Québec: Saint-Léon-de-Standon Rock Climbing by Nicolas Rodrigue

Le CEMA et la FQME sommes fiers et heureux de vous présenter un premier site d’escalade dans la région de Saint-Léon-de-Standon  surnommé «petite Suisse».  Cette région offre des paysages montagneux magnifiques.  La Montagne du Soleil Couchant orienté face nord sera un oasis de fraicheur  dans nos étés québécois chauds et humides. Le topo contient  une trentaine de voie de 5.5 à 5.12 + fraichement équipé  sur scellement.  Le  rocher volcanique de Saint Léon est particulier avec plein des belles prises et de trous. L’escalade accessible majoritairement uniquement en premier de cordée est de type sportif avec quelques voies trad classiques. Ce topo contient toutes les informations pour profiter de ce nouveau site. Ce topo sera éventuellement bonifié par l’ajout de d’autre site et secteur selon l’avancement des négociations et travaux du CEMA. Merci de nous encourager.

Hatcher Pass Alaska Rock Climbing by Kelsey Gray

Buy or Rent Hatcher Pass

Located under two hours from Anchorage, the season for climbing in Hatcher Pass may be short but one not to be missed. One of the best crags in Alaska, it boasts over 500 routes in multiple valleys of granite in an alpine setting where rolling green tundra contrasts against the dark gray bands of rock. 

Prior to the mid 2000’s, Hatcher Pass was primarily old buttonhead bolts, cracks filled with moss, and a decent amount of runouts. The last ten years a few dedicated individuals led by the rebolting efforts of Kelsey Gray and Chris Williams and with support from their own wallets as well as the American Safe Climbing Association, have drastically changed the landscape of climbing in Hatcher. Many of the old buttonhead bolts are gone and replaced with stainless steel bolts and anchors. Old webbing that was once crusted with lichen, is now chain and rings. The return of larger numbers of climbers to Hatcher than ushered in a flurry of development across the valley with new crags and routes appearing every season. What was once an obscure area frequented by the experienced or those who already had knowledge of the area, is now a place where climbers of all levels can enjoy and learn. 

Some of the highlights of the valley are areas such as Snowbird Slab, which includes routes from one to three pitches but has the greatest concentration of lines in the valley. 28 routes with grades from 5.6-5.10d make it a perfect day crag for getting lots of moderate lines. Other crags such as the Lost Wall or Renaissance Wall will test many climbers’ strength and abilities and the strongest may visit the Gargoyle for the full test. Don’t forget to bring your rack as well as quickdraws, while there are an increasing number of sport routes most of the lines will need at least one piece of gear and there are a lot of excellent trad climbs. A 70m rope is ideal but a 60m will work for many climbs. 

The best season to visit is from Mid-June when the gate to Archangel Valley opens, and Mid-September when you can expect colder temperatures and the occasional snow. Boulderers will find the seasons to be longer as the snow landings can provide some excellent landings on taller problems. July is usually when the weather is best and the most climbers can be found.

Don’t let a trip to Alaska go by without at least a visit to this beautiful area. 

Great Falls National Park Rock Climbing

Buy or Rent Great Falls Rock Climbing

The gorge formed by the mighty Potomac River, carved a climbing area later to be a National Park just about a ba-zillion years ago. Great Falls National Park has a visitor’s center and several magnificent overlooks from which to view the spectacle of the great falls of the Potomac; even bigger during the spring runoff. Climbers and white-water kayakers alike are drawn to this beautifully secluded national park, one of many, just minutes from our Nation’s Capitol.

See the park’s website http://www.nps.gov/grfa/ for history, nature and science.

The rock climbing at the park is mostly on the Virginia side but there are a number of routes on the Maryland side as well. Most folks come for the top-roping since ropes are easily setup and the views are tremendous. Trad climbing and to a lesser degree aid climbing is not normally done since the shiest rock is brittle and easily flakes and breaks.

A modest fee is collected at the ranger’s booth but those who frequent the park purchase seasonal or yearly passes. The comprehensive but expensive Annual National Parks is valid; however, a cheaper annual C&O Canal Parks pass is also available.

Since most climbers’ top rope here you will mostly need gear for building anchors at the cliff tops. Warning: rock along the river generally does not hold trad gear, and it is recommended that climbers sling trees and rocks instead!

Although the Park Service has decided to not allow the placement of permanent hardware in this part of the country, i.e. bolted anchors, adequate protection is achieved using the natural protection found in trees, blocks, and rock. Many routes have adequate rock for placing pro as backup.

 Be gentle on the trees please! They see lots of use. This means don’t saw the bark off by pulling webbing and ropes around them. Try not to compact root soil, stand on rock if possible. Soil erosion and the health of these trees is one area that the park is intensely focused on and, rightly or wrongly, much of the stress these cliff top trees are seeing is being attributed to us climbers.

Note: The park service is reviewing the impact of climbing and climbers throughout the gorge. PLEASE minimize your impact when moving around on top of and on the climbs. Observe all fencing and restrictions. The park has been very responsive to climber concerns over closures and has in all but a very few cases provided opening in fences to access the cliff tops for us. Consider being a good custodian and packing out an extra bag of trash from the cliff bases.

