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Old Baldy: an OAC success story

By October 20, 2014
courtesy Mike Penney

courtesy Mike Penney

Old Baldy is an excellent Escarpment cliff with almost 100 rock climbs of varying grades. One of the first cliffs to dry in wet weather, Old Baldy features pocketed limestone sport and trad routes in a beautiful setting looking out over the Beaver Valley. We’re ecstatic to announce that, with the help of our partners and the Ontario rock climbing community, we have secured access to Old Baldy for rock climbing. On this page, you can read about the history of Old Baldy as a climbing area and how we have secured access to it.

Historical Context
The cliffs at Old Baldy are on Grey Sauble Conservation Authority (GSCA) land, near the village of Kimberley. Old Baldy abuts the Bruce Trail and hikers have enjoyed the views for decades. The cliff base, as well as access to the cliff, have been on private land, and the GSCA has historically had an arrangement to permit access to recreational users.

Rock climbing’s recorded history at Old Baldy dates back to a visit by John Kaandorp and Pete Zabrok in 1982. (A pinnacle-top cairn and various documentary evidence indicate that technical climbing occurred even earlier; there are mentions of an outing to “Kimberly Rock” on June 17-18, 1972, led by Dave Read.)

Sport climbing became popular at Old Baldy around 1989. Soon thereafter, the GSCA closed Old Baldy to climbing, as reported in the 1991 Escarpment guidebook. [1] In the mid-90s, the Alpine Club of Canada Toronto Section’s Access Committee and the GSCA negotiated a permit system to allow climbing access. This system was primarily negotiated by the important Ontario climber Judy Barnes. The permit fees covered the cost of administering access to the crag, including the arrangement with the private landowner.

Recent Events

courtesy Mike Penney

courtesy Mike Penney

The 90s-era fixed hardware at Old Baldy has been replaced in the past few years, thanks to an OAC initiative supported by donations by Mountain Equipment Co-Op and local volunteers.

In 2013, the private landowner listed the land adjacent to Old Baldy for sale. This land is key to Old Baldy access; a friendly landowner ensures that access will continue, while an unfriendly landowner would threaten access to the cliff. The GSCA indicated that it would be interested in helping to preserve access to Old Baldy by administering this land, if the OAC could find money to purchase it. Over the next 18 months, we’ve managed to build a coalition of institutional and grassroots donors. Our many supporters have worked hard to make the land transaction a reality. Much thanks!

Gus Alexandropoulos, who runs the ontarioclimbing.com internet forum, organized a climber-focussed fundraising campaign which raised over $6,000. This contribution helped improve the viability of an OAC proposal to Mountain Equipment Co-Op’s Land Acquisition grant program. We gratefully acknowledge MEC’s significant support of $100,000, a capstone donation for this project. The Grey Sauble Conservation Authority and the Bruce Trail Conservancy also made large donations of $25,000 each, along with the Alpine Club of Canada Toronto at $10,000, ACC National at $5,000, and the Nature League at $2,000, which were instrumental in enabling us to complete the transaction.

The Future
The Old Baldy transaction has been made official. What does this mean for you as a climber?

  • GSCA and OAC have agreed (in writing) that rock climbing is a permitted activity on some GSCA lands (e.g. Old Baldy);
  • Going forward, GSCA will own and administer the Old Baldy lands.

Enjoy the rock!

See also: Old Baldy Press Release

[1] “Unfortunately, the cliff has been closed to climbing, as both the private landowner and Grey Sauble Conservation Authority have refused to grant climbers permission to use their property. Please respect their decision, and climb at the other cliffs in the area where access is not a problem.” p138, Escarpment: A Climbers’ Guide