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Five Crags Close to the GTA for Spring Rock Climbing

You don't have to drive too far from Toronto to find quality limestone rock climbs close to the car

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is positioned close to a number of great rock climbing crags, and spring is the perfect time to leave the city to explore local rock. Below are five fun and popular crags to visit early season once the temperatures start to rise and the snow melts away.

Two things to keep in mind is to never build anchors using trees on the Niagara Escarpment, and always wear a helmet. Each area has an entrance fee. Visit the Ontario Alliance of Climbers here for more info on Ontario climbing and access. And for eight tips on how to maintain access to our climbing areas visit here.

A: Mount Nemo / B: Rattlesnake / C: Buffalo / D: Bottle Glass / E: Kelso

A: Mount Nemo

Mount Nemo is one of the largest crags in Ontario stretching a number of kilometres as part of the Niagara Escarpment. The north walls have been seeing climbers since the 1970s. It can be seen from far away and the few from the tops of the climbs shouldn’t be missed. The routes are mostly north-facing so bring a layer for early season climbing when the friction is good. Two of the better old-school walls for new climbers are Big Gulp Area and Camel Wall. The best overall zone is the Turtle Wall with a handful of fun 5.9 and 5.10s. However, you must get a permit before visiting the Turtle, which you can do here. There’s a top-rope ban, so you can only top-rope after leading a route and no slinging cedar trees. Good early season sport climbs include: Judy’s on the Drug Squad 5.9, Wasp in Space 5.10b and Palm Sunday 5.11b. Time from Toronto: One hour and 20 minutes.

A 5.10 at Corner Wall at The Turtle. Photo Brandon Pullan

B: Rattlesnake

There’s no doubt that most climbers from Ontario have visited Rattlesnake Point at some time or another. There’s a lot of anchor bolts for top-roping, some fun sport routes and classic trad climbs. There are numbers painted at the base of many of the climbs and start at the west end. The south-facing crag is great for early spring and heats up early in the morning. A good crag for top-roping, and sport and trad leading. Rattlesnake is divided into West Cliff and East Cliff and some good trad routes include: The Pinnacle 5.7, Dreams 5.5 and Roly’s Route 5.8. Time from Toronto: One hour and 25 minutes.

C: Buffalo Crag

Located in Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area, Buffalo Crag is less busy than the nearby Rattlesnake walls. While the routes aren’t as long as nearby crags, the climbing is on good rock and the routes are high-quality. There’s lots of easy top-rope setups with easy cliff access. Bring extra webbing or static rope to help make anchors. The routes are almost all trad or top-rope and some classics include Orange Wall 5.9, Boa Constrictor 5.4 and Abyss 5.10b. A great place for trad climbing and top-roping. Time from Toronto: One hour and 25 minutes.

D: Bottle Glass

Bottle Glass is a short cliff also in Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area and while the wall is only about 15 metres, there are some worthwhile sport and trad routes. It’s a great place to learn about trad climbing as most of the routes have bolted anchors and good gear. The base of the cliff can often have garbage and beer bottles from parties on top. A nice spot to practice sport climbing. Don’t sling the trees. Be sure to check out Captain Cave Man 5.10b sport, Furry Critters 5.7 trad and Made in the Shade 5.8 top-rope. Time from Toronto: One hour and 25 minutes.

E: Kelso

A great trad climbing crag with solid limestone and an easy approach and many moderate routes. There are a few sport routes that range from good to great. You can walk to the top of the cliff up a trail to the east. Most routes don’t have bolts at the top so be prepared to build anchors. Corner Buttress is a great place to get started and is over 20 metres tall. Check out the two-pitch Jolly Roger at 5.5. Time from Toronto: One hour and 25 minutes.