In the summer of 1986, Greg Hughes went on a solo backpacking trip in Banff National Park. He stayed at the Spray River Hostel and went on daily adventures climbing whatever he felt brave enough to do. He managed to get in a lot of third-, fourth- and fifth-class climbing. They were some of his first experiences with climbing and are still some of his fondest memories he has of time spent in the mountains.
Born in Saint John, N.B., Hughes is the only one in his family who climbs, and other than living in northern Alberta from 1989 to 1992, he’s been based on Canada’s east coast. His first new route was Raptor Arête, at Hampton Marsh.
How many generations of climbers have you seen cycle through the N.B. scene, and which was the hungriest for hard new climbs? The Adamsons out of Saint John. Steve Adamson has been the province’s most prolific climber. Both his sons, Jon and Peter, are amazing climbers with tons of hard FAs to their credit, and now the torch is being passed down to Jon’s daughter, Elizabeth. Steve’s dad Don is also a climber, so there you have four generations.
Is there a bigger ice climbing or rock climbing scene in N.B.? The rock climbing scene is definitely bigger but the ice climbing community is growing fast and has a lot of passion for the activity.
If you could share one ice climb with the rest of Canada, what one would it be? Kluskap in Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, N.S. Hands down my favorite ice climb on the east coast.
What’s your favorite rock climb out there and why? The Crack Machine at McQuirks Mountain because it is about as close to perfect as you can get in a rock climb.
How many routes were added to N.B. in 2021? 64 new routes at 13 different crags were put up in 2021.
Where are they being added? This year saw the resurgence of a crag that has been under the radar for a while – Greenhead Cove. A bunch of new routes were also put up at Cochrane Lane in Welsford.
Are there still more crags and potentially classic new routes to be found? I have to think that we must be getting close to the limit for the established crags in southern N.B. but I believe it’s not quite tapped out yet. There is room for a few more but not like past years.
Who are some young climbers getting after it? I’m really stoked about the next generation of female climbers that are coming up. Myranda Talbot, Laura and Charly Bonga out of Saint John, and Allora Klinker and Lucy Cardosa out of Fredericton to name a few. They are being mentored by an already strong contingent of female climbers in our community, which is great to see.
Is everyone pretty friendly, or are there small rivalries? I believe our community is very friendly and welcoming. In the past there has been a little rivalry between the Saint John and Fredericton climbing communities, but I do not see evidence of that now.
How old is Ascent N.B.? Who started it? And what role does it play in the future of N.B. climbing this year and for the next five? Ascent New Brunswick was formed in 2014. The group was largely spearheaded by Adam Morgan, who had the presence of mind and vision to push for a climbing access group in the province. Our role for climbing in N.B. in future years will continue to be access to our cliffs for anyone who wants to climb.
What are some access issues climbers deal with on the east coast? Our biggest access concern is and has always been to the cliffs on CFB Gagetown land in the Welsford area. These cliffs are the best in the province, and there is a deep history that makes them very special to our climbing community. Now, access to this area is excellent, but in the past (prior to the development of Ascent N.B.), there were huge problems. Thankfully the future of climbing in N.B. looks very good.
Do you have more projects that you want to develop? Yes, I have a few more routes at Cochrane Lane, McQuirks and Greenhead Cove that I am working on.
Where has the best climbing, in your opinion, in Canada? For rock, ice and alpine it is hard to beat the Canadian Rockies, especially the Canmore area. For pure rock climbing, single and multi-pitch: Squamish.
Do you see the sport of climbing growing over the next three years on the east coast? Absolutely, yes. Climbing has been growing steadily in the last few years, and I am sure this will continue now that a new roped climbing gym is being built in Saint John.
This story originally appeared in the February/March 2022 issue of Gripped: The Climbing Magazine