Québec: Mont Rigaud Rock Climbing & Bouldering by Socrate Badeau & Nicolas Cowan

Buy or Rent Mont Rigaud

Mount Rigaud is a little hill on the outskirts of Montreal city.The hill has a small ski hill that is quitepopular with area locals and beginners. But what attracts climbers to Mount Rigaud isn’t the skiing! It’sthe great little crag that sits on thetop of the hill.

People have been climbing at Rigaud since the early 1970’s. The rock has a few cracks, but most of the climbing was done on top-rope.Actually, quite a few lines that are considered sport climbs today were done on trad gear in their heyday. Some of these were even done using pitons before nuts became common. But, it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that Geoff Creighton put up some of the first sport climbs of the area. These climbs were a catalyst for what to Rigaud would be a transformation.Sport climbing is now the norm for Mount Rigaud. With just shy of 100 climbs most of these short sport climbs, it’s not a surprise that Mount Rigaud is very popular today.Almost everyone climbs here in their first years. Most come back to grab the harder climbs or just for a bit of afternoon cragging. Now, thanks to the local climbers with support from the FQME,the older and dangerous hardware has been changed to today’s standard. And many more dangerous climbs have been made safer.

The base of the cliff and the forest around the mountain are littered with boulders. Now bouldering has never been popular or developed here. A few of the more obvious lines have been done by climbers looking for a prize line. But in the last few years, Nicolas Cowan has been hard at work exploring, cleaning and climbing the boulders. He has compiled over 100 problems, lots of these accessible problems for youngsters.

Climbing at Rigaud is unique for the area.The rock is sharp. Holds are going to vary from monster jugs to small positive crimps with the assortment of sloping flats that you’re never sure if your hands won’t slip off. When the weather gets warm and humid it can feel slippery! You’ll have to bring out a complete arsenal of techniques to climb here. Angles vary from slabs to slightly overhanging with climbs sometimes having small roofs to pass. Harder climbs can be powerful and thin. A good reach is a plus at Rigaud and very rarely is endurance a factor. But you’ll often need good footwork and route reading skills. On sighting is difficult if you are climbing at your limit. But, if you can do the moves, you can do the climb!

Close proximity to the city, easy access to the top of the cliffs and an abundance of easy to moderate climbs, these are all factors that make climbing at Mount Rigaud so popular. Add to that the great view of the Ottawa River valley, it’s easy to understand why people climb here.

Mexico: La Concepción Rock Climbing by Simeon Heimowitz

Buy or rent Mexico: La Concepción here.

What Makes a Climbing Area Truly “World Class”? 

This is a story of a beautiful little cheese town nestled next to a true gem (with many cracks). 

So ask yourself….. What makes an area world class? If someone were to ask me what makes a [climb] world class I would say; difficulty at the given grade to start. Not sand bagged as this doesn’t make a climb better, just harder. [The ‘Yosemite Decimal System’ is a gauge of accuracy that with improper díctate by the FF ascensionist can actually take away from a climber’s experience.]

For me a ho-hum route is a one move wonder. Yada, yada, yada, hurrrrr, yada, yada, yada. Lots of movement, but predictable. On the flip side of this pebble pulling record is the vertical battle. The climbing route that once both hands touch the rock it’s game on! At whatever grade the climb is given, from the ground to the top, defying gravity is the name of the game. This to me is an everlasting memory ingrained on my brain of what makes a “must do” line. 

So then what makes a World Class climbing area? A collection of climbs that dictate climbing technique? Sure, but there is so much more. A climber could have the technique of a Russian Ballerina but put those balled feet in an awkward stance with no wind directly in the glaring sun and all bets are off…. 

So let me let anyone reading these words in on a little secret called La Concepción on the outskirts of Aculco de Espinoza, Mexico.  

This is not a sales pitch as this area needs none of that. What’s written below is a peek into the life of a rock climbing guide and where I choose to spend my time as the words written below are to me what makes an area not just good, but World Class.

The weather~ 

Aculco de Espinoza is located three hours North of Ciudad de México and two hours South of Querétaro City in Central México. 

