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Area Profile: Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia

As the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash in the afternoon sun, the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove stands out like a beacon. The community of Peggy’s Cove is a throw back to the time of fishing villages in Nova Scotia, when small communities supported and looked out for each other. The village is comprised of small quaint homes that are multi-coloured and weather-worn, they bring back thoughts of times before sprawling cities with skyscrapers and dense populations.

The views at Land of Confusion area are incredible. Over the past million years, the land surrounding Peggy’s Cove has been scraped and sculpted by the ocean and the retreat of massive glaciers. What is left behind presents itself as a boulderer’s dream. An expanse of exposed solid granite, adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, dotted with hundreds, probably thousands, of boulders just waiting to be climbed.

Boulderfest, a yearly bouldering festival, has brought international attention to the small island off the coast of Peggy’s Cove called Dover Island and has helped Nova Scotia’s bouldering scene find its place in the world. A typical visit to Peggy’s Cove surrounds itself with posing for selfies at the lighthouse and landscape images of the working fishing village, but these days Peggy’s Cove is busy with a new type of visitor. Bouldering is growing in the area and rightfully so, the views are astounding, the rock is clean and the granite is impeccable.

Whatever you desire, whether it is crack, slab, lowball, highball or even highball cracks, it can be found in close proximity to Peggy’s Cove. Evidence of climbers is scattered throughout the boulders in the area, but you have to look away from the expansive panorama to see it. The areas surrounding Peggy’s Cove are some of the most popular in Nova Scotia, likely Eastern Canada for bouldering. The ocean spray, light winds, cool rock and enthusiasm from partners leave a sense of connection to the place.

The prospects for bouldering are promising. With a combination of online, printed and local beta, finding a selection of boulders that are entertaining and challenging enough to contemplate the need to train more is easy. The local climbing scene in Nova Scotia is encouraging and optimistic. Even with temperatures just above freezing, a small group of locals can be found making there way to the Peggy’s Cove area to warm-up on area classics and work on new projects.

Billy heading up a fun V3 at Polly's Cove near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. Really good routes there, definitely worth a visit.

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Excluding Dover Island, two locations close to Peggy’s Cove stand out above the rest. With the best concentration and quality of routes, Polly’s Cove and the Nouveau Riche areas should not be missed. Polly’s Cove features multiple areas for bouldering with a scenic approach and a fantastic warm-up area that is worth a visit just in itself. Both the warm-up area and Polly’s Cove Proper are exceptional. The warm up area is south-facing and provides astounding views of the ocean and the coast. With routes that are fun and range from beginner to intermediate it is definitively worth a visit.

At Polly’s Cove Proper, the granite is world-class, the cracks are numerous and there are some gripping top-outs. With waves lapping at the landings and grades ranging from V1 to V7, there is something for everyone to focus on. The views of Dover Island are inspiring and draw out the desire to explore the unlimited possibilities the area has to offer. This is a good area to go with a larger group to ensure that there are multiple pads for the highballs, unlike the warm-up area it does not see as much sun.

Land of Confusion is another area close to Peggy’s Cove that should receive your attention, but the name can be indicative of the approach. Not far from the car and with a high concentration of quality routes, there is no wonder why Nouveau Riche is one of the more popular areas. Set back slightly from the ocean, Land of Confusion is not considered coastal bouldering, in theory it is a little less windy and slightly warmer then Polly’s Cove, but there probably could be a debate on whether that statement is true or if it is hopeful optimism. With just under 20 named routes ranging from V1 to V8 and some of the better views around, a day spent at Nouveau Riche will be sure to impress. When dropping in on the area make sure to check out the classic V3, La Vie En Rose.

Bouldering zealots are sure to find the locations of Polly’s Cove and Land of Confusion attention grabbing and motivating. The bouldering that surrounds Peggy’s Cove leaves a sensation of interacting with nature; the highballs of Polly’s Cove pit physical and mental toughness against the stone and the spectacular setting of the Land of Confusion is hard to beat. The South Shore Bouldering scene produces moments of heightened awareness, interspersed with deep relaxation, located a stone’s throw from the ocean.

A fun day bouldering at Pollys Cove in Nova Scotia. Neil Atkinson getting one last run at a V3 before we headed home.

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How to Get There: Fly to Halifax International Airport, grab a tourist brochure, rent a car and follow the directions to Peggy’s Cove. Within an hour you should be at Nova Scotia’s iconic lighthouse and ready to start bouldering. If you are driving, simply put Peggy’s Cove into your GPS of choice and you’ll make it.

Best Season: Anytime but winter, although, if it is warmer than -5 C and sunny you can probably still make it happen depending on your level of stoke. Both Polly’s Cove and the Land of Confusion present options for bouldering in the sun if you are trying to push the season a little longer. August can be quite pleasant along the coast, autumn for the inland locations and November and December typically offer the best sending conditions.

Guidebook and Gear: There is a guidebook from 2005 for the bouldering in the area by Ghislain Losier but the easiest way to get route information is to go to Climb Nova Scotia’s website and check out MoBeta. www.cnsmobeta.ca. The equipment list is short: chalk, pad and shoes. If you are in need of a pad while visiting don’t worry, you can rent a pad in Halifax, just reach out to Dave MacMillan at Earth Bones Climbing and he can get you sorted.

– Written by Tim Banfield for a 2016 issue of Gripped magazine. Be sure to check out the upcoming issue with more top Canadian climbers areas and stories.