Climbers in Ontario: we need your help!


The Government of Ontario has been conducting a co-ordinated land use planning review since February 2015, and in its latest draft, rock climbing has quietly come under attack.

The OAC believes the proposed Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) amendments put rock climbing access at significant risk, especially within Ontario Parks. Ontario climbers could lose 50% of Escarpment climbing areas, including Lion’s Head.

We, the Ontario Access Coalition, have been representing climbers throughout this review. We’ve provided extensive feedback and attended meetings to offer advice for the future management of rock climbing in Ontario within the Niagara Escarpment Plan as part of the Provincial co-ordinated land use planning review.

Our feedback can be found here:

The Government of Ontario has released proposed amendments to the NEP:

The Niagara Escarpment Commission’s (NEC) comments for the NEP review:

We need your help!

Now is the time, as climbers, to speak up and to let the Government of Ontario know that rock climbing must be considered a compatible outdoor recreation use on Niagara Escarpment lands.  

We will be starting our efforts with the NEC. In later stages, the OAC will provide information and OAC form letters for other relevant government recipients.

We ask that ALL climbers send in comments/letters to the Ministry so our community is heard (see link and instructions below). Your comments supporting rock climbing in Ontario must be received by the October 31, 2016 deadline.  Follow the instructions below to use the sample letter, (better) customize our letter, or (best) write your own. The more submissions we get to the government the better, so enlist your friends and family to write letters too.


Tony Berlier and Randy Kielbasiewicz

on behalf of the Ontario Access Coalition Board

Questions and Answers:


If you are using the OAC form letter, generate it and save the resulting PDF, by following this link: Niagara Escarpment Plan Form Letter Generator.

Click the link below, or copy and paste it into your browser:

Please note: You are opening a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Housing page.

Complete all of the required fields in the form.

  • Are you submitting comments on behalf of your organization/company/municipality? no
  • Do you represent a law firm or planning firm and are submitting comments on behalf of a client? no
  • Are you submitting comments related to a specific site(s) or property that you or your client own? no
  • Which plan(s) are you commenting on? Please select all that apply. Niagara Escarpment Plan

Because of a technical glitch on the Ministry site, it is best to attach your letter as a PDF file (Niagara Escarpment Plan Form Letter Generator.) File sizes must be 5mb or less. Use the preview function to double-check your information made it onto the site. Note: you only have 30 minutes to complete the form before you have to start over.

Feel free to copy and paste the entire sample letter, or customize it, or write your own. The sample letter will give you a sense of what some of the major issues are.

Want to customize your letter? Include more information on what climbing means to you and the impact of the proposed restrictions on your life. (e.g “I have been climbing in Ontario for XX years and have enjoyed the natural landscapes of the Escarpment.”)

We can use all the help we can get, so more is better! We need you to get everyone you can to submit letters by Oct. 31, 2016 to protect the future of Ontario climbing.

PS – Just in case we didn’t make it clear, MORE IS BETTER!

Sample Letter

To whom this may concern,

I am a rock climber, writing to state my opposition to the proposed Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP) as part of the Provincial co-ordinated land use planning review for the following reasons. I believe that the only path to an effective long-term collaborative conservation approach that keeps communication channels open between climbers and managers requires the following three actions:

  1. The proposed Niagara Escarpment Plan needs to explicitly state that rock climbing is a compatible outdoor recreation use. As outlined in the Ontario Climbing Access Coalition’s (OAC) feedback in 2015  ( I’m exasperated to see that rock climbing has not been deemed a compatible use and has not been acknowledged as an historic, current, and acceptable recreational activity along the Niagara Escarpment within the proposed NEP. Rock climbers have done more to protect and monitor Niagara Escarpment lands than any other user group.
  2. The proposed Niagara Escarpment Plan needs to revert to its original text, which included the qualification “Notwithstanding existing climbing areas,” before “rock climbing activities shall not be permitted in Nature Reserves.” I am very surprised to see the absolute statement “rock climbing will not be allowed in nature reserves.” (p. 89) ( whereas in previous NEC discussion documents, “Notwithstanding existing climbing areas….” preceded such statements. (p. 27) (
  3. The proposed NEP amendments, all management plans that go forward, and associated policy, must all be balanced with previous research recommendations stating that future land use within provincial agencies, such as within Ontario Parks, need to be more effectively managed to rebuild trust. The proposed NEP does not effectively integrate past research that should be directing policy and future management planning. I believe an NEP-wide climbing management guideline (beyond individual site management plans) needs to appear within the proposed NEP.  Past recommendations from Ontario cliff-face research recommends keeping Ontario climbing areas open through best practices.

