures fall and leaves change, climbing crags empty and only the truly committed remain to battle numb fingers and cold winds. On a crisp afternoon in October, Mike Smythe did his best to ignore the chill and struggled to connect with Catch the Sun (5.12d) at Devil’s Glen Provincial Park.
The route is located in an area of the park known as the Sun Worshiper Wall for its solarium-like quality. As the early winter cold sets in, this wall is often 5 to 10 degrees warmer than others, and remains the last bastion of climbable rock.
Although climbers have been tackling crags like these throughout Ontario Parks lands for more than 50 years, management plans have never formally recognized rock climbing as a permitted recreation. After tolerating climbers for many years, Ontario Parks moved to enforce a climbing closure at both Devil’s Glen Provincial Park and Lion’s Head Provincial Park in the summer of 2023.
In response, the Ontario Alliance of Climbers (OAC) mobilized the climbing community and launched a lobbying campaign urging the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to consider supporting rock climbing as a safe, healthy and growing sport aligned with conservation values.
The Ministry responded positively, reopening Devil’s Glen and Lion’s Head Provincial Park to climbers. The province plans to conduct site assessments and engage with municipal partners, Indigenous communities and the public as part of the planning process. Meanwhile, the OAC will continue to work with Ontario Parks and the Ministry to update park management plans and push for formalized access. –Mike Penney
Photographer Mike Penney is the board of directors co-chair at the OAC.
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