Discovering Victoria’s Local Bouldering

As many already know, we are back on the island for the month of May! We are loving being in Victoria again, spending time with family and friends, eating food harvested from the backyard gardens and prepared in a REAL kitchen, doing a bit of manual labour here and there, and exploring some of the special local climbing spots.

Years ago when we first started climbing outdoors, we’d do day trips or afternoons at local sport crags… Mount Wells, Mount MacDonald, East Sooke, or the infamous Fleming Beach. Our Victoria bouldering adventures had basically been limited to occasional trips to “Cyberia” (Hartland Dump).

One of the mini projects we have taken on for May is exploring as many of the local bouldering spots as possible. These “secret spots” had always seemed elusive to us… we’d heard of them but never knew anything about them or how to find them. Certain places are becoming known and travelled as a result of making their way onto Sendage, such as  “Powerlines” with its four (now more) problems, but many locations seem to have become somewhat forgotten.

While doing some research into how to find these bouldering nooks we stumbled upon “Greater Victoria Boulder Problems”, a 1999 guidebook put together by Peter Michaux. What a treasure! This 30 page typewriter-font book with hand drawn maps and topos provides details on seven different bouldering areas. Who knew there was bouldering at Government House? The greatest thing about the book though is the history contained within it. Most of these mid-to-late 90s problems are named, and descriptions list whoever did the first ascent and the year. Key developers included guys like Tim Doyle and Nick Gibbs – very neat to see a bit of their Victoria legacy. No grades are provided with any of the problems, which in our opinion forces us to have an open mind, be creative, and use our brains a bit more. If you’re interested in checking out the book, here is the link: http://flemingbeacheliminates.ca/greater-victoria-boulder-problems-1999

 

 
So far we’ve bouldered in the Highlands at the small bluff-type “Powerlines” wall (Sendage), known as Head Cut Off Cliff in the Michaux guide. This is a very fun little after-work cliff, with decent grade range considering there are only about 4-5 problems so far. We’re not sure what the rock type is, but there are lots of crimps and the holds can be quite textured.

Graham climbs “White Velvet” (on Sendage) or “This Way to Get your Head Cut Off” in the Michaux guide
(FA Peter Michaux and Tim Doyle, 1997). Estimated grade: soft V5

Graham climbing “Black Velvet Low” (on Sendage), or a low start to “The Gallows” in the Michaux guide
(FA Tim Doyle, 1997). Estimated grade: V9/V10?
Evidence of the sharp rock… Dan gave some skin to the crimpers

There are a couple other spots in the Highlands as well. Just five minutes from the Powerlines boulder is another cliff which the Michaux guide calls Pike Lake, with five described problems. 

The Pike Lake cliff. Dan climbs what is possibly a new variation to “Short Face”, which he dubbed “Short Face Left”. It adds a slightly harder start and goes around V5

Also in the Highlands is the Lone Boulder – easily approached via nice wide walking trails. The Lone Boulder is a large stand-alone boulder, with at least 14 problems encircling the entire thing.

The other main spot we’ve been checking out so far is the beach bouldering in Cordova Bay, known as the Timber Lane boulders in the Michaux guide. It’s pretty critical that this area is visited at low tide, or wet feet might be a bit of a set-back… 
Landing area at high tide

 

Landing area at low tide – much better!

The rock at the timber boulders is smooth and wave polished yet still quite angular. Depending on the problem, some holds were gentle on the skin but others were fairly sharp and painful. We tried a few different problems and are excited to return to get on some of the harder stuff. 

This is a nameless “Face” problem in the Michaux guide. The moves were really fun and consistent – we think about V3.
(FA Tim Doyle, 1997)
A long and powerful traverse problem. We spent some time sequencing this, and think it could be around V5ish?
(FA Tim Doyle, 1998)
A waving sea lion just off shore
Let us know if you want to join in our Victoria bouldering explorations. The more the merrier!

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