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Rocky road to Revy rocks: Revelstoke’s growing rock climbing community

The community’s evolution as a climbing destination
(Photo by Cam Molder)

This article was originally published in the Revelstoke TIMES Magazine, available now at your local coffee shop, book store, or any other business in downtown Revelstoke.

Revelstoke’s reputation as a snowsports hub is well-known around the world, but it is also growing into an established rock-climbing destination, offering locals and visitors alike their pick of walls, crags, and routes around town.

Sitting in the Revelstoke Review office, we try –as we create content– to tackle subjects that are representative of the town and the people who live here — including their varied outdoor interests. With so many different ways to enjoy the mountains that surround the city, there’s no shortage of activities that take people out of their homes and into the wild. Having covered stories from skiing to sledding to mountain biking, we decided our next sport feature would be rock climbing in Revelstoke. There was one problem: none of us in the office are climbers.

So, how do you write a rock-climbing story when you don’t rock climb? You look for experience, you look for recognition, you look for the person that (literally) wrote the book on it. This was how I first heard about Ruedi Beglinger.

“I’ve been climbing since I arrived here in the early 80s,” said Beglinger over the sound of a busy Modern Bakeshop on a Friday afternoon in May.

Beglinger grew up in the Swiss Alps and has amassed a life of outdoor experience. His local business, Selkirk Mountain Experience, offers hiking, mountaineering, and skiing tours. Before arriving in Revelstoke, Beglinger climbed in several areas across Europe, Yosemite National Park, Squamish, and the Bow Valley. When he got to Revelstoke, Beglinger said that there wasn’t much climbing to speak of.

“We saw the potential and so in the early 90s we started to build actual sport routes,” said Beglinger.

As they built the routes, Beglinger started working on a guidebook, Revelstoke Rocks, that is now the ultimate rock-climbers resource for climbing in Revelstoke. Putting the book together was a feat of determination and a testament to teamwork. Beglinger worked hard to get the most information he could about every zone, pitch, and approach. The book, now in its third edition, has information about all 18 climbing areas around Revelstoke, including more than 450 routes, and credit for their original developers.

Having a guidebook is vital to growing the sport. As such, Beglinger’s contributions to the local climbing community and its growth cannot be overstated. Between the book that helps more people access rock-climbing around Revelstoke, and the more than 40 routes that he’s developed, Beglinger is an ambassador to the sport.

As a local expert and ambassador, I asked Beglinger about the news in Revelstoke’s climbing community. He spoke about a few different topics, but specifically highlighted the work of two individuals: Eric Dafoe and Cam Molder.

Eric Dafoe is a 72-year-old local climber and retiree. After a 30-year career in Rogers Pass working as a Park Warden for 20-years and Avalanche Control for 12, Dafoe was due for his choice of a relaxing retired life after his busy career, but his service work in the outdoors continues even in retirement.

Eric Dafoe looks out over Lake Revelstoke from the top of Waterworld. (Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)
Eric Dafoe looks out over Lake Revelstoke from the top of Waterworld. (Zachary Delaney/Revelstoke Review)

“Well, it was a conscious choice,” said Dafoe of his ongoing work, standing high above the cliffs of Waterworld, a climbing area he helped develop that overlooks Lake Revelstoke.

Dafoe has helped add a degree of professionalism to the climbing around Revelstoke. After helping develop routes with Beglinger in the many locations around town, Dafoe has worked with the Revelstoke Climbing Access Society and Recreation Sites and Trails British Columbia to spruce up the staging areas.

“The areas were developed before I retired, and I decided to get involved with the Access Society and see if we can make some improvements,” said Dafoe.

He took me to the Big Eddy Boulders — a climbing area on Westside Rd. The climbing locale has a parking lot, a sign outlining routes, a washroom, picnic tables, and garbage cans, which were all the result of Dafoe’s work. When they first examined the area, it was filled with garbage. Dafoe explained that on days when the landfill was closed the space was often used as a dump site. He and a group of volunteers cleared out the space over a few days and many loads to the landfill.

The Big Eddy Boulder zone is just one example of the work Dafoe has done to legitimize climbing spaces. Other examples can be found at any of the climbing sites with washrooms, which is also another job that Dafoe has taken on: cleaning washrooms.