I have grown increasingly frustrated and impatient with the province of Ontario for not being able to adopt more proactive, modern, and sustainable approaches toward outdoor recreation resource management that clearly work well in other parts of the world and which effectively find balance between use and protection of the natural environment. It is my sincere hope that the new NEP will lead to real change that benefits the public and the natural environment and which takes into consideration the 100+ years of rock climbing history in the Province.

Yours truly,
[Your Name]

Ontario Rock Climbing: The Best of Southern Ontario

Early in 2016, the lead author of the guidebook Ontario Rock Climbing approached the Ontario Access Coalition regarding the OAC Approved process. The OAC Approved program ensures projects are aligned with the concerns of land managers and stakeholders. Detailed information on the OAC Approved process can be found at The OAC worked with the authors of Ontario Rock Climbing to ensure their guide provides accurate information regarding climbing access issues.

The OAC received notice of a dispute from Gus Alexandropoulos and Justin Dwyer, authors of Ontario Climbing Vol 1 & 2, regarding copyright concerns about Ontario Rock Climbing. As an OAC board member, Justin Dwyer had recused himself from all discussions regarding the OAC Approved program as a whole, including Ontario Climbing Vol 1 & 2, as well as Halfway Log Dump: A Climbers Guide by Joe Ho. On May 11, Justin Dwyer communicated his intent to not renew his position as an OAC board member. In June, the OAC was informed that the respective authors of Ontario Climbing Vol 1 & 2 and Ontario Rock Climbing had executed an agreement resolving the outstanding issues.

Marc Bracken, co-author of The Escarpment: a Climbers’ Guide (1991) and A Sport Climber’s Guide to Ontario Limestone (1997), expressed serious concerns to the OAC regarding unauthorized reproduction of original content by Ontario Rock Climbing. In particular, Marc Bracken identified several errors in his publications and stressed that the authors of Ontario Rock Climbing should ensure that the errors not be reproduced. Recently, the OAC was informed that the authors of Ontario Rock Climbing had successfully addressed Marc’s concerns.

With the knowledge that the copyright concerns have been resolved, the OAC proceeded with the OAC Approved process. As of October 5, 2016, Ontario Rock Climbing has received OAC Approved status. The OAC greatly appreciates the Ontario Rock Climbing team for taking the time to ensure their content accurately addresses the complex access issues surrounding our climbing areas.

With four OAC Approved guide books available, never before have Ontario climbers enjoyed access to this much information promoting respect for and responsible use of our climbing areas.

Submit your photos for the 2017 OAC Crags Calendar

Amateur and professional photographers, we are putting together our annual Ontario Crags calendar and we need your photos! Please consider donating a photo to help raise awareness and funds in support of the Ontario Access Coalition.
oac_calendar_cover_2013The Ontario Crags calendar aims to celebrate and highlight the wide variety of climbing that Ontario has to offer, i.e. ICE, SPORT, TRAD and BOULDERING at as many different crags and different times of year as possible. Valid photo submissions will be LANDSCAPE orientation (i.e. horizontal) and of climbers at Ontario crags only (of course).
Please send your best pics to Bonnie atmikewilliams_lh by TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4th for a chance to have your photo featured and credited in the calendar! Chosen entrants will get a free copy of the 2017 calendar as well as a credit complete with your name and website.
Thanks in advance for your efforts to support the OAC!

Lion’s Head: Rapping from Trees

Tree Sawing is for Lumberjacks, not for ClimbersAttention Lion’s Head Climbers!!

Ropes MUST NOT BE PULLED from trees. Bark is sensitive, and crucial to protecting the tree from the elements and bugs. Please protect the trees at Lion’s Head as environmental damage could impact our access to climbing.

The OAC strongly recommends using the descent gully while climbing at Lion’s Head. If you must rappel, set up a fixed line and protect the tree with a towel, foam pad or similar item. The use of flat webbing is better at distributing force along a larger area and causes less impact on the tree. Using webbing will also save your rope from sap, dirt and debris.

Please let your climber friends know the sensitivities surrounding pulling ropes off of tree (at Lion’s Head and beyond). Feel free to get in touch with the OAC with any questions.

Photo credit: US Department of Agriculture, CC-BY-2.0

Lion’s Head — Pump Up the Jam

I’ve got my new waterproof Bluetooth speaker in my pack and I’m ready to send to my favorite jam. A new track just dropped by Avicii and it is amazeballs. Climbers around me are going to lovvvvve itttttt. Birds and waves and wind all that nature stuff is not as fresh as this sound. Other climbers will just let me know if they don’t like EDM.

What? Huh?
I can’t hear you.
Take? OK? No, no. no. Rock?

Music is great. Nature noises are better. Communication between climber and belayer is better still.