Québec: Parc National des Grands-Jardins Rock Climbing by Benoit Dubois

Buy Québec: Escalade Parc des Grands-Jardins here

Le Parc des Grands-Jardins et la Zec des Martres est un terrain d’aventure dépaysant à 15 minutes de St-Urbain. Venez grimper des voies mémorables dans un environnement grandiose! La nouvelle version du topo sur rakkup contient 125 voies (+ de 300 longueurs de corde), 160 photos et des informations détaillées sur les différentes voies, dont 23 nouvelles. Cette App nous permettra de faire des mises à jour régulières sans avoir à tout renuméroter et refaire la mise en page du texte et des photos. Impossible de se perdre grâce aux cartes GPS, vous pourrez accéder sans tarder aux classiques!

Oman: Deep-water Soloing Muscat Area by Jamie Moss and Larry Michienzi

Buy or rent Oman: DWS

Most people don’t know what to expect from a visit to the Sultanate of Oman. In fact, many people would struggle to position Oman on the map. Certainly, most people won’t be expecting to discover a diverse country with high mountains, a long rugged coastline, and of course plenty of desert. Muscat, the capital, sits between one of the coastal mountain chains and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. What’s more, the Omani people live up to their friendly reputation, held throughout the Gulf region. This new guide documents the fantastic deep-water soloing opportunities found along the Muscat coastline.

DWS has never been as convenient as it is in Muscat. You can literally take a taxi to the beach, swim to the rocks, and starts climbing straight out of the water if you wish. You don’t need any tricky logistics or specialist gear in order to start exploring these cliffs, although some planning and gear will allow access to the more complex sectors (and this guide explains how). With such easy access and friendly cliffs, Muscat is the perfect place to have your first DWS experience.

DWS can be done year-round, although the hot and calm early summer (April-June) and later summer (September-November) months are considered best by local climbers. There are crags and sectors for all conditions, sun and shade, sheltered and open, high and low tide. There are tall exhilarating faces, deep caves, expedition-like traverses and plenty of friendly low-balls. Over 200 routes and boulder problems up to V7 and F8a (5.13b) have been developed so far, with potential much for more.

The guide covers three main cliffs. Hire a boat from Qantab, a sleepy fishing village just outside Muscat, to access the tall and spread-out cliffs of Bar al Jissah. This area was the first to be developed, documented and published (thanks to Vincent van Engelen, Read Macadam and Jakob Oberhauser). The cliffs of Ras al Hamra are a short paddle from a downtown public beach and offer a friendly introduction to the sport, plus a few test-pieces. Nearby Qurum cliffs can be reached with a quick swim and provide several testing caves and shady faces to escape the hot summer sun. The new guide documents the latter two crags for the first time.

For a climbing trip unlike any other, try DWS Muscat.

Québec: Mont Larose (Weir) Rock Climbing by Socrate Badeau

Buy or Rent Weir

Weir, who in Quebec has never heard of it… I mean everyone goes there in February. You can even climb in December if the sun is out!  The climbing is hard face, and the cracks pass though roofs.  Chris Sharma apparently climbed LE Capitain but he just crimped the heck out of it and didn’t use the good holds!! There are only one or two easy climbs and they are all multi-pitches and exposed!  I heard that Peter Croft soloed Black and White!

If you heard one you heard em all! Are they true or just myths! Well that is for a bear around the fireplace!  What is important is that there is A LOT more to Weir than you’ve heard.  Slowly but surely over the past few years Weir has had a facelift.  There are now whole areas of moderate sport and trad climbs.  What was often dirty and sketchy is now clean and fun.  

Come explore and discover for the first time or maybe even rediscover all that Weir has to offer.   Get of the beaten path and have fun climbing the new and older classic climbs.

Weir, qui au Québec n’a pas entendu parler de Weir. C’est LE spot au printemps. Certains y grimpent même en décembre quand le soleil et la température sont au rendez-vous! La grimpe c’est de la face dure, et les fissures passent des toits. Il y a seulement une ou deux voies faciles et ce sont des multi-longueurs engagées! Les rumeurs sur Weir abondent, Chris Sharma aurait grimpé la voie Du Capitaine en crimpant sans prendre les inversées. Peter Croft aurait fait Black and White en solo intégral.  

Si vous en avez entendu une, vous les avez toutes entendues!!! Sont-elles vraies ou des mythes, ça, c’est pour les soirs autour d’un feu avec un bon verre entre les mains. Mais ce qui est important, c’est qu’il y a BEAUCOUP plus à Weir que vous avez entendu! Tranquillement au cours des dernières années Weir a eu une cure de rajeunissement. De nouvelles voies ont été ouvertes. Il y a maintenant des secteurs entiers de voies sport et trad modérés. Les voies sales et épeurantes sont rendues propres et plaisantes. Venez explorer et découvrir ou redécouvrir Weir. Venez surtout vous amuser à grimper tout ce que Weir a à vous offrir.  

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.