At 8,000 feet above sea level and 1,300 miles North of the equator the weather hovers around 75 degrees every day of every month of every year. Aculco is México’s version of San Diego. Imagine yourself climbing in a peaceful river valley where the weather is perfect 365 days a year with enormous oak trees for abundant shade and song birds singing tweet, tweet, tweet! This is the reality of a land that time has forgotten. 

The climbing~

This area is commonly known to the locals as La Concepción as the ‘birthplace’ of the river is a short distance upstream. Also farmers in the immediate vicinity refer to the area as La Cascada as the entrance to the climbing is forever guarded by a huge waterfall leading into a river valley. The climbing is Rhyolite traditional cracks with primarily “G” rated gear. There are a handful of mixed routes where gear isn’t available but this is the exception versus the rule being 99% of the routes have gear wherever one may choose to place it. Rhyolite; ever touched this very rare climbing stone? Basalt, sure. But Rhyolite? Both are related, both certainly in the volcanic family, but these are very distant relatives. Rhyolite crack climbing dictates core strength, body tension and technique. Where Basalt cracks are linearly uniform and can beat up the fingers and hands, Rhyolite is a mixed bag of tricks on stone that hands find quite pleasurable. From the moment a climber touches the rock to the final sequence of moves thirty meters later the rock wants to spit a climber off. La Concepción is not white collar, dip the fingers in the chalk, ten quick-draw sport climbing….. Get ready for the best single pitch, hands, fingers, ring-locks, lay back and stem climbing on the Northern Continent. This is a blue collar brawl for those who know how to fist-a-cuff. Do you love cracks? Like really love crack??? This would surely be a place to spend time. 

The town~ 

Aculco de Espinoza (most likely one of the nicest towns in México) is located by vehicle about ten minutes East of the climbing area. There is no real necessity to have a vehicle while visiting as there are provincial taxis that escort townspeople and climbers alike back and forth from the climbing area to town for about $30 pesos. 

What is a Magic Town? In 2001 the Mexican Government created the ‘Pueblos Mágicos’ program to recognize small towns across the country that imbue certain characteristics that make them unique, special, or historically significant by offering magical experiences to all its visitors. Aculco has the Magic Town status as it is a beautiful place and one trip to town and it will be obvious why such an assignment is so rightfully deserved. While in town, plan to visit the market for all food supplies. Comida Corrida, fruits, vegetables, and anything else needed is located there. When in the town, proper walk around and visit the Church (constructed in 1540) or any of the numerous homemade cheese shops. If a sit down meal is in order, check out any of the spectacular restaurants in and around the main square. Short on climbing chalk or need another #6 cam? Take a stroll over to La Deportiva (sports park) and visit SouthernXposure Climbing School and Guide Service. My house and office is directly across from the soccer fields and we have pretty much anything a climber could need in a pinch. Just ask for ‘El Gringo de Aculco’ and anyone in town will point you in the right direction.

The people~

Have you ever heard of a climbing area where climbers aren’t exactly embraced? The Red River Gorge in Kentucky was such a place for twenty years, Hueco Tanks another. The locals saw no benefit to climbers or any outsiders really and in different ways let their feelings be recognized. Luckily the locals close to The Red have come around and embrace strangers in past years. Unfortunately there are still areas where climbers get the cold shoulder but Aculco definitely isn’t one of them. Aculco is a tourist town filled with friendly people who (as all farmers do) like to get the skinny on why the area is so appealing to folks from so far away. Expect people to start conversations with the familiar four (why? where? what? and do you like the town?). Some towns folk may ask you to dinner (so be prepared) and all enjoy the ability to practice their English. Just remember while in town (and México) that life moves a little slower. Like a perfect glass of fresh squeezed orange juice; great experiences take time.

Québec: Lac Long Rock Climbing by Arian Manchego

Buy or rent Québec: Lac Long Rock Climbing Guidebook.