“So far, I’ve done the majority of the toilet cleaning. And I got the system down. I whine about it every now and again and I don’t plan to do it for the rest of my life, but when you get down to doing it, the task isn’t that hard,” said Dafoe.

Dafoe doesn’t do the work for recognition; he just wants the sites to be the best that they can be for the people who use them. Still, he enjoys it when his work doesn’t go unnoticed.

“I certainly feel good every time somebody tells me they appreciate the work that I’ve been doing and what the Climbers Access Society has been doing,” he said.

When he isn’t applying for grants to pay for new recreation sites or cleaning rural washrooms, Dafoe still gets plenty of time climbing. He often climbs with Beglinger or Molder, and sometimes both. When Dafoe climbs with Molder, the two often develop new routes or refurbish old ones.

Dr. Cam Molder works at the Selkirk Medical Group clinic in Revelstoke. Molder has been in town since the early 90s, which is also when he started climbing more frequently. If Molder isn’t in the clinic, he can most likely be found by going to the nearest climbing zone and looking up. He’s probably the one with goggles, a face mask, a hammer, and a drill, and will likely be covered in a thick layer of dust.

(Photo by Cam Molder)
(Photo by Cam Molder)

Molder spoke about the work he was doing as he sat in the shade outside of his home after a day of climbing in late May.

“Just building new routes and redeveloping old ones that have sort of been abandoned or super old,” said Molder.

A route needs to be redeveloped when a route is developed but not climbed frequently. The expression “a rolling rock gathers no moss,” is probably the best analogy to understand how it happens. Routes are created by someone who liked the line, but then they moved on, moved away, or forgot about it. The longer the route sits untouched, the more moss gathers on the holds. With no one climbing, the foliage grows, covering the rock and providing more opportunity for moss to grow.

Molder, with Dafoe’s help, revisits climbing sites that need some love and fixes them up. Redeveloping the routes involves pulling old anchors that have rusted, clearing moss off holds, removing loose rocks, and more. It’s an arduous process that Molder estimated takes 12 hours to complete per route, comprised of three four-hour sessions.

“It’s a ton of time and hot, dusty work,” said Molder.

He was torn between two motivations for taking on the challenge of cleaning up old routes.

“I’m as self-interested as anyone, I want to go climb fun routes,” he said initially, but later Molder admitted that the real satisfaction comes from seeing others enjoying the areas that he helped develop or fix.

Begbie Falls Wall was one of the examples he gave.

“I go there and there’s people there all the time now. So that’s great. That’s the most gratifying thing honestly, is to go back and you see people there,” he said.

The people on the walls that Molder sees when he returns to the locations he’s refurbished are indicative of the growth that the climbing community in Revelstoke has experienced. Molder spoke about how the community has changed in the time he’s been here.

“There was no visitors for rock climbing back then. But now we run into people that are from all over Western Canada and trying to find the routes looking at the guidebook,” said Molder.

Having climbed all over the world, Beglinger attributed part of the growth to Revelstoke’s ballooning reputation as an adventure hub. He also said it had a lot to do with what was available to climb around Revelstoke.

“I think because we have everything here. Everything from easy to hard sports [routes], single pitch to very long routes,” said Beglinger.

Regardless of what’s bringing the visitors to Revelstoke, Molder predicted that sport climbing will be the future of Revelstoke climbing.

“I think there’ll be a few new areas that’ll pop up. But hopefully the existing areas will be revitalized and become more popular,” he said.

Molder also expressed optimism for further growth in the community should the longstanding rumours of a climbing gym ever come to fruition.

The benefit of a climbing gym is how it helps climbers learn the ropes (literally) at a young age. One of Dafoe’s sons lives in Edmonton, AB, where his daughter takes climbing lessons at a local gym. Dafoe expressed hope that he’d get to climb with her so that they could climb a route that he and Molder named after her on the Hooper wall.

As the architects of the climbing around Revelstoke, Beglinger, Dafoe, and Molder are just a few of the people who have helped to build the climbing community.

With all the mountains surrounding the town, it seems inevitable that Revelstoke would be a climbing destination, so seeing the growth in popularity is a positive thing. Beglinger feels that Revelstoke is now among the best places to rock-climb in Canada.

Perhaps all the region needed was someone(s) to show the way.

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Zach Delaney

About the Author: Zach Delaney

I came to the Revelstoke Review from Ottawa, Ontario, where I earned a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University.
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