Unless you work at a climbing gym or outdoor store, most of the people around you will probably think you are crazy for climbing rocks. Most of the people where you work won’t understand what drives you to take the hard way up everything. As climbers, all of our vacation time is taken up with traveling to climbing spots to explore routes we haven’t done on new types of rock we haven’t climbed on yet.
But if you attend a climbing festival you will be surrounded by others of your tribe who will understand when you talk about beta and sending your project. They won’t look at you weird and not get the passion you have testing yourself against gravity. From meeting new people to getting information about the best spots to climb you will have the fast track to learning an area if you come to a climbing festival compared to if you just tried to figure it out yourself.
The Beaver Valley Climbing Festival
In Ontario, Canada we have an annual climbing festival hosted by our provincial climbing advocacy group, The Ontario Alliance of Climbers. The Beaver Valley Climbing Festival takes place in August at the Rob Roy Farm, two hours north of Toronto. The location is in between four different crags giving you access to some of the best limestone climbing in Ontario.
Camping is in a field at the back of the farm with freshwater and porta-potties on site. Near the entrance of the farm is the expo area with outdoor vendors, guiding companies, and events. In between the two locations is the bonfire pit with room for at least a hundred people.
The event is planned out so you get lots of climbing in as well as the festivities.
Friday night the event opens with access to get in and set up your campsite. Get in early so you have the pick of the sites. Saturday morning opens with a morning yoga class followed by a day of climbing.
In the afternoon the expo opens so as people trickle back from climbing they can check out the booths, participate in the various contests like the pull-up challenge or the grip test and get ready for dinner which is supplied with your ticket.
Now with a full belly, you can enjoy a beer with the guys from Ontario Climbing who publish the guide books for the Niagara Escarpment climbing, buy some raffle tickets and watch the live music. Then as the sun starts to set they start giving away prizes. From quickdraws and climbing ropes to Arcteryx jackets and bouldering crash pads, tons of prizes are up for grabs.
After the prizes are all given away it’s time for the bonfire. If you live in a big city, you probably don’t get a lot of opportunities to sit around a fire with your new friends and enjoy a bright starry night. Something about campfires connects to an ancient part of our nature.
And Sunday starts again with yoga followed by a day of climbing. The festival atmosphere is awesome and a weekend isn’t long enough for me. It is exciting to be surrounded by so many people who love climbing as much as I do.
All of the climbing areas can be found in more detail in the guide book, Ontario Climbing Vol. 2: The Northern Escarpment written by Gus Alexandropoulos and Justin Dwyer.
An easy 5-minute approach is greeted by numerous walls and gully cliffs. With a mix of sport, trad, and top-rope options this is a great crag to get a feel for northern escarpment climbing. The rock quality is good but like most limestone areas there are some routes that are pretty polished making them feel harder than the grade. Face climbing, cracks, chimneys, and overhangs make for enough variety to keep you busy for a while.
Climbing ranges from 5.4-5.13 so there is something for everyone. The parking lot is small so get there early as parking on the road is banned. There are also a number of caves to explore if that is your thing.
This is a secret crag hidden in a beautiful forest. Unlike most climbing areas that are visible from a road or trail, this area was found by bushwacking through the forest. It is one of Ontario’s newest crags with routes bolted to modern sport climbing standards.
Located in the Kolapore Uplands, accessing the climbs is a 30-minute hike on marked trails before taking the unmarked climber’s trail off into the woods. The trail brings you out at the east end of the cliff. From there is a series of walls and rock islands.
The crag is split up by many mini-canyons making it feel like you are exploring a labyrinth.
Sport routes start at 5.6 with easier trad routes but most of the routes are 5.9 or harder making it less suited to the beginner climber. The location is stunning, the climbing is great and its hidden nature keeps it from being too busy.
If the Swamp is hidden, then Old Baldy is waving its flag proudly at the top of Beaver Valley. This crag is a mix of modern sport lines and old school trad with most of the routes being 5.9 and up. There are some moderates so it is worth a trip if you are a new leader.
This crag is accessed from the top and the descent can be a bit tricky but is pretty straight forward once you figure it out. The climbing is fun and feels exposed. The views from the top are amazing.
This is another gem of gullies and rock islands. This crag is located in Devil’s Glen Provincial Park but the climbing is accessed from Highway 125. Make sure you park on Sideroad 10 and walk-in as there is no parking along the highway.
Like most escarpment climbing, there is a mix of grades so there is something for everyone. Most of the sport routes have new hardware and bolt spacing is such that long runouts aren’t a problem. Bring a stick clip to avoid a busted ankle.
This is an event happening every Summer. To participate in the Beaver Valley Climbing Festival you can click here to find out when the next festival will take place.
How to get there
If you are coming from out of the country then fly into Toronto Pearson Airport. You will need to rent a car to get to the climbing areas as there isn’t public transit into the country. The Beaver Valley area is about 1 hour and 45 minutes north of Toronto.
The Wrap Up
If you are looking for a unique climbing experience then consider coming to Ontario. Our cliffs aren’t the tallest but we have a huge variety of climbing, great people, and endless natural beauty. Hope to see you at next year’s Beaver Valley Climbing Festival.