Spring is nearly here and Canada’s crags are about to get busy.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re heading outdoors this spring.
We are lucky in Canada to have a long winter, but the cold weather wreaks havoc on Canada’s rock. Soft stone such as limestone and sandstone, fractures easily in the cold. When the spring thaw comes, once-solid holds can break. Climb slowly, test holds and wear helmets.
Click to play this short clip of a loose flake trundle:
Ticks are little insects that mostly live in warm and dry places, such as south facing hills or fields. Most of Canada’s popular climbing areas have ticks from March until mid-summer. Be sure to do a thorough tick check after climbs. Tick bites can lead to long term health issues. For more info, see here.
Spring weather can change quickly. Have the proper clothing, weather it be layers or shells. If you’re heading up on a multi-pitch, bring a topo that details the safest descent options from anywhere on the route. There are a number of weather apps that give you specific information for valleys and mountains.
As climbing has become more and more popular, once-small crag parking lots have expanded to mall-sized lots. They can’t build parking lots fast enough. A few example of popular lots that overfill quickly are The Chief, Smoke Bluffs, Skaha and Yamnuska. In peak season, these lots will be overflowing by sun-up.
A photo posted by Michelle Peters (@mpetersphoto) on
Bringing food to the crag or boulders is easier than if you’re heading up high, but don’t leave banana peels, apple cores, nut shells, egg shells or wrappers at the base of the crag. Same goes for climbing alpine or big rock routes and beware that if you leave food in your pack at the base of the route, birds or rodents might try to get to it. Climbing burns calories, so bring lots to eat.
There is a list, but if you’ve been climbing long enough then you already know them. They include not hanging your rope on a route all day if others are waiting, not being obnoxious, not letting your dog distract others, not using the trail or nearby area as a bathroom, not smoking around others, not shouting unwanted beta and really just using common sense.
More and more access issues crop up every year across Canada. If a crag is closed or has a seasonal closure, then respect it. Entering areas that are closed can jeopardize future access or access to other areas. Here are the access groups across for provinces that have them: B.C., Alberta and Ontario.
Search and Rescue
We are lucky in Canada that we have some of the world’s best search and rescue technicians. They should be considered a last resort and their services not taken advantage of. To avoid having to call them, be prepared, have the proper equipment, have good topos and know the way in and out. Be sure you have the up-to-date contact info with you in the event you do need to call for a rescue.
A photo posted by Squamish Search and Rescue (@squamishsar) on
Many climbers hit the ground running in spring as they are anxious to get back on the stone. Ease into things and warm up to avoid tweaking a finger or blowing a knee on a descent. It’s a long season.
Safety starts before you go to the crag. Pack the right number of quickdraws, anchor material and don’t forget your helmet or a climbing shoe. Climbing safely is a skill that takes time. Don’t Z-clip, don’t back clip, don’t belay in the wrong spot, don’t take dangerous falls and practice good communication. Seek professional instructions from a guide if in doubt.