Ontario Limestone: Sport climbing on the Niagara Escarpment

Over the past two weeks we have been hiking, climbing, and exploring the stunning limestone cliffs along Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment. In southern Ontario the escarpment extends from the tip of the Bruce Peninsula south to Niagara Falls, providing a seemingly endless supply of stellar sport climbing. Much of the escarpment is connected by the “Bruce Trail” system which spans from Tobermory to Niagara with beautiful hiking trails. The Niagara Escarpment is one of twelve UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada.

The Niagara Escarpment. Image source: Wikipedia.org

During our time in Ontario we took the approach of visiting as many different crags as possible in order to really sample the climbing. With no more than a couple days at each spot, we didn’t have the opportunity to devote time to projecting hard routes, but we feel the trade off of LOTS of climbing was well worth it. Besides, now we have even more incentive to come back! We were super stoked to spend many of our climbing days with our good friends Chris, Ruth, and Jared who we traveled with this past winter. As residents of southern Ontario, they gave us some great insight into the local routes and areas!

Our favourite crag was Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula, which overlooks Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. The tall cliff band provides awesome exposure with the lake at your back while climbing. The routes are accessed by rappel and many are climbed from hanging belays. Lion’s Head boasts many tough lines in the 5.12 to 5.14 range, and there seems to be potential for additional development. This was without a doubt the most beautiful spot we visited.

Graham flashes “Cold Hard Beach” (5.13a) on the Beach Boulder at Lion’s Head
Kim working the powerful pocket moves on “Coeur de Lion” (5.13a) by sunset. Photo by Jared Nelson.

Another spot that we really enjoyed was Old Baldy. We spent a couple days checking out the pocketed, technical routes at this crag. The limestone at Old Baldy is beautiful – there are several exposed arete routes with perfect white limestone that are covered in sneaky little fossils! Makes for a very fun climbing experience.

Kim cranks out the final crux on her send of “Labour Pains” (5.12b) at Old Baldy
Graham elegantly maneuvers the crux on his onsight of “A Shot Across the Bow” (5.11d) at Old Baldy

We spent one day at Metcalfe Rock, one of Ontario’s oldest sport climbing crags, and a couple days in the Milton area as well. All in all, it was a fantastic trip. We definitely recommend the high quality climbing, especially in the great September temperatures. We’ll be planning a return trip soon.

Graham busting out the crux on his send of “Fight or Flight” (5.13a)
Graham on his flash of “Show me the Power” (5.13a)
Jared on a new 5.12+
Kim sends “Quantum Leap” (5.12b) at Metcalfe Rock
Jared trying REALLY hard on his project, “RP” (5.14a)
Buds ❤
Sushi at the Schwartz’s!

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