Rock climbing

Five cliffs close to the GTA for spring climbing

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is located near a number of great rock climbing areas, and spring is a great time to leave the city to explore local rock. Below are five fun and popular cliffs to visit early in the season once the temperatures start to rise and the snow melts.

Two things to keep in mind are to never build anchors using trees on the Niagara Escarpment and to always wear a helmet. Each area has an entry fee. Visit the Ontario Alliance of Climbers here for more information on rock climbing and access in Ontario. And for eight tips on how to maintain access to our climbing areas, visit here.

A: Mount Nemo / B: Rattlesnake / C: Buffalo / D: Glass bottle / E: Kelso

A: Mount Nemo

Mount Nemo is one of the largest rocks in Ontario stretching for several kilometers as part of the Niagara Escarpment. The north walls have seen climbers since the 1970s. It can be seen from afar and the top few of the climbs should not be missed. The routes are mostly north facing, so bring a layer for early season climbing when the friction is good. Two of the best old school walls for new climbers are Big Gulp Area and Camel Wall. The best area overall is the Turtle Wall with a handful of fun 5.9s and 5.10s. However, you must obtain a permit before visiting the turtle, which you can do here. There is a rope ban at the top, so you can only rope after leading a route and without cedar slinging. Good early season sport climbs include: Judy’s on the Drug Squad 5.9, Wasp in Space 5.10b and Palm Sunday 5.11b. Time from Toronto: One hour and 20 minutes.

A 5.10 in Corner Wall at The Turtle. Photo Brandon Pullan

B: Rattlesnake

There is no doubt that most climbers in Ontario have visited Rattlesnake Point at one time or another. There are plenty of anchor bolts for top-roping, fun sport routes and classic traditional climbs. There are numbers painted at the base of many climbs and start at the western end. The south-facing rock is ideal for early spring and warms up early in the morning. A good crag for top roping, sport and trad leader. Rattlesnake is divided into West Cliff and East Cliff and some good traditional routes include: The Pinnacle 5.7, Dreams 5.5 and Roly’s Route 5.8. Time from Toronto: One hour and 25 minutes.

C: Buffalo Crag

Located in the Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area, Buffalo Crag is less crowded than the nearby Rattlesnake Walls. Although the routes are not as long as the nearby cliffs, the climbing is on good rock and the routes are of high quality. There are plenty of easy top-rope setups with easy cliff access. Bring extra straps or static rope to help with anchors. The routes are almost all trad or top roping and some classics include Orange Wall 5.9, Boa Constrictor 5.4 and Abyss 5.10b. An ideal place for traditional climbing and top-roping. Time from Toronto: One hour and 25 minutes.

D: bottle glass

Bottle Glass is a short cliff also within the Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area and although the wall is only about 15m there are some interesting sporting and traditional routes. It’s a great place to learn about trad climbing as most routes have bolt-on anchors and good gear. The base of the cliff can often contain trash and beer bottles from parties. A great place to practice sport climbing. Don’t throw the trees. Be sure to check out Captain Cave Man 5.10b sport, Furry Critters 5.7 trad, and Made in the Shade 5.8 top-rope. Time from Toronto: One hour and 25 minutes.

E: Kelso

A large trad crag with solid limestone and an easy approach and plenty of moderate routes. There are a few athletic routes that range from good to excellent. You can walk to the top of the cliff by taking a path to the east. Most routes don’t have bolts at the top, so be prepared to build anchors. Corner Buttress is a great place to start and is over 20 meters high. Check out the Jolly Roger two steps away at 5.5. Time from Toronto: One hour and 25 minutes.