Route Descriptions and Ratings
Unless otherwise indicated, routes are described in counterclockwise order around the rock formation (left to right when facing the cliff). Some route descriptions are broken into pitches; some are not. Routes are described in the following format:
The banner line contains the route name, difficulty rating, unusual danger (such as R or X, see below), approximate length in meters, and star quality rating (if any, see below);
A short paragraph describing the route.
First ascentionists and date of first ascent (whenever these are known).
Climbs covered in this guide include a mix of traditional routes (requiring gear and usually without top anchors), sport climbs (bolt-protected, often with rap hangers or chained anchors at the top), and top-roped routes (protected by rap hangers, gear anchors, or slung trees). This is done so that no limitation or expectation of style is forced or implied.
Routes are graded by the first ascentionist, usually with some verification by consensus (see “Respecting the Grade” below).
Free Climb Ratings
The free climbs are assigned a technical grade according to the Taquitz Decimal System (commonly also known as the Yosemite Decimal System). The lower grades (1-4) vary from foot paths up to terrain where although a fall would have serious consequences, one is unlikely because holds are abundant; experienced climbers rarely use ropes and other technical gear when on such terrain. All of the climbs in this guide require gear to protect the climbers against the consequences of a fall (which are the so-called grade 5 climbs), beginning with 5.0 (easiest) and following uniform intervals of increasing difficulty to 5.15 (most difficult). Grades of 5.10 and above are further subdivided by appending a letter (a-e) to the grade; again, higher letters denote greater difficulty. The grade describes the difficulty of the hardest move or “crux” of the route, based on an on-sight ascent.
Aid Climb Ratings
Aided climbs (also known as Class 6 climbs) call for the use of something other than the rock’s natural features for support, progress, or rest and are assigned an additional grade ranging from “A0 to A5”; again, greater difficulty is denoted by higher numbers.
In the case of a mixed route (one that uses both aid and free moves) the free rating is separated from the aid rating by a slash (/). For routes that have been done both free and with aid (or partial aid), the two ratings are separated by the word “or” (examples: 5.6 or A1; 5.10 or 5.6/A2). Thus, no limitation or expectation of style is implied.
No asterisk - Some may find it enjoyable. These routes range anywhere from less fun than laybacking an expanding flake to ones that are climbed only “because it’s there.”
1 asterisk (*) - Good – more fun than buying new gear.
2 asterisks (**) - Very good – better than cold ale after a big day on the rock.
3 asterisks (***) - Outstanding – better than surfing the Shark to Paisley Park, having the whole cliff to yourselves for the weekend, or any route outside the Kenora area.
In keeping with the grand tradition of guidebook authoring, two star routes / problems first ascended by the author are listed with three asterisks.
Abbreviations & Terms
Following are abbreviations used when describing routes in the guildebook and this website:
FA - First Ascent (from ground up, free or aid)
FFA - First Free Ascent (lead without aid)
TR - Top Roped (climbed free, but not lead)
C - Clean aid (e.g., removable nut)
A - Aid (e.g., piton or fixed gear)
R - “Restricted”, runout, and dangerous – the leader may be subjected to a ground or ledge fall
X - “X-rated”, unprotectable, extreme danger – protection is virtually nonexistent, the rock is unsafe, or a fall will probably cause a total failure of the belay system and serious injury or death
Following are some common climbing terms:
Beta - Any information about ascending a route, including placement of protection
Clean - Completing a route without falling or resting on the rope
Free - Lead without aid
Lead climbing - Ascending a route while progressively placing protection (e.g. sport bolts, cams, nuts).
Left and Right - From the perspective of the climber facing the rock
On-sight - A clean lead climb of a route without any previous beta
Pitch - One section of a longer climb
Redpoint - A clean lead climb of a route after having practiced on lead or toprope
Rating information pertaining to unusual danger assumes that the climber is skilled at placing protection. Never assume that a route is safe because it does not have a danger rating. A long or deadly fall can occur on almost any route; moreover, routes change with time. Use common sense when choosing to lead a route. If in doubt, switch to another route within your abilities or consider top-roping.
Note also that some routes designated as FFA were originally climbed via free solo first ascent – reference to free solo ascents have not been included in this guide (so as not to dare, entice or needlessly endanger subsequent climbers).
A myriad of challenging boulder problems and shorter routes abound in the area (and are described in a Bouldering Guide developed by Rob Hester). For the sake of clarity, climbs under 8m (31′) have not been included in this Classic Climbs of this website.
Additional information pertaining to protection on dangerous routes is also given in the route description paragraph when applicable.
Style and Ethics
Almost all of even the most difficult leads in this book can be protected with artificial chockstones and natural runners. Bolts and pitons are infrequently used, and only on very hard leads that otherwise lack protection; please don’t use technology to reduce a route to your level. Consider top-roping a route instead of placing bolts or pitons: it leaves the rock in its original state and offers total safety. Under no circumstances should holds be chipped.
A few routes contain fixed gear: chocks, pitons, bolts, bolts with hangers, chains, and slings with descending rings. In the event that a chock or piton is encountered on a route, feel free to try to add it to your rack. But if it is securely lodged and the only method of retrieval is to break the rock, leave it be. Bolt hangers, chains, and slings with descending rings should be left in place; there is nothing more frustrating than going to a standard rappel spot and finding anchors or descending rings missing. If you do not feel that these chains or slings are safe, feel free to add more gear (but please don’t leave bright coloured slings behind).
This guidebook reflects the notion that rocks and cliffs should be climbed from the bottom up. This having been said, there is a place for top-roped routes, particularly as these can push the gymnastic standard for the area and add to diversity on slabs or where natural protection is sparse, thus adding new climbing opportunities. Unless otherwise noted, all routes listed were climbed from the ground up.
Route names and difficulty grades given by the first ascentionist are maintained throughout this guide. Where the first ascent involved direct aid, a dual grade for free/aid is given (e.g. Autumn Glow 5.8/A1). When a route that was originally climbed with an aid move is eventually climbed free of aid, the designation First Free Ascent is used, and this first free ascentionist provides a new free climbing grade to the route. Note that the original route name is retained however, and that the original aid or aid/free grade is referenced at the start of the first ascentionist’s (FA) credit line (see Petan Crack 5.10, originally 5.8/A2). Renaming an established route when it is climbed free is considered poor form (also confusing).
Climbing a route on a top rope can be great fun and is good for practicing tough moves, but it is decidedly different from leading the route from the ground up. For the sake of this guide, in order for a climb to be listed as a TR route it must have been climbed without falls and without rope assistance (no hang-dogging). TR routes are considered “projects” which have yet to be lead from the ground up. Whoever first ascends a route without the TR is then considered the first ascentionist, and reference to the TR is removed. The original route name is retained however, and the new first ascentionist can adjust the grade if desired.
Respecting the Grade
Grades, standards, and indeed routes themselves change over time, but this guidebook respects the grade given by the first ascentionist or first free ascentionist, reflecting the belief that “the standard should not be lowered”. Because some of the routes in this book were first lead back in the days when 5.9 was considered the most difficult grade which could be climbed free of aid, there are some potential sandbags out there (e.g. Great Corner 5.9!). An exclamation mark is used after the grade as forewarning.