Photo credit: Alan Light, CC BY 2.0,

Lion’s Head – The Wolfpack

004-wolfpacks You know what makes a cliff great on an awesome day? Climbing with a big group of friends. More than four makes the pack complete. Yeah, nature’s quiet and solitude are cool, but we only get out here together once a year so we really don’t feel like climbing in pairs. It’s just easier to take over a whole bunch of routes in one area so that other climbers can’t intrude on The Wolfpack! I know, breaking large groups up into small groups is better for access, but since we all climb together at the gym, I can’t really imagine us climbing apart. Sorry, other climbers, you will just need to deal with the Wolfpack – “Wolfpack for Life”.

Climbing in large groups causes issues ranging from excessive noise to greater impact on unique terrain like ledges and steep scree. Climb with a partner, break larger groups up across the crag, and get a ninja badge.

Photo by Doug Smith –, Public Domain,

Lion’s Head—Tour Guide

Only one of you has been here before? That person was so thoughtful to bring everyone along on this cool outing.

Oh, this is a few folks’ first time to the area? Well, Tony and Randy have rappelled before and I’m sure all of you can lead… Wait, do you all know how to ascend a fixed line? What about self rescue? Ok… I’m sure the most experienced climber will take time out from their proj to teach everyone how to safely ascend a fixed line when the weather changes, build anchors for everyone, and haul Suzie up the side of a cliff when she realizes she’s forgotten her epipen after climbing too close to that beehive. That guy knows how to do it all right? He went on a few road trips and climbs 5.12 so he must know what’s up. It is a really great idea to go the bottom of a big cliff with them. What could possibly go wrong?

If you don’t have the experience to go, get it before you go. Lion’s Head is not the place to learn. Can’t lead climb, set anchors, clean, rap, ascend a fixed line, self-rescue and communicate without talking (no really, for real, the wind can get super loud)? You need to learn this BEFORE you head to Lion’s Head.

Photo credit: Garry Knight @ Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

How to Poop at the Crag


Need to shed a few crucial pounds for the send? Do you hear the call of nature? Does it sound like last night’s chili?

Here’s the step by step basics… Find a private spot away from the crag and the trail. Dig or kick a hole in the dirt with your shoes. Do you business. Bury your business and any associates that decompose. Camouflage the spot so no one will ever know. Go back to sending 5 pounds lighter. For more info on leaving no trace check out and the Access Fund’s poop infographic (click to enlarge).


Lion’s Head Best Practices

An important message from a community member, Mike Penney. Please read before visiting Lion’s Head this long weekend.

Climber Friends,

If you’re thinking of visiting Lion’s Head this long weekend, please follow the Lion’s Head Best Practices below. Let’s pull together and collectively work to save this precious resource.

Lion’s Head Best Practices:
– Please do not tailgate on Moore Street or in the Bruce parking lot.
– Please arrive at the trailhead organized. Grab your stuff, fist bump your friends and quietly head in for an awesome day of climbing.
– SMILE and say hello to anyone walking, running or biking on Moore Street. Chances are they are local cottagers unsure about climbers.
– Slow down when driving on Moore Street… You’ll get there… I promise.
– Do not bushwhack. Use only the main trail.
– When speaking to locals in town, if climbing comes up, stress that climbing is very safe when performed properly and responsibly. As a group we look out for each other and our #1 priority is taking care of our community and staying safe.
– Pick up any garbage along the trail – both at the top and bottom of the cliff
– Learn how to go to the bathroom in the woods. Bury your waste and leave no trace (or, better yet, go before you get there!).
– If you’re going to sleep in your car/van, do your research. There are plenty of areas to park minutes OUTSIDE the town on Crown land.
– If you arrive in a large group, split up and swap partners periodically. You’ll get more done in pairs anyway.
– Stay Safe. Accidents happen, but not at LH! Be diligent, help others and leave your ego at the trailhead.
– If you see anyone conducting destructive behavior, please speak up and let them know they are endangering future climbing access
– If you see anyone from MNR, NEC or the Park, please let the OAC know ( and in turn refer them to the OAC should they have any questions.
– Have fun!

Lion’s Head access campaign

Access to climbing at Lion’s Head has been threatened for several years. Recently the MNR has begun recording cliff face data using drone flights to assess climber impact. Additionally, the OAC was made aware that camping in inappropriate areas has increased, further threatening an already tenuous position.

On July 23, 2016 we tried a new approach to make climbers aware of the potential increase of this threat. We posted a meme and heard from many passionate climbers who felt the post was inappropriate. We now realize that it was out of line for the OAC, and we sincerely apologize. For future posts, we will strive to act as champions of the Ontario climbing community in a more respectful and less contentious way.

During the next few weeks the OAC will continue its meme campaign to educate local climbers as well as local citizens. The challenges presented to the Lion’s Head climbing community are significant. The OAC cannot achieve its goal of securing access to one of North America’s most beautiful climbing areas without your support. It is our hope and belief that we can move forward together to attain this goal.