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Jack Layton Memorial Route is a Wild Ontario 5.12d

The climb follows hard moves to the top of a unique tower at Claghorn

In 2011, Canmore-based Nick Rochacewich spent a few months based at Claghorn, Ontario, where he established a number of difficult climbs. One of them was the Jack Layton Memorial Route 5.12d.

Route names are often very telling of when a route was first climbed and the Jack Layton Memorial Route was first sent shortly after NDP lead Jack Layton passed away. Layton was involved in politics for over 20 years and from cancer on Aug. 22, 2011. Many credit him for the rise in popularity of the NDP party from 2008 to 2011.

Claghorn is a stretch of cliffs north of Thunder Bay with dozens of amazing routes up to 60 metres and 5.13+ with room for countless more. The area was first explored for climbing in the 1990s by Scott Morgan and Walter Mann. While a few of the mind-blowing splitter cracks were climbed over the years, the steep faces were left untouched until 2008 when Rochacewhich showed up.

Over three seasons, he managed to build some of the best and hardest routes in northern Ontario, including Gift of the Trees 5.12, Finlandia 5.13b, Ninja Assasin 5.12d, Hallow Bamboo 5.12R/X, The Drifter 5.12a and Quiet Earth 5.12a.

Perhaps the most stunning of all the lines, though, is Jack Layton Memorial Route which climbs a 30-metre tower of rock that stands alone far from the cliff. The climbing follows sidepulls and crimps as you traverse back and forth placing small cams. It’s one of the most wild single-pitch mixed bolt/gear routes in northern Ontario.

Claghorn deserves more traffic than it gets and there are a lot of easier bolted routes that make the crag a great place for all climbers. See where Claghorn is located on Google maps here.

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The Jack Layton Memorial Route – 5.12d at Claghorn climbs up one of the radest and toughest pillars in the region. It has for a decade now stumped me because of an epic long reach at the first crux that required at least a 5'9" person's wingspan. Every couple of years I would go back and try it again in hopes that I somehow grew a couple inches since my last attempts…but nope lol..still 5'7".. still can't make that reach haha. After trying hard at it again last week with my buddy Dane and still failing to make the reach, he suggested that I try to find another way through that crux even though that appeared to be the only way up this route. After a few really hard tries going into the blank unknown I managed to somehow piece together an alternative way to get through the mega reach and into the next crux sequence! All it takes is a few sequences of extra hard moves on the edge of a nearly blank arête lol…felt more like 5.13- climbing but hot damn it goes!!! With torn finger tips and a belly begging for dinner, I am so glad that Dane didn't let me leave before giving it one more burn to link all the moves together from the bottom to the top. This time, for the first time on this route, every move flowed perfectly! With all the sequences fresh in my mind and knowing I would have to try real hard to get this done, I dug deep and blasted through each of the crux moves without hesitation, somehow making it to the top! It felt SO good finally linking everything together and getting the redpoint on TR 🤗 Now to get er done on lead! Only problem is you kinda still have to be 5'9" to reach some of the bolts to hang the quickdraws on lead hahaha… it helps having a taller friend who is willing to hang the draws for me 😁 Photo by Aric Fishman (@outdoor_skills) of Dane Latimer (@dane_er_rang) on The Jack Layton Memorial Route ✔ he crushed it!

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