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Courage Highway is New Four-Pitch 5.11 in Northern Ontario

Northern Ontario is a big place with a lot of rock, some of which is developed, most of which is not.

A team of Ontario climbers have just establish a new multi-pitch called Courage Highway, will will surely be very popular.

Duncan Hutchison and Kyle Brooks on Courage Highway. Photo Aric Fishman

In the 1990s, a group of climbers spent a few seasons establishing climbs up walls at Orient Bay north of Nipigon along Highway 11 north.

They climbed a few dozen routes up to four pitches and 5.12, mostly on trad gear, and when they did place bolts they used them sparingly.

Steve Charlton, one of those late 1990s climbers who opened hard and committing routes, returned this fall with a group of locals to complete a 20-year-old project.

In the end, the team completed Courage Highway, a 95-metre four-pitch 5.11 up Mount Olympus. The route is named after the stretch of highway between Nipigon and Thunder Bay called the Terry Fox Courage Highway.

Charlton is based in St. Catherines in Southern Ontario, but made regular trips to Orient Bay to work on new routes over the past few decades.

In 2015, Charlton met up with long-time friend and climbing partner Jody Bernst and opened the first pitch.

In 2016, Charlton, Bernst and local guidebook author Aric Fishman completed two unfinished projects in the area known as The Schoolhouse.

In the fall of 2017, Charlton met with Fishman, Kyle Brooks, Cory McFarlane, Andy Noga and Duncan Hutchison to push Courage Highway to the top of the wall.

“I really look forward to more people being able to enjoy a place I love so much,” said Charlton. “To see a route go directly up the centre of the wall and have the moves go at such an attainable grade, is truly a gift from the rock gods.”

The route starts a few minutes from the road and has sustained climbing to 5.11b. If you are in the area and have a guidebook, Courage Highway starts about 10 metres left of The Landmark at an obvious flake and left facing corner.

The pitches break down to a 25-metre 5.11a, a 23-metre 5.11b, a 35-metre 5.10c and a 12-metre 5.10a. You can rappel with one 60-metre rope in four raps, but it’s recommended that you bring two ropes and do two rappels.

There’s years worth of potential in Northern Ontario, hopefully this route will bring more people to the area.