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Vancouver Island Climbing

rock climbing crags from Victoria to Port Hardy
Wild Isle Guidebooks to coastal Vancouver Island BC Adventure

Vancouver Island has lots of great rock climbing. There are steep sport climbing crags, bouldering, trad walls and big alpine faces to keep any rock climber busy for a lifetime.

There are sport climbing areas near most of the major Vancouver Island communities, developed and maintained by local climbers.

The geology of Vancouver Island is diverse giving a good variety of rock for the rock climber. There is granite, limestone, basalt, andesite, conglomerates, sandstone and other rock types. Following is a directory of the best of Vancouver Island rock climbing.

VICTORIA AREA

At the balmy south end of Vancouver Island in the hills overlooking the provincial capital are clusters of basalt bluffs that offer some great climbing in secluded settings. The two main areas are Mt Wells and Sugarloaf.

Other climbing hot spots are East Sooke Park and the seaside bouldering at Fleming Beach.

Guidebooks

- 2015 South Island Select Guide by Allen Agopsowitz
Status - Available

- Rock Climbs of Victoria by Mark Freeborn (2008)
Status - unknown

- Greater Victoria Climber's Guide by Allen Agopsowicz (2003)
Status - unknown

GULF ISLANDS

Mt Maxwell offers some adventurous climbing on an unusual conglomerate rock.

Sandstone on Galiano.

Guidebook - Saltspring Rockclimbs by Gus Oliveria
Status - second edition in print and available

DUNCAN - COWICHAN AREA

Samsun Narrows was one of the earliest crags developed on Vancouver Island with a climbing history going back into the 1980s or before.

- 2015 South Island Select Guide
by Allen Agopsowitz
Status - Available

Online Beta - Samsun Narrows

NANAIMO AREA

The hills and shoreline surrounding Nanaimo have some excellent rock climbing and the development has produced the best cragging area in the south of Vancouver Island.

Guidebook - Nanaimo Crags by Ryan Kurytnik
Status - second edition in print and available

HORNE LAKE

Most of Vancouver Island is made up of brown, volcanic basalt but at Horne Lake can be found one of the few limestone outcrops that are scattered along the island. The Horne Lake karst is a real taste of Euro-style limestone with superb, difficult sporty routes.

The Horne Lake walls are on private property and the access is officially closed. Please pay attention to posted closures and local's advice on climbing here.

Online Beta - Horne Lake
Mini-Guide (PDF)

SUTTON PASS

There are two close by sets of boulders along Highway 4 west of Port Alberni. The original boulders are right by the road in a jumbled talus slope. The problems are great but the landings and situations leave a lot to be desired. But desire no more, just a few kilometres further up the road is a beautiful collection of granitic boulders in a pretty forested setting - Sutton Pass.

Access - From Port Alberni drive west on Highway 4 following signs for Tofino and Pacific Rim. 41km west of Alberni the road follows the bank of the Taylor River and the Sutton Boulders are impossible to miss on the open scree slope above the highway. For the Sutton Pass boulders continue up the steep hill to a pullout 1.5km beyond.

Online Beta - Sutton Boulders, Sutton Pass

COMOX VALLEY

Several good areas around the valley with the best being at Comox Lake and Constitution Hill. The climbs at Comox Lake have great access and nearby camping at the Comox Lake campground. Fun lakeside climbing on the typical island basalt. Constitution Hill has quality granite, some of the only low-elevation, accessible granite on the island.

Access - Comox Lake Crags are found around the campground west of Cumberland at Comox Lake. The campground at the lake is called Cumberland Lake Park. Cumberland is approximately a 1 hour drive north of Nanaimo, and a 2.5 hour drive north of Victoria on the inland island Highway #19. Take Exit 117 to Cumberland and drive 3 km to Dunsmuir Avenue. Turn right and drive 4 blocks up this main avenue, at the end turn left and drive 4.4 km to Comox Lake and the campground. There are signs to Comox Lake from the Highway.

Layout - Mostly bolt-protected sport routes and TRAD, with bolted anchors and rappel stations. Good trails.

Camping/Accommodation - Tent camping at the Comox Lake campground.

Guidebook - Comox Valley Climbs by John Waters (third edition 2014)
Status - in print and available

QUADRA ISLAND

The rugged Discovery Islands are one of the most beautiful areas on the south coast of BC and have tonnes of adventure activities including some amazing rock climbing. The most developed cragging area is around Chinese Mountains and Morte Lake on Quadra Island. There are over 150 routes on clean, solid volcanic andesite rock. Easy trail access, great views and an interesting variety of rock add up to a great climbing experience.

Elsewhere around Quadra are some short but excellent granite shoreline crags.

Access - by ferry from Campbell River to Quathiaski Cove (10 minutes) and then drive West Road to Hyacinthe Bay Road and pull out at the signposted trailhead (15 minutes)

Layout - Mostly bolt-protected sport routes with bolted anchors and rappel stations. Basic paths to crags from major hiking trails, no signs (but they are planned) so pay attention to guidebook descriptions to find your way around.

