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Lion’s Head, Grassi Lakes and Squamish Access Updates

From paying to park, to closures to access society memberships

As we head into what will surely be one of the busiest rock climbing seasons to date, it’s important to join your local access group and to educate others about why access matters.

Across Canada, there are weekly changes to access, closures and route development. Without one Canadian access group like the Access Fund in the U.S.A., climbers are left to search out information from regional and provincial organizations. Here are a few for Canada’s major climbing hubs: BCVancouverSquamish, West Kootenay, AlbertaRockies, Ontario, NewfoundlandQuebecNova Scotia.

In Ontario, the Ontario Alliance of Climbers oversees a number of access issues and is always working to ensure future access to popular areas along the Niagara Escarpment and at the many other crags from Quebec to Manitoba. One such area is Lion’s Head, which saw its busiest year to date in 2020 with hikers and climbers piling in from across the province.

In response, the town has initiated a pay-to-park system for 2021. You can purchase a parking pass for $100/year, which will be associated with a license plate. This is great news because it means you can still go climbing at Lion’s Head.

It’s not the only climbing area in Canada to introduce parking passes this year, as you’ll now have to pay to park at Lake Louise and Grassi Lakes in Canmore. Grassi Lakes is in Kananaskis Country, which now requires you to have a day or annual pass.

Cougar Creek and Yamnuska are closed this year, and Grassi Lakes will also have random closures. A message from the Climbers Access Society of Alberta this week reads:

The initial plans for the upgrading the trails, platforms and other infrastructure for the climbing area at Grassi Lakes called for a two-month closure of the entire area starting in May. For a variety of reasons Covid-19 related (e.g., staffing and crew availability, materials availability) there has been changes to the plans. Rather than the full closure of the area for the entire time, access restrictions to the climbing site will be done on an as needed basis. Practically, it means that there will be windows of time when people can access some or all of the climbing areas while the construction is being done. Great news given the other closures in the area! The downside of the greater access is that it will be difficult to plan ahead or schedule when these closures or partial closures to the climbing area will happen. In normal circumstances, the variables involved in a project like this include weather, site conditions, and crew availability. With Covid and supply chain problems with materials, it will be more unpredictable. The result is that there will be short notice on the closures. Parks is recommending that everyone who is planning to go climbing at Grassi Lakes should check on the advisory page before going, and go with the expectation that access may be restricted to some areas or entirely. The construction at Grassi is expected to start later in June. Announcements about the start of the project will be on the AEP website, and of course we’ll have it on the CASA website and share it on FB. We’ve been ensured AEP will strive to have the advisory page on their website updated in a timely manner. Obviously, understanding of the situation and some patience on the part of the climbing community will go a long way to making this work for all involved.

And the Squamish Access Society has updated their membership structure, and will be offering annual rates. They ask that if you’re not already a member then please join because their membership numbers impact their credibility when dealing with local access issues.