climbing newfie

Climbing in Newfoundland

Is this one of the world’s best kept secrets?

Newfoundland “is the biggest playground east of Banff on either side of the border,” says Michael Wejchert in Climberism magazine, but only came on the radar round about 2008 – ’til then it certainly had been a well kept secret. However, the ‘Rock’ as Newfoundland is fondly known by climbers, has some spectacular climbing, and it’s nickname hints at why…

Newfoundland rock climbing

This island, which sits off the east coast of Canada, is divided into 3 main geological zones: the Western, the Central and the Eastern Zone. The Western Zone is attached to the North American plate and has been for the past billion odd years. It is composed mostly of  limestone, granite and gneiss in the north, sandstone and shale in the south, and mafic (gabbro & diabase) to ultramafic (peridotite) as well as volcanic rocks around the central Corner Brook area.

The rocks from the Central Zone collided and joined with The Western Zone about 400 million years ago. They consist mostly of volcanic and metamorphic rocks.

And the Eastern Zone which is mainly sedimentary sandstones, shales and conglomerates also joined the North American Plate about 400 million years ago.

It is a fascinating area. Just imagine, some of the oldest rock in the world is in this area. The Torngat Mountains at Mount Razorback in Nachvak Fjord are 2,700 million years old!

Sport climbs with bolted protection are relatively few and far between.  However, there are now some good top rope locations such as Flatrock which has over 100 routes from the Main Face to a climb called Bloodbath – one can’t help but wonder why! This area offers everything from bouldering to Sport to Trad and TR. Something for everyone. Whereas Stile Coves has some classic boulder routes. There is also a wide choice of ice climbing.

Newfoundland ice climbing is still in its infancy as far as routes and history goes. There is plenty of ice. So much potential that it is hard to comprehend, but  there are no guidebooks, no anchors and no bolts. Purists, like Alden Pellett, say “ethics are no bolts, period. Let’s just avoid anyone thinking it’s ok to bring a drill.” The selection of possible climbs numbs the mind, but if you’re going up there for ice climbing you must not miss Double Penetration, Joe Terravecchia and company’s superb find. 800 ft of WI5 off a snow ramp – 60 metres of vertical ice and just about some of the best ice you’ll ever encounter! Above 60 metres the slope eases off a bit into another 60 metres of WI3 and 4 to the top and then there’s the long rappel down.

That’s just one climb. There are couloirs and chimneys, vertical climbs and more gradual routes, gnarly ice and sheet ice, all of it dripping and all of it very very cold.

“Newfoundland packs a punch” says Michael Wejchert. “In 4 days of climbing we got soaked, scared and more than we bargained for. The place puts you through the ringer. That’s the point. It’s the biggest playground east of Banff …”

Newfoundland also has incredible sea stacks. I did an article on them back in January and if you follow the link, it’ll take you to it…

If you take the time to watch the following video you will realise that getting to Newfoundland is a challenge in itself and the weather… well, that has a mind and fury all of its own. But once there and as long as the weather allows, the world’s your oyster…

Thanks to Ian Dorko for the video and photograph

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