Rock Climbing the Niagara Escarpment with One Axe Pursuits

A woman attached to safety gear, rock climbing on a face of a mountain.

Do you remember the days of free climbing as a child? More specifically climbing without a rope; when you just scrambled up here and there? I still remember the moment when I had climbed too high to jump down and then realized I had to keep going up except that I wasn't on a rope. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. When I learned how to set up top rope anchors, I opened myself to a whole new world of being able to test and improve my climbing ability with the safety of a rope.

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You Can Climb Higher and Higher with the Safety of Ropes

Companies like ours, One Axe Pursuits, are dedicated to teaching novices how to safely set-up top rope climbs.  

Often in the climbing community, set-up technique tips are offered for free from a friend (or a friend of a friend). Unfortunately, errors get passed down the line and there's always the problem with miscommunication and lack of updated information. This is your life we're talking about.  

Learning with an expert allow you to be focused on the set-up, while an instructor checks and monitors you. Once you have the courses behind you, you can join clubs or make your own and climb essentially for free minus the permit fees and equipment you need to buy. It will open a whole new playground for you. 

Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area features over a hundred climbing routes, most of them are side by side so beginners and experienced climbers can be next to each other. Rattlesnake Point has easily accessible parking, a staircase to the bottom of the cliff and a stellar view. 

If you want to stay away from the large courses and groups at Rattlesnake Point, recreational climbers can head over to Kelso Conservation Area, Mt. Nemo or Buffalo Crag at Rattlesnake Point. Routes in these climbing locations range from an easy 5.0 to extremely challenging climbs of 5.12 and range on average from 15 metres (50 ft) to almost 30 metres (90 ft). Remember, most people find outdoor ratings are quite different from indoor ratings, and the two experiences require different levels of endurance and stamina.  

It is also important to know that at certain locations like Rattlesnake Point and Buffalo Craig, you should use the installed Top Rope anchor bolts or that at Mt. Nemo and Kelso, you can only lead climb (traditional or sport). 

If you want to avoid paying any permit fees and are willing to drive a couple hours north of Toronto, head to Metcalfe Rock  near Collingwood. This is Crown Land which means you don't have to pay anything to climb there. Metcalfe also has a variety of climbs, from short 6 metre (20 ft) routes to very high climbs of over 30 metres (100 ft) and level of difficulty ranging from 5.0 to 5.12. Metcalfe Rock shares a parking lot with the Kolapore Trail access points. Don't miss the freshwater spring as you hike into the cliff. I love visiting in autumn when the forest floor is decorated with a blanket of yellow leaves and the air is cooler. 

Remember to be courteous when sharing the cliffs. Climbing schools often pay permit fees and have large groups that they need to accommodate. As a recreational climber, I would head to the spots where I could have more of the rock to myself, climb on non-school days like weekdays or Sundays, or arrive in the afternoon after 3:30 pm when most schools are finishing up with clients. You’ll still get a good afternoon of solid climbing in, and as a bonus, watch the sunset.

By Christa Niravong

Christa is an avid climber and has trekked from the Arctic to Antartica.

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