Monday, November 7, 2011
Introduction to outdoor climbing
Outdoor activities are endless on Vancouver Island. Just when you seem to have run out of trails to hike or new activities to try, something new grabs your attention and a whole new world of adventure awaits. Our newest activity of choice is rock climbing. It took a combination of things to spark this new family adventure. Interest arose when Joel repelled the Chief in Squamish (part of MOMAR Squamish in 2009). Then it was an afternoon of indoor climbing at the Romper Room in Nanaimo. This was my first climbing experience. It was also the first for Ben and Liv. We all came out of that afternoon wanting more. The final event that lead to us actually seeking out some outdoor climbing areas came from the low slope training course that Joel received as part of his volunteer firefighting duties. As a family we have been exposed to climbing, received training on ropes, and repelling and were all willing to give outdoor climbing a try.
Our research for places to climb on Vancouver Island gave us over 50 different locations. Within each of these locations are numerous routes to climb. Routes range in difficultly, some have bolts while others are traditional climbs. There is never a dull moment in adventure! We chose the Nanaimo River for our first outdoor climbing experience. The Nanaimo River has two crags (cliff or group of cliffs). The Sunny Side and the Dark Side. Obviously named because of their locations, Sunny Side is on the north side of the river and receives more sun than the Dark side, which is on the south side of the river.
Half the fun was hiking to the climbing areas. At first the trail winds along the edge of the cliffs giving stunning views of the Nanaimo River. Then split sections of rock become noticeable. Almost like the area was put together like a puzzle but has not yet been completed. Like many trails we have hiked before, we stopped and pointed out the dangers to Ben and Liv. This was followed with a quick review of safe hiking practices; no running, stay close, and pay attention.
Soon the trail started to lead us down into a canyon. We passed under some large boulders, crossed a bridge, walked along some narrow paths, and climbed a few ladders. When we arrived at the first climbing area, I was in awe. We were smack dab in the middle of sandstone and conglomerate cliffs towering around us with the fall colors splashing the canyon floor and treetops above us.
We climbed over boulders, explored trails down to the river and even stumbled across a Tyrolean traverse. (a method of crossing through free space between two high points on a rope without a hanging cart or cart equivalent). I’d like to see someone using it, not me thanks. After exploring the canyon we found a suitable climbing route, one that would work for us and the kids. Nothing too difficult or daring was tackled today, just having a little fun.
We each took turns climbing a small section. As I said before, we were just trying some gear out and having fun so nothing too daring was tackled today. I'd say the day was a success and we will be back for more.
Where we were
From Highway #1, take Spruston Road (near Cassidy). Turn right on Riverbend Road to the end. It will turn into a rough dirt road under the power lines. There is a parking area under the power lines. After parking, walk west (or up river) along the trail staying on top of the southern edge of the river bank. Eventually the trail will lead down into a canyon. Bolts will be seen on the cliffs edge after crossing the bridge.