Climbing Vancouver Island - Canada

Outdoor rock climbing near Victoria, BC

Live on Vancouver Island and want to go rock climbing outdoors? There are a lot of places to discover, but this list should get you started climbing near Victoria, Nanaimo, Campbell River and beyond.

This post was last updated in July 2018. If you have any corrections, shoot me an email or leave a comment below.

An evening after work in Victoria

Fleming Beach

Fleming Beach climbing (Victoria BC)
Bernard bouldering while the muggles look on.

Known for: Top rope (easily accessible anchors); Bouldering (long traverses)
Location: 10 minutes – Macaulay Point Park (Esquimalt)
Guidebook: Climber’s Guide Vancouver Island South (MEC)

Heading to Fleming Beach with your first rope is a right of passage for new  climbers.

When you only have an hour or so to kill, bouldering is a great option. It’s fun to grab some takeout, watch the spectacular sunsets over the ocean and see how many laps of the “Jane Fonda Traverse” you can pull off.

Saturday afternoon

Mt. Wells – South Cliffs

Erynne at the top of Mt. Wells. Mt MacDonald in the background. Photo by Perruzzo. Go check out his work by clicking on this photo. He's amazing.
Erynne at the top of a climb on Mt. Wells with Mt McDonald in the background. Photo by Peruzzo.

Known for: Mostly sport 5.6 – 5.10+
Location:  30 minutes – Goldstream / Langford
Guidebook: Climber’s Guide Vancouver Island South (MEC)

School Yard is a great place for beginner lead climbers. After you’ve got the basics down, there are some 5.9s and 5.10s over at Cosmic Lights. There is also a notably fun 5.8 finger crack that you can set up on top rope.

There is a ton of other climbing at Mt. Wells: mostly harder sport and trad. Check out the guidebook for info.

Mt. McDonald

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Audrey climbing Vampire in the Sun (5.9) on Mt. McDonald. Photo by Rick Wood.

Known for: Sport (One 5.9, Mostly 5.10-5.11), Mixed (5.10s), Trad (5.7-5.10)
Location:  30 minutes – Goldstream / Langford
Guidebook: Climber’s Guide Vancouver Island South (MEC)

Once you’re leading 10s, many climbers cross the road and hike up to Mt. McDonald. In addition to enjoying some great climbs, you can watch all the crowds scrambling around on Mt. Wells.

Glen Lake Crag

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Hannahbess and Arthur packing up after an afternoon of climbing on Dirt Stamp Wall.

Known for: Sport (5.7-5.11)
Location: 25 minutes – Langford
Guidebook: Free guide and aerial photo. It’s also in Climber’s Guide Vancouver Island South (MEC). Check the Glenn Lake Facebook group for the newest info.

It’s so exciting to have more moderate climbs so close to town. The routes we tried this weekend were fun, sustained and well protected. Can’t wait to go back again.

Best for small, quiet groups as parking is in a residential area & the belay areas haven’t been cleared much yet.

Day trip

Nanaimo: Sunny Side

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Rhea climbing (what I think is) Dink Charmer (5.9)

Known for: Sport (5.7 – 5.12)
Location: 90 minutes – Just before Nanaimo
Guidebook: Nanaimo Crags (VPO in Nanaimo or the Romper Room)

Sunny Side is just that — full of sun!  It is a  good place to climb in the spring before it gets too hot.  Or once summer hits, you can always cool down with a swim in the Nanaimo River.

The Dark Side is another popular area right across the river. It is cool, shady network of paths that weave between the rock walls, tall trees and handmade steps.

Weekend

Salt Spring Island

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Hannahbess climbing Why Go North (5.9)

Known for: Sport (Mostly 5.7-5.10)
Location:  2 hours (Requires a ferry from Sidney)
Guidebook:  Salt Spring Rockclimbs (MEC)

Conglomerate: the pebbly rock everyone loves to hate. But the views from Mt. Maxwell are fantastic. Beautiful camping at Ruckle Provincial Park. Delicious food at the Tree House Cafe.

And there’s bouldering too!

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Bernard working on a project that I wish was a bit closer to the ground.

Long weekend

Quadra Island

Al climbing Two Crows Walked Into A Bar
Alois climbing Two Crows Walked Into A Bar (5.8)

Known for: Sport (Mostly 5.5-5.10)
Location:  4 hours (Requires a ferry from Campbell River)
Guidebook:  Quadra Island Rock Climbs (Online or at MEC)

This is hidden gem that won’t stay that way for long. Quadra was on the cover of Gripped last year. This year was also the first Quadra Outdoor Festival that brought 50-60 climbers to the area on one day (maybe a record?).

If heading straight to the pub after climbing is your thing, consider camping at Herriot Bay Inn. I prefer the much quieter We Wai Kai campground.

Crest Creek

Bernard getting ready to climb Gypsy Eyes (5.8)

Known for: Mostly mixed, trad  (5.7-5.10) . Almost everything can also be climbed on top rope.
Location:  4.5 hours — Near Gold River
Guidebook
: Crest Creek Rock Climbs. (MEC)

This is the most beautiful crag I’ve ever seen: handcrafted wooden steps, comfortable belay platforms and meticulously maintained trails.

The top of almost every route is easily accessible by clear paths and anchors set far back from the edge. When I was starting out, I learned to top rope here. Now I am becoming more comfortable with trad climbing as I test myself on mixed routes (“A BOLT! YAY!”).

Camping is available at Buttle Lake.  No cell phone coverage near camping or climbing.

Where else?

Phil Stone has a complete list of Vancouver Island & Gulf Island crags on his site. You can also check out Alpine Select if you want to venture out into the Island Alps.

Where do I learn to climb?

Here is where I learned! Feel free to add your favourite gyms / guides / companies in the comments.

  • Crag X — Lessons for top rope belay, lead belay and more. Love this gym and am very grateful for their ongoing support.
  • Squamish Rock Guides — I’ve taken their lead, trad and multipitch courses. Excellent experiences each time.
  • Island Alpine Guides — I’ve never taken a course with them, but I know they are well-respected.  I love their online instructional videos too.

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