Among our hidden jewels in Quebec province is the cliff at Lac Long. This area is located in Portneuf county, midway between Quebec City and Trois-Rivières, and is known locally for its steep, well-protected lines on excellent rock. Some have said, “Where else in the Northeast can you find this many stellar trad routes side by side?” If you round off your visit with a good river swim and some sweet camping, you have the makings of a great weekend.

We began developing lines here in 2001 and the potential for a top notch crag slowly became apparent. One big problem was that the cliff was entirely situated on private land! So we got to know the owners and over time were able to convince them of the value of selling it as one parcel. In 2008, with the help of the outdoor industry and a ton of small contributions from individual climbers, we raised the asking price, bought the land and donated it to the local municipality. Since then, the cliff has become part of the Regional Park that was created to protect the ecological heritage of the Lac Long-Montabaun lakes area. So now we climb on land that is conserved for posterity!

The cliff faces west and gets sun at around midday. It’s great in the spring and the fall, but sometimes too hot in the middle of summer. Blackflies are a problem in mid-June. Of the hundred-or-so climbing routes, about a quarter are sport, enough for several visits of “just sport climbing”. The site does attract many aficionados of “adventure onsight trad”, so the route descriptions in the guidebook are summary – just enough info to get you off the ground safely, but not more, with the goal of promoting discovery and adventure. There’s also no stars attributed to the routes (yeah we’re going against the current here) as we encourage climbers to explore and choose routes based on how good they look. The chances are very high that you’ll climb something stellar! You may not do many routes in one day but each one will be memorable!

So welcome to our climbing area at Lac Long. We have a long history of volunteer involvement and hard work. Please contribute by having a clean and safe visit. And most of all… have FUN!

See you out climbing,
Arian Manchego

Mexico: Peña de Bernal by Simeon Heimowitz

Buy or rent the Mexico: Peña de Bernal guidebook here.

Why did you leave El Potrero Chico, sell Los Pirules Ranch and relocate to Central Mexico? This is a question I have been asked frequently by fellow climbers (that have shared a rope and many grand adventures with me) while traveling throughout the United States. 

Such a question is not easily answered within a few brief sentences. When one cooks a meal for their family and friends and it is remarked how delicious the food tastes and how was it prepared follows the same train of thought. Making the decision to sell such a grandiose property in Northern Mexico and reestablish the guide service was not an easy one to make but when taking all the parts to make the whole it seemed prudent. 

Climbers are an interesting bunch to say the least. I read a bumper sticker years ago that read “My best vacation is your worst nightmare”. How true a statement could only be appreciated by a user group that plans every vacation well ahead of time to go to some far away location and exert so much energy that upon returning home we are far more exhausted than when we left.  

Rock climbers desire fantastic climbing, beautiful weather, a comfortable place to sleep and large quantities of delicious food. Central Mexico offers all of these accoutrements and so much more. 

La Peña de Bernal located East of the city of Queretaro and is Central Mexico’s premier multi pitch climbing destination. Bernal offers everything a climber could want and that much more. At 8,200 feet above sea level and a mere 1,300 miles North of the Equator the weather in Bernal is climbable 365 days a year. Also hugely desirable is La Peña being a monolith it is possible to chase the sun or shade for those who crave either or both. Is multi pitch climbing what you are looking for or is it single pitch sport? La Peña offers plenty of both.

Being the tallest monolith on Earth at 1,400 feet there are climbs up to nine pitches with several easy ways to rappel. If single pitch sport is more attractive there is cragging from 5.5 to 5.13d for the new leader or hardest of seasoned climbers. Peña de Bernal is an exquisite destination for more than just the great climbing. The town is magical as well. 

 In 2006 Bernal was sanctioned as a “Pueblo Magico” (Magical Town) through the Mexican Department of Tourism. This designation comes with the highest of regard within Mexico. To receive such the town has to have cultural, historic, or an attribute of importance that sets it in a league of its own. Bernal absolutely deserves such a coveted status as the town is unforgettable. The town boasts architecture that dates back to 1642, a rich culture, history, and locals that make any visitor feel welcome. With the Magic Town status comes tourism so plan on spending time walking around visiting the local artisan shops and restaurants.

