Top Skaha Climbs

20 Amaz­ing Routes Un­der 5.11 Plus 10 Hard Routes

Gripped - - FEATURE - Pho­tos by Tim Ban­field

Skaha is a world-class climb­ing desti­na­tion with over 100 cliffs, of which over 60 have routes. The steep walls sit on the east­ern edge of Skaha Lake in the heart of B.C.’s Okana­gan Val­ley. For decades, climbers have been trav­el­ling from all over North Amer­ica to hang from split­ter cracks and off tiny edges in the par­al­lel canyons that make up Skaha Bluffs Pro­vin­cial Park. From well-bolted 5.5 sport routes to runout 5.14 trad climbs, there is some­thing for ev­ery­one. De­spite new routes be­ing cleaned and de­vel­oped ev­ery year, a few routes stand out as the routes you must first climb be­fore ex­plor­ing the off-piste lines.

Skaha is climber friendly in that there are signs that tell you where the crags are lo­cated and how to get to them. The trails are wellused and the walls have iden­ti­fi­able fea­tures that set them apart from oth­ers. A few years ago, a new park­ing lot opened at the south end of the park. Be­ing a pro­vin­cial park, there are a num­ber of rules so be sure you read the in­for­ma­tion boards in the park­ing lots.

The rock was formed over two-bil­lion years ago and is some of the old­est i n B.C. It is an in­ter­est­ing area for ge­ol­o­gists and climbers should take note of the area’s amaz­ing for­ma­tions. The stone is coarse-grained gneiss and on many walls, it ap­pears to be made for climb­ing with small roofs and small fea­tures that pro­trude slightly from the wall. The fric­tion is good and rock qual­ity solid, though on new routes small f lakes can some­times break.

Some of the first climbs were es­tab­lished nearly 50 years ago, but it was in 1987 that lo­cals Howie Richard­son and Bob Cuth­bert first ex­plored the Great White wall, Doc­tors’ Wall, Red Tail and the Fortress. The first bolts were placed in 1988 as an­chors for Slow Pitch, but it wasn’t un­til 1990 when climbers Dean Hart, Randy Atkin­son and Josh Kor­man in­tro­duced mod­ern sport routes. Two years later, Hugh Len­ney ar­rived with stick clips, epoxy and a chisel and changed Skaha for­ever. Over the years, many hard routes have been added, but it con­tin­ues to be a great place for 5.10 and 5.11 climbers to spend their time. While there are hun­dreds of sport routes, there are also count­less three-star tra­di­tional and mixed routes.

The fol­low­ing 20 routes are a mix of favourite old crack climbs and re­cently bolted sport routes. For you senders out there, check out the list of Skaha’s hard­est routes on the fol­low­ing page.

Left: Sam Lambert on Wings of De­sire 5.11b on the Great White wall

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