Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Developers Paradise

Not many people in our climbing community realize just how good we have it. We think about how other places must be SO good and don't think about what is in our own back yard. Flat Rock is a good climbing area. It has hard exposed routes and a minimal approach maybe 15 minutes. What you may not realize is that by national and international standards, we have some good damn climbing. It is very technical, ocean exposure (which is kinda rare) and near dead vertical routes. Now they many not be multi pitch but they are hard.
We are one of they few places in Canada where you can be climbing outside and a half hour later be at work. Most places have a longer transit time or an approach that makes it difficult for a quick spin on the rock. Red Rocks, Nevada is just outside Las Vegas. Once you drive thru town (30-60min) most of the approaches take at least 30 min. It is not uncommon for climbers to drive for hours just to get to there local outdoor crag.
Development here is very new. Climbing started in North America in the 30's and 40's. Most climbing areas with sport routes began significant development in the 80's. Climbing didn't get a good foothold here until the 90's. The vast majority has been centered on Flat Rock. There are over 200 routes most of which have gone up in the last 10 years. But why do we have only one main area? The answer is the path of least resistance. It is much easier to put up new routes in an established area than to start a whole new area (trust me!).
We have so many cliffs of about 100 feet or less that could be developed within a 30 minute drive of town. I can think of 6 off the top of my head, and some I have already played on. Bob frequently tells about faces he has seen and would love to develop. I tell him he is nuts because it is over an hours drive and no one from St. John's would bother. Case in point: Jay began developing an area in the Avalon Wilderness Preserve 3 years ago. He was giddy with its potential. He put up 6 or 7 routes in the 5.11 and 5.12 range. Despite his efforts no one climbs there today. It is only a 60 minute drive.
There is amazing possibilities for multi-pitch climbing. I know of a face that is about 200 meters high and you can hike to the very top and you could walk off the bottom. The problem...it is an hours hike to get to. Not many here are willing to make that trek when there is good old Flat Rock.
All this and I have not even considered the faces that are over water. If you are fearless and don't mind the lack of an escape (lowering off), the development potential goes up ten fold.
And big wall shit! Devils Bay is an internationally known destination for it's bullet hard granite and fine climbing. It is only one of many many 1000 foot faces on the south coast of the island. Honestly, it kinda blows me away.
For me I get to pick and choose. Bob brought me to Manuels about 3 years ago. It had a number of things I had been looking for. Close to town, easy approach and most importantly lots of moderate terrain around 100 feet. We began developing then, but kinda slowly. Chopping out paths, cleaning faces and all the scutt work that come with developing. This summer has been a bit of a culmination of a lot of work. Both Bob and I are really excited to see people using the area. It makes it worth it. But the best part is yet to come. There is much more stuff to put up at Noobie Squeeze Face and then there are all of the upper faces which we haven't even touched yet. It will take a few years if we maintain our pace.
Manuels is only one of the 6 area's I can thinks of within 30 minutes of town. There is just so much rock and so little time... a developers paradise.


Paul Chaisson said...

You're right Noel. The community is small and most approach climbing outside with trepidation bordering on paranoia. The simple fact is climbing is not a "normal" activity here. Out west, for example, climbing is the same as biking, hiking, kayaking, in terms of how many people one knows who has tried it. It is unknown and unknown unfortunately equals scary. We see this mentality in those that go to Flatrock. Yellow Fever, Dynamic Duo, and Maggie get more toprope burns per year than all other routes combined. Many people come down and just do those routes again and again. Keep plugging away at what you're doing, once everyone realizes that climbing is not really the big deal it is built up to be maybe they'll start exploring other routes and areas.

Todd Alexander said...

Well said Noel. Enjoy developing in a wild and beautiful place and be thankful you don't have to wait in line to get on routes.