The Revelstoke Rocks guidebook lists 282 climbs spread out over 13 crags, cliffs and walls. It’s a compilation of all the routes that have been formally established since Dean Flick bolted Bifacial Retouch at the Begbie Bluffs in 1991.
People had been rock climbing in Revelstoke since at least the 1960s, but Flick’s endeavour sparked an explosion in route development that is ongoing, with avid climbers scouting the woods for new cliffs to climb and explore.
Here’s a look at three of the newer areas to be established.
The Victor Lake Wall
It was Dean Flick who first realized the potential of the Victor Lake Wall. The 360 vertical metre wall towers over the Trans-Canada Highway and CP Rail tracks west of Revelstoke. It’s the wall that Ruedi Beglinger, the dean of Revelstoke rock climbing, calls The Grand Wall of Revelstoke. Flick, for years, worked on a route up the wall dubbed, fittingly, The Mission. With 13 pitches and a 5.11b rating, the route opened up the Victor Lake Wall to climbing in 2007.
From there, Beglinger took over, putting up 10 routes in the intervening years. “I wanted (Dean) to finish up the first route, the Mission, before I jumped on it,” he told me.
Beglinger’s first route up the wall was Ninth Symphony, a 5.11c he established with the help of Flick and Eric Dafoe. His latest is Revelstoke Arete, which was still being worked on at time of writing. His favorite is Mystery, a 5.12c that goes straight up the middle of the wall.
“The route should make sense, following a natural line or terrain features that link smoothly,” he said. “It is like a song you write, or a musical. On the end it all has to harmonize, the route has to have a dynamic flow.”
The comparison to music is reflected in the route names like Ninth Symphony and Vertical Poetry.
For Beglinger, the key to a strong route is one that stays consistent the whole way up. The last route he completed was Vertical Poetry, a 5.10b that is the easiest on the wall.
“That route together with Mystery will give you the biggest feel of being on a big wall for climbing,” he said.
The Hardman Bluffs
PHOTO: Manuela Arnold climbs at the Hardman Bluffs. Photo contributed by Ryan Willams.
The Hardman Bluffs don’t provide the epic, big-wall climbing of Victor Lake. What they do offer is a wide variety of multi-pitch climbing high above a valley overlooking the Upper Arrow Lake.
“When we got there we got super excited walking back and forth acrose the cliff and scoping out the lines,” Ryan Williams told me. “It’s a big cliff.”
Williams, along with his brother Nick and wife Manuela Arnold, have been developing routes on the bluffs since they first laid eyes on it in 2011. They recently released the first guide to the area to the Revelstoke Climbing Coop Facebook group.
They waxed poetic about both the quality of the rock, as well as the setting. It’s about 30 kilometres south of town on Highway 23, plus seven kilometres of logging road and a few minutes of hiking before you pop out on top of the cliffs.
“You’re walking through the forest and then you pop out and get these gorgeous views down south,” said Manuela.
“It’s right on the edge of the valley,” added Ryan. “It feels like you’re walking off this face.”
So far, the trio have established 26 routes, most of which feature two pitches. They have plans to set up about 100 pitches of climbing when all is said and done.
“It’s super exciting, the whole process. Crashing around in the bush, looking for these crags, finding a lot of junk and finally finding something really good. It’s investing a lot of time and effort,” said Nick. “Hopefully people get out there and climb what we’ve done.”
The Jordan River Bluffs
Photo by David Sproule.
David Sproule first laid eyes on the Jordan River Bluffs more than 10 years ago, not long after moving to Revelstoke. He stared at the big cliff line form Turtle Mountain, across the Jordan River.
The bluffs lie on the flank of Frisby Ridge, accessed via a short hike through the woods from the forestry road that leads to the famous mountain bike trail.
On his first visit, Sproule hiked in and rappelled down the face. He couldn’t believe the quality of the rock. “I called the first route Gold Rush,” he said. “It’s good quality quartzite.”
He and his friend Darek Glowacki have been working on the area since 2008 and they’re just about ready to go public with a route map of the wall on the Revelstoke Rocks website.
“We’re working on a three-pitch rim and we’ve got about 16 pitches of climbing — mostly sport, some mixed,” Sproule said. “It’s a quality crag.”
Work on the wall has been slow and deliberate, with the two balancing work and family with establishing new routes. It’s taken hundreds of hours to develop what’s there, Sproule estimates.
“It’s pretty rewarding, taking a blank canvas and creating this network of routes and rapp lines and ledges,” he said.
The routes range in difficulty from 5.8 to 5.10d. “It’s adventurous mixed climbing,” he said.
There’s potential for many more routes, including longer ones starting lower down, and harder ones up high. Sproule said he’ll leave those to others.