Even though Bernal is world famous for their Gorditas plan a visit to one of the many sit down restaurants for a four star meal at an extremely reasonable price. Italian, Mexican, and so many more delicious restaurants it is hard to choose where to eat. 

When I decided to leave Northern Mexico it was to relocate my guide service to an area with fantastic climbing, stable predictable temperatures and local inhabitants that invite visitors to look forward to exploration within the town that they call home. Bernal, Mexico is just such a place an so much more. 

Come and visit this region of Mexico with a seventy meter rope, fifteen quickdraws and a taste for adventure. As the owner of the premiere rock climbing guide service in Mexico you can trust my judgment. I promise, you will not be disappointed. 

If you need a guide for the day, or the week please reach out to us directly at SouthernXposure International Climbing Guides

If you are planning a trip to Bernal and need a guidebook to find your way around there is only one fully comprehensive book for all the information related to climbing available. Rakkup is a great application for anything climbing and they made all the information easily attainable. If you are planning a trip to Central Mexico (anywhere Mexico really) and have any questions or concerns you can email me directly. I would be happy to help in any way I can. 

Remember; life is a journey, not a destination. Get out and explore Mexico.  

Backcountry Skiing Snoqualmie Pass, Pleasant Surprises in Big Terrain

It’s my first time in the Cascade Mountains on skis, and the forecast is for rain. Or more specifically, the forecast was for the morning’s snowfall to turn into rain mid-day.  As we skin past Source Lake, the group of locals keeps nervously talking about how the snow may turn into rain any minute. Their anxiety is contagious and I start to look up for any sign of rain too. Unlike these guys, I’m not used to this ritual of watching the thermometer dance around the “zero celcius line” like a roulette ball bouncing around your chosen number. 

I’m from the mountains of Colorado, where during the winter, we have two types of winter weather: sunny, or snowy. More specifically, I’m from Gunnison, where we have two types of winter temperatures: cold, or really really cold. So, even in the era of climate change, we still don’t look nervously up to a snowstorm for signs of rain. 

But as we strip skins and debate between the Cache Couloir, Middle Child, or a simple Snow Lake descent, a cold wind picks up and kisses our faces. The snow intensifies and we all look up at each other. Matt Schonwald slowly grinning, says: “there won’t be any rain today my friends” and then he laughs a deep triumphant laugh. Schonwald and I became friends a year before this day when our mutual friend Tom Murphy, co-founder of AIARE, introduced us. I was launching a publishing company based on my ski atlas for the Crested Butte zone and Matt was looking for a publisher for the atlas he’d been dreaming of for the Snoqualmie Pass zone. Hundreds of hours and a dozen drafts later, we’d created a “first of it’s kind” atlas. And after a full year of drooling over the hundreds of aerial photos of thousands of ski lines, I took the first excuse I could muster up to fly out and ski with Schonwald and friends.

We begin crossing the aptly named Snow Lake in a total blizzard, and the snow intensifies to a rate I have never experienced in my life. The flip side of living in sunny, cold Colorado, is that we rarely see rates of more than one inch per hour, and even more rarely see a single storm produce more than twenty inches. Though Matt was not an official mountain guide for the day, I can tell his decision making and wisdom do not waiver from his hundreds of days as a guide. We begin to question our plans. What had started as a mission to maybe check out the Holy Diver or Oyster Couloir effortlessly morps into a tree mission. Though our group is big, the decision is swift: It’s dumping, conditions are changing rapidly, and the tree skiing will be all time deep!  Enough said, we choose Moe Trees, and if the day would never end, I could do laps here for the rest of my life.

When we finally admit that the light is fading, we head back across Snow Lake, wet, tired and delirious over what we just experienced. Our friend Truc knowingly asks me “So Andy, what do you think of the Cascades?” Laughing, I reply “well, the secret is out: your rain is incredibly white and fluffy!” 

