At the age of 16, Adam Reeve found himself soloing 10 m cliffs on the Canadian Shield in running shoes. In 1993, while at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, outdoor recreation program where he learned outdoor skills from the basics of rock climbing to the workings of the Canadian Parks system. But it was a photo of Hans Florine cranking on huecos that inspired Reeve to make climbing his passion. For the next couple of years he found himself climbing on the cliffs near his family home in Milton, Ont. with his sister Nicole. By 1996, Reeve was climbing at the Niagara Glen. In 1999 he began to explore the Bruce Peninsula. Although he has climbed throughout the U.S. and Europe, Lion’s Head keeps Reeve coming back.
Reeve’s involvement with the Ontario Access Coalition (OAC) started when the Halfway Log Dump area was shut down for climbing. He was involved in the development of the area and felt that it was time to change the negative misconceptions the public had about climbing. He wanted to show that climbing is the exact type of activity people should want in parks and the outdoors in general. The idea of only allowing people to observe nature as an exhibit under glass, although attractive to some land managers, is imbalanced.
Access work is not just about educating the public, but climbers as well. “A lot of climbers,” says Reeve, ” have some ideas about access issues, a strong opinion on their non-existent right to climb, a lot of ideas about how to fix them, and little desire to actually get access work done.” Some don’t realize that land owners are often climbers who know what goes on in the climbing world. A large part of the OAC’s mission is educating climbers about the goals of land managers. Climbers can share in the stewardship goals of land managers by helping lost hikers, averting vandalism and helping preserve natural resources. Organizing climbers, however, is difficult and the careless actions of just one inconsiderate person can compromise years of access efforts. Reeve likens access challenges to working a route- just because you don’t succeed every time doesn’t mean that you should quit.
In negotiations, it is hard to express why we climb without sounding flaky, explains Reeve. The public needs to understand our sport and the impact it actually has on the environment. While some people may see placing anchor bolts and chalk marks as a blot on nature, there are trails being developed which require disturbing many kilometres of flora and fauna. This is accepted because trials are seen as places for exercise and a way to access nature. If people begin to understand that climbing is also a low-impact, self-powered activity with the same benefits, then they would begin to see it in the same way as climbers.
Since Reeve has joined the OAC, it has incorporated and become a legal business. This is important because it allows people to become members. More OAC members translates to more influence in negotiations and a greater chance of climbing areas reopening or staying open. Leaving no trace, explains Reeve, is extremely important. Something as simple as brushing off tick marks can make a difference. Climbers need to respect closures and appreciate that someone is always noticing their actions. Reeve says: “We must remember that Land Managers share both their positive and negative climber experiences – word gets around. Act as a steward for your crag, be proud of it and help others understand why it’s important to do the same.”
Aidas is a climber and writer based in Toronto.