The Okanagan’s Bouldering Boom
In the Spotlight.
B.C.’s Okanagan is more than just hot, sunny summers, beautiful lakes, sandy beaches, wine tasting, fruit, frosted tips and epic TDB bouldering competitions. As most climbers know, it’s also the home of world- class sport climbing. The Okanagan has been an annual must hit for many a climbers and rightfully so. From Skaha to the Boulderfields, there’s a multitude of stellar, steep, and featured walls filled with thousands of sick routes.
Less well known, however, is the bouldering boom of the last 10-15 years. Although bouldering development has been ongoing for a number of years, it wasn’t until recently that it stepped out of the shadows of its big brother (sport climbing) and took its rightful place in the Okanagan climbing community’s spotlight. The Okanagan has definitely begun to flex its bouldering muscle and shows promise of becoming an exciting and enjoyable destination for many years to come.
In the early years, bouldering development in the area was the work of a few key individuals who opened up new areas and plucked prime lines, mostly between sport climbing sessions. The problems were great, but progress was slow, problem concentration in areas was low and documentation and circulation of information was minimal. Overall, bouldering was obviously not viewed as the big show and community psyche on the discipline was low. This resulted in a massive amount of rock and amazing problems remaining unknown, undeveloped and unappreciated by local and travelling climbers.
However, the times are changing and in the past few years, the Okanagan has seen a bouldering resurgence that doesn’t show signs of slowing down. With the increased popularity of bouldering, a larger dedicated group of boulderers, better documentation and circulation of information and a newly psyched community, bouldering development has been growing at an intense rate in recent years. Last year alone, in Kelowna’s Boulderfields, it’s estimated that over 170 problems were scrubbed and climbed with many more awaiting ascents.
Currently, the Okanagan boasts at least 10 bouldering areas with over 1000 established problems. The rock varies from Tuolumne-style, knobby granite to RMNP-esque boulder fields filled with ridiculously featured Monashee gneiss. Settings range from lakeside escapes to higher elevation “kid in a candy store” boulder fields. You’ll find aretes, caves, faces, traverses, overhangs, jug hauls and much more. In fact, during the summer, it’s quite easy to begin your day on horizontal gneiss in the backcountry, move down to the lake for vertical granite and top it all off with a refreshing swim. To say the bouldering is diverse and that there is something for everyone is an understatement.
At present, two better areas are the Boulderfields outside of Kelowna and Cougar Canyon outside of Vernon. Both areas offer great sport/ trad climbing, free access, newly updated bouldering guides and of course, great bouldering.
So whether you’re in the region for your sport-climbing fix, or road tripping through to Squamish, it’s worth stopping to throw down a pad and sample some of what the Okanagan has to offer. With beautiful weather, tons of rest-day activities, amazing scenery, new FAs and of course wine, what have you got to lose? My guess is that you won’t be disappointed and my hope is that you’ll be stoked to return. As one prominent Okanagan developer, and former gym owner would say, “it’s sickter on the Richter!”
Location - Approximately 10-15 km outside of Vernon in Kalamalka Provincial Park,
Rock Type - Monashee Gneiss.
Style - A great mix with powerful steep lines, fully featured caves, striking arêtes and techy faces.
Number of Problems - Over 100
Grade Range - V0- V11 with projects at higher grades.
Access - Free access with a dirt-road drive and a 20 minute hike.
Season - Mid March to late November.
Guidebook - Cougar Canyon: A Bouldering Guide by Allen Rollin (Available at True Outdoors in Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops)
Location - Approximately 10-15 km outside of Kelowna near the Kettle Valley Railway Trestles.
Rock Type - Monashee Gneiss.
Style - A great mix with powerful steep lines, fully featured caves, techy faces, sloping traverses, lots of edges and highballs.
Number of Problems - Over 400 with hundreds more awaiting ascents.
Grade Range - V0- V10 with projects at higher grades.
Access - Free access with a dirt-road drive and up to a 20 minute hike.
Season - Mid April to early November
Guidebook: The Boulderfields: A Bouldering Guide by Andy White (Available at True Outdoors- Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops and Beyond the Crux Climbing Gym in Kelowna)
Andy White is the author of the new Okanagan bouldering guidebook, The Boulderfileds - A Bouldering Guide.