Backcountry Skiing Loveland Pass Colorado by Rob Writz

In a Denver Post Article, MacKenzie Ryan labelled Loveland Pass as “one of the best worst-kept secrets in backcountry skiing.” Skiers and snowboarders have cemented Loveland Pass’s reputation as a backcountry destination by driving up and skiing down for nearly one hundred years. Explorers went deeper into the basins surrounding the Pass, leading to mechanical rope tows in the 1930s. Loveland Ski Area opened on the north side of the pass in 1936, and Arapahoe Basin began operations on the south side in 1946. In the 1980s and 1990s, snowboarders pioneered jumps on descents like Main Line and Ironing Board long before terrain parks existed at ski resorts. Fast forward to today, and you can find a full terrain park here, including kickers and rails. Many Front Range and Summit County sliders had their first backcountry experience at Loveland Pass.

Cresting the Continental Divide at 11990 feet Loveland Pass is between Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Areas
Cresting the Continental Divide at 11990 feet Loveland Pass is between Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Areas

Most folks view the Loveland Pass backcountry as simply the drop-in terrain at the top of the Pass. This backcountry ski guidebook presents the opportunity to go beyond the hustle and bustle of Loveland Pass. From Watrous Gulch to Porcupine Gulch, we follow US Highway 6 as it climbs dramatically to 11,990 feet; providing trailhead access to glacial valleys holding a lifetime of winter backcountry exploration. The guidebook terrain ranges from all day ski adventures in Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch, to a new perspective on how to use the Pass’s hitchhiking resources to access valleys not visible from the Highway. Our focus is winter skiing, and we also include a sample of ski mountaineering on thirteen thousand foot peaks directly accessible from Highway 6. The onset of spring and a stabilizing snow pack lures skiers into the high alpine to seek famous descents such as Dave’s Wave and the notorious Shit for Brains couloir.

Ski touring up Herman Gulch
Ski touring up Herman Gulch

MacKenzie Ryan was right, Loveland Pass is one of the best worst-kept secrets in backcountry skiing. Embrace the craziness of the Pass, and become part of the history of Colorado backcountry skiing. Have fun, but keep it real in avalanche terrain. This zone is the target of online forum rants about reckless backcountry skiing, and even the subject of a study quantifying the lack of safety gear present in the Pass’s backcountry user population. You and your friends need to bring avalanche equipment, training, and the mentality for safety to ensure a great experience at Loveland Pass. 

Dropping into the Rose Garden in Herman Gulch
Dropping into the Rose Garden in Herman Gulch

Horse Pens 40 Bouldering by Adam Henry

Beth Anne Johnson climbing Slush Puppy. Photo from the Adam Johnson collection.
Beth Anne Johnson climbing Slush Puppy. Photo from the Adam Johnson collection.

Once a great mountain range that would rival the Himalayas of today, the Appalachian Mountains that stretch from Canada to Alabama have fought an all out brawl with time and erosion for the last million or so years. The street fight was hard fought, but eventually the forces of nature won out, sculpting the hills, valleys, and the East Coast’s versions of “mountains” that we know today. As the Appalachians fade in Chattanooga, TN, the Lookout and its sister mountains unveil the treasures of the battle with erosion with multiple world class bouldering destinations. Areas such as Little Rock City (aka Stone Fort) and Rocktown draw climbers from the world over to sample some of the best/most accessible sandstone in North America. Luckily for Alabama, it saves the best for last.  

Angie Payne sampling the slopey goodness of Millipede. Photo from the Adam Henry collection.
Angie Payne sampling the slopey goodness of Millipede. Photo from the Adam Henry collection.

Sculpted by the ravages of time, Horse Pens 40 is home to acres of bulbous faces, blunt prows, delicate slabs, crimpy overhangs, and water grooves. The owners, Mike and Gina Schultz, are models for southern hospitality. Mike is one of the best storytellers you will ever meet, while Gina slings some of the meanest country cooking you will ever encounter. HP provides the maximum amount of problems for the least amount of effort. If you are in search of the double digit line, you might want to “go west young man,” because the area lacks the soft sends needed to pad the spraycard. With over 100+ lines from V3-V5 and the same amount from V6-V8, this is the moderate climbers dream come true. Horse Pens is the Fontainebleau of the South, without the arrogance and the stench. Either for a day, a week, or a season, your trip to HP will have you wanting of more. If the weather permits, this is as good as it gets.