Camping/Accommodation - Tent camping at Heriot Bay Inn, We Wai Kai Campsite. Many other accommodation options see online>

Guidebook - Quadra Island Rock Climbs by Philip Stone (second edition 2015)
Status - in print and available

Online Beta - Quadra Island Rock Climbing

CREST CREEK

With over 300 routes Crest Creek is one of British Columbia's most extensive sport climbing areas and a must visit for any climber on Vancouver Island. The rock is the prevalent coarse volcanic basalt with great friction, few continuous cracks but fun and varied bolt protected face climbing.

Access - Crest Creek Crags are located in Strathcona Provincial Park 60km west of Campbell River. From the junction on the Inland Island Highway head west on Highway 28 toward Gold River. The crags are clearly signposted about 40 minutes drive from Campbell River.

Layout - Mostly bolt-protected sport routes with bolted anchors and rappel stations. Some TRAD routes. Excellent trail network serve crags. Well-signed from highway, parking lots, picnic areas and outhouse-toilets.

Camping/Accommodation - No camping permitted at crags. Closest tent camping at Buttle Narrows BC Parks site, Lions Campsite Gold River or at Strathcona Park Lodge. Motel accommodation at Gold River and Strathcona Park Lodge.

Guidebook - in production
Download the old Crest Creek rock climbing guidebook (PDF)>

MARBLEROCK CANYON

Not to be confused with the provincial park of the same name north of Whistler-Pemberton, this Marblerock Canyon is located on the west side of Buttle Lake in Strathcona Park. A high 350m limestone wall runs over 1.5km up the south-facing side of this remote, wilderness valley.

Access - Marblerock Canyon is reached by boat across Buttle Lake. From Campbell River drive west on Highway 28 and keep straight down the Buttle Lake Parkway at the Buttle Narrows junction. From a pullout 22km along Buttle Lake park and put in a canoe or kayak and cross to the north side of the creek outlet. An easy, unmarked hike leads up the valley to the base of the walls (2 hours from road).

Layout - This is a wilderness conservation zone there are no bolts and all the routes involve adventurous trad climbing.

Camping/Accommodation - There is an idyllic basecamp site by Marblerock Creek below the walls. On the creek outlet delta is a BC Parks Marine Campsite.

Guidebook - Island Alpine Select by Philip Stone
Status - first edition in print and available

TENNENT LAKE - MT MYRA

There is not much low elevation granite on Vancouver Island but this area is well worth the effort to hike up into the alpine for the clean rock and beautiful ambiance. Thousands of small and larger granite outcrops are scattered for miles along the high alpine ridges between Mt Myra and Mt Thelwood. Possibel to climb in a strenuous day trip but an ideal destination for a weekend campout.

Access - Tennent Lake is reached on the Mt Myra trail from the Myra Falls mine site at the very south end of the Buttle Lake Parkway in Strathcona Park. Drive west from Campbell River on Highway 28 and keep straight at the Buttle Narrows junction all the way south to the mine site. Drive all the way through the mine to the trailhead and parking. Hike down the gravel Powerhouse Road to the trail and hike up to the meadows at Tennent Lake.

Layout - A remote backcountry location with no bolts or other infrastructure. Lots of granite cracks for trad protected climbs and endless bouldering.

Camping/Accommodation - Wilderness camping at Tennent Lake and in the meadows above.

Guidebook - Island Alpine Select by Philip Stone
Status - first edition in print and available

NOMASH VALLEY

The Nomash Valley has some of the rare low elevation granite found on Vancouver Island although it is not easy to reach with a long drive out to the remote coastal community of Zeballos. Long multi-pitch slab routes with the nearby splendour of the alpine Haihte Range.

Access - A long drive up the Island Highway 19 to the Zeballos junction and then along the gravel Zeballos Forest Service Road. Just outside the small community of Zeballos turn east onto the Nomash Main logging road and follow it to a parking place at Nathan Creek where the roads ends at a removed bridge. From here hike in to the small side valley

Layout - Mostly bolt-protected slabby sport routes with bolted anchors and rappel stations.

Camping/Accommodation - Camping possible at the end of the Nomash Main road or hike in further to a site closer to the Nomash Slab.

Guidebook - Island Alpine Select by Philip Stone
Status - first edition in print and available



LINKS

BC Ice Conditions
This page exists to give all the ice climbers out there somewhere to go in order to find out what's in, what's not, and generally what's new in B.C. Ice climbing.

Climbers Access Society of BC
The Climbers Access Society of B.C. is an independent not-for-profit society which provides a united, province-wide voice on climbers' access issues.

Gripped
Canadian climbing mag.

Rockclimbing.com
Online since 1995 as one of the first sports websites ever, Rockclimbing.com contains information on 6178 climbing areas in 93 countries easily making it the largest climbing site on the net!

Rockies Climbing Guide
The authoritative site for sport, multi-pitch rock, ice, and alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies and Bugaboos.

Skaha Rock
The home of up-to-date info on climbing at Skaha Bluffs, B.C - new route descriptions and grades, topos to selected crags, and updates on access issues, wildlife warnings, and other news.

Squamish Climbing
Online headquarters for everything climbing in Squamish. Planning resources, links and online discussion forums.

Island Alpine Select - guidebook to alpine climbing on Vancouver Island
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