Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Skaha Rock

Skaha, located just outside of Penticton in the interior of British Columbia, is one of Western Canada's best single pitch rock climbing areas. In the spring and fall, when rain frustrates Squamish-bound weekend warriors from Vancouver, Skaha is the best option since it's only a four-hour drive from the city and features a tinder-dry climate. We spent our two-week spring break here this year, and had a peaceful, productive trip with generally cooperative conditions. Midweek, we had most of the cliffs to ourselves...

The Climbs - Most come to Skaha to sample the hundreds of high-quality sport climbs, but some excellent gear cracks lurk alongside the sheer faces. The hallmark Skaha route is a slightly off-vertical face climb, usually on crisp orange patina edges of varying sizes. However, the west-facing crags tend to be white, steep and covered in various flakes, edges and underclings providing a more physical climbing experience for those so inclined. The grade spectrum runs from bolted 5.5 to 5.13d with all grades well represented, making this a great place for novices, families and advanced climbers alike.

Amenities - Penticton, about a 10-minute drive from Skaha Bluffs, has all the amenities necessary for a comfortable road trip. Banburry Green is the go-to campground for climbers and is located in a beautiful setting on the west shore of Skaha Lake. Other campgrounds are available, as well as dozens of motels and hotels that service the summer tourist crowds. An awesome aquatic centre and a choice selection of local restaurants provide everything you need to be comfortable.

Seasons and Equipment- Most climbers visit Skaha in the spring and fall, with the months of April and September being the best. Summers are blast-furnace hot, although the locals rise very early and climb in the shade. Winters are cold and unsettled, although climbing is possible on the south-facing cliffs on calm, sunny afternoons. A 60-metre rope and 14 quickdraws is enough to do 75% of the routes in Skaha, but if you want to tackle the BIG sport routes on Great White, pack a 70-metre rope (at least) and another six draws. For the cracks, bring a standard rack with a full set of nuts and cams to 4". That should do it.

For climbers in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, Skaha provides a great short vacation option when rains dampen the coastal areas. And for those on more extended trips, Skaha makes a great stopover point where you can climb in BC's dry Okanagan climate and experience a wonderful park, great hiking trails and abundant wildlife in a very tranquil setting.

Marc Bourdon - Squamish, BC

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