Andrew Traylor on the first ascent of God Module. Photo Cooper Roberts.
Andrew Traylor on the first ascent of God Module. Photo Cooper Roberts.
Taylor Mason climbing Its A Natural. Photo from Adam Johnson collection.
Taylor Mason climbing Its A Natural. Photo from Adam Johnson collection.
Adam Johnson cruising Great White. Photo from Adam Johnson collection.
Adam Johnson cruising Great White. Photo from Adam Johnson collection.
Matthew Gant climbing a classic near the point. Photo by Micah Gentry.
Matthew Gant climbing a classic near the point. Photo by Micah Gentry.
Micah Gentry on Red Arrow. Photo by Matthew Gant.
Micah Gentry on Red Arrow. Photo by Matthew Gant.
Micah Gentry stretching it out on Uniball. Photo by Matthew Gant.
Micah Gentry stretching it out on Uniball. Photo by Matthew Gant.

Koh Tao Thailand Rock Climbing by Kelsey Gray

Jansom Bay climbing area. Photo by Kelsey Gray.
Jansom Bay climbing area. Photo by Kelsey Gray.

Climbing on Koh Tao is generally considered to have started in the early 2000’s with the first climbing shop on the island being Zen Gecko, which closed in 2005. Primarily a bouldering paradise there have been multiple printable guidebooks written since James March’s first guidebook in 2002. Other guidebooks have existed in some form or another from several of the shops on the island with this guidebook being the most comprehensive and a combination of information from many of these sources. In addition, the route developers, new climbers, and experienced Koh Tao veterans have all contributed to making this new guidebook the most complete and accurate of any guide to date. 

Rachal Fagan climbing Forewarned (6a) at Lang Khai. Photo by Kelsey Gray.
Rachal Fagan climbing Forewarned (6a) at Lang Khai. Photo by Kelsey Gray.

Scattered amongst the palms and sandy beaches is textured granite and featured walls waiting for climbers. The first edition of this guidebook brings together 114 established climbs, most within minutes of the road. There are seaside crags with amazing views, mountain top cliffs with climbs on all sides, and an island crag that requires a kayak. All within snorkeling distance of the beaches and some of the better burgers in Thailand. 

Rachel Fagan climbing Do It! a 6c+ at Golden View. Photo by Kelsey Gray.
Rachel Fagan climbing Do It! a 6c+ at Golden View. Photo by Kelsey Gray.

As Thailand becomes inundated with travelers from all over the world, climbing areas such as Tonsai and Railey are becoming increasingly crowded. This guide opens the possibilities of a new area and a completely different style of climbing than most would experience in Thailand. With excellent weather much of the year it is an ideal destination with the months of October and November having much of the rain, leaving the rest of the year to be sunny and beautiful. 

Ryan Senko following Drunken Yorkshireman (6a+) at Big Brother Slab. Photo by Kelsey Gray.
Ryan Senko following Drunken Yorkshireman (6a+) at Big Brother Slab. Photo by Kelsey Gray.

Staunton State Park Rock Climbing by Dave and Lisa Montgomery

Chimney Rock - photo by Tyson Ferryman
Chimney Rock – photo by Tyson Ferryman

Staunton State Park is Colorado’s newest state park, and is the legacy of the Staunton family.  The original Staunton Ranch was homestead around the turn of the 20th century by Drs. Rachel and Archibald Staunton.  Over the years, the 160-acre property grew into 1,720 acres containing much of the pristine wilderness and meadows we enjoy today.  Francis H. Staunton, daughter of Archibald and Rachel, preserved and protected the Staunton Ranch throughout her life and gifted the land to the State of Colorado in 1986 with the requirement that the land be, “preserved in perpetuity, for public benefit, as a natural wilderness-type park… typifying Colorado’s most beautiful mountain forest and meadow region.” With subsequent acquisitions of parcels, the park grew to 3,828 acres and opened to the public in May of 2013. 

Diana Crabtree Green on The Babe with the Power 10d - photo by Adam Bove
Diana Crabtree Green on The Babe with the Power 10d – photo by Adam Bove

In 2012, the year before the park opened, the Park Manager reached out to a small group of local climbers to help with climbing management and the development of climbing at Staunton.  Over the course of 10 months, this group of climbers formulated the park’s Fixed Hardware Review Group (FHRG), climbed and documented over 60 new routes, designed the network of trails around Staunton Rocks, and with the help of volunteers built the climbing access trails.  While the members of the FHRG have changed over the years, their relationship with the park has remained solid and their continued work has lead to the development of 190 routes at Staunton.  

Sasha Digiulian on Happy Endings 13a - photo Kevin Capps
Sasha Digiulian on Happy Endings 13a – photo Kevin Capps

As the number of routes has grown at Staunton, so has the diversity of the climbing.  Throughout the park, you will find everything from long single/multi-pitch slabs to patina covered vertical faces to steep, power-endurance test pieces.  There is something for everyone to enjoy at Staunton, and even more to explore!

Dave Montgomery on FA of Welcome to Staunton 12c - photo by Amanda Peterson
Dave Montgomery on FA of Welcome to Staunton 12c – photo by Amanda Peterson
Laura Capps on Intolerance Test - photo by Kevin Capps
Laura Capps on Intolerance Test – photo by Kevin Capps
TJ Brumme on the Opportunist 11a - Photo by Dave Montgomery
TJ Brumme on the Opportunist 11a – Photo by Dave Montgomery
Dave Alie on Unshackled 10+ photo by Dave Montgomery
Dave Alie on Unshackled 10+ photo by Dave Montgomery
Josh Hendriks on Muricuh 12b/c -photo by Adam Bove
Josh Hendriks on Muricuh 12b/c -photo by Adam Bove

Alsek Pass, Yukon|Bouldering in the Wild North by Sierra Allen

The Alsek Pass Boulders lie along the shore of an ancient lake located on the border of Kluane National Park in the Yukon Territory of northern Canada. The scene is stunning with a backdrop of vast sweeping vistas in wild grizzly bear country. Well-sized outcroppings of beautiful green and red, climber-friendly stone are set as the main stage. The area is located about 15km west of the small Yukon town of Haines Junction that has a population of around 600 people. 

Paul and his Cozy Northern Climber's Cabin.
Paul and his Cozy Northern Climber’s Cabin.

We can all enjoy bouldering in the majestic Alsek Pass thanks to a legend in Yukon climbing, Paul Henstridge. I had the pleasure of experiencing the grandeur of Alsek Pass for the first time in 2008. I was spellbound by the beauty of the place and the quality of the stone. When I heard that Paul had developed the area, I got in touch. Paul has been climbing in the Yukon for decades and has developed uncountable routes, ice climbs and boulders around the territory, concentrating around his hometown of Haines Junction. 

Paul Henstridge and his Perma Psych.
Paul Henstridge and his Perma Psych.

When we met, he had recently had a severe motor-vehicle accident from which he has been valiantly recovering despite the doctors’ negative prognoses. I’ve been documenting Alsek Pass with Paul very sporadically over the years on one-day missions. He’s got a perma-psych that is contagious and a playful determination that will put a smile on your face. Every year his body is more able to move around on the rocks but it’s not just the progression that’s inspiring, it’s his authentic and overflowing appreciation for the beauty of life.

Paul Henstridge dances up Sea Swell (V0) on the Postcard Morning wall of Alsek Pass.
Paul Henstridge dances up Sea Swell (V0) on the Postcard Morning wall of Alsek Pass.
Facebook post of the author and Paul Henstridge after a splitter day out working on the Alsek Pass guide.
Facebook post of the author and Paul Henstridge after a splitter day out working on the Alsek Pass guide.