Rock Climbing around Quadra Island
Alongside our beautiful beaches and rolling hills Quadra has a lot of rocky shoreline and craggy rock outcrops so it's no surprise that there is some excellent rock climbing to be found. Climbers have been exploring the bluffs on Quadra, Cortes and the neighbouring Discovery Islands since at least the 1980s. Breton Island, the Gorge on Cortes Island and the crags at Morte Lake all have some history going back more than 35 years.
Over the past few years a renewed effort has resulted in the development of over 260 climbing routes and a few dozen boulder problems, adding to the incredible recreation opportunities of the island and drawing climbers from further afield.
The crags are well equipped for a safe and enjoyable climbing experience. The majority of the climbs are bolt-protected 'sport' climbs. Most of the anchors are set up with more traditional climbing practices in mind, meaning that it's expected that a leader will belay a second climber from the top anchor and the team will then descend by walking off or rappelling.
Very few climbs are set up gym-style with over-the-edge-anchors for lead & lower. This suits the character of the crags and ledges, is the intent of the developers to fit with the multi-pitch route skills and experiences found here, and does facilitate easier access for setting top ropes. Bring slings and locking carabiners and be prepared to set up your own equalized anchors.
The high quality of the rock, the interesting, positive holds and stunning, scenic aesthetic of the Quadra Crags make for one of the best rock climbing areas in the Vancouver Island region.
Guidebook: a detailed local guidebook is a available from Wild Isle Publications by mail order or locally on Quadra Island at Book Bonanza in Quathiaski Cove or the Yak Shack in Heriot Bay. Be sure to check the Updates Page for new routes established since the guidebook was printed and the GPS Trax page for downloadable gps tracks for the crag access paths.
These web pages give just a sample and some updates to the complete information detailed in the Quadra Island Rock Climbs guidebook. The latest edition (edition 4, 2018) is an all new, full colour version. 128 pages packed with photographs, photo-topos and information on all the climbing at Chinese Mountains and around Quadra Island.
Please Support the Local Bolt Fund
Donations of bolts & hangers are very welcome to support the development of this very promising climbing area. A donation of $100 will buy 12 bolts + hangers and belay anchors, enough to equip one route, but any contribution is appreciated.
Either use the PayPal button right, e-transfer your contribution to email@example.com or purchase your bolts from MEC and ship your donation of 3 inch 3/8" stainless steel wedge bolts and/or hangers to: Quadra Climbers c/o PO Box 280 Quathiaski Cove BC V0P 1N0
The climbing on Quadra Island will especially appeal to moderate climbers. The majority of the established routes are between 5.7 to 5.10 with just a handful of lines harder than 5.11. There are some outstanding hard lines waiting to be sent though, just takes someone to come, clean, equip and climb them!
The routes break down into the following range of grades:
<5.5 • 15 routes
5.6 • 10 routes
5.7 • 34 routes
5.8 • 47 routes
5.9 • 48 routes
5.10- • 46 routes
5.10+ • 30 routes
5.11 • 20 routes
5.12+ • 3 routes
The average length of the routes is ~28m mostly single pitch that can be top roped with a 60m rope. But there are some longer climbs too especially at The Great Wall and at Eagle Crag which has a couple of dozen routes between 45 & 60m some climbed as 2 or 3 pitches.
Here's a short video produced by Arc'teryx about a special climbing week on Quadra Island,
The geology of Quadra Island is mainly a mix of volcanic rock types. The south west part of the island is comprised of the characteristic reddish-brown Karmutsen Formation basalt, similar to the rock found at Crest Creek Crags and Comox Lake and all over neighbouring Vancouver Island, noted for its rounded pillow-lavas and pyroclastic features.
To the centre of Quadra (including Morte Lake & Chinese Mountains) are andesites of the Upper Triassic Karmutsen Formation which range in surface colour and texture from dark-almost-black weathered rock with coarse porphyritic crystals to smooth lighter grey, even red rock on the steeper outcrops.
Cutting across the island from the northwest at Kanish Bay down to Open Bay and forming most of the eastern shoreline is the familiar coastal granodiorite (granite) and quartz diorite similar to that found in Squamish. There is a small band of Quatsino formation limestone in the centre of the island but there are no outcrops suitable for climbing and regardless the sensitive karst eco-system is protected from any development.
Climbers love to camp as part of their climbing adventures and Quadra Island has some wonderful, affordable campgrounds in pretty oceanfront settings with good facilities including close proximity to grocery stores, pubs and restaurants. The closest campgrounds to the crags are at the Heriot Bay Inn, Taku Resort and the We Wai Kai campsite near Rebecca Spit. There is also camping at TsaKwaLuten Lodge.
Find more information on the campgrounds here>
For ninja camping please do not camp or park overnight at the trailhead parking lots. The best place for free, out of the way camping is at Beaver Lake which is just 2.8 kilometres further north on Hyacinthe Bay Road on the right at the major junction with Granite Bay Road. This is Crown Land so in theory it should be fine to stay there.
There are no facilities at Beaver Lake at all, including no toilets so PLEASE deal with your waste responsibly. Dig a cat hole back up in the forest, well away from the lake, and pack your toilet paper and any other waste products away. If littering and faeces ends up all over the place the privilege of camping here is certain to be curtailed. Please respect the place, look after it and the locals will do our best to eventually make this camp legit.
Make sure you find out in advance about the current fire ban status and note that the local fire department has the authority to impose fire restrictions including bans irrespective of the Provincial Fire Control Centre. A wildfire on Quadra could be devestating, don't take risks with fires.
New Route Development & Safety
The Chinese Mountains - Morte Lake area is a very popular recreation area used by hundreds of hikers, mountain bikers, mushroom-pickers and other recreationalists all year round. It is also home to a variety of wildlife including wolves, deer, cougar, turkey vultures and other birds. Climbers should be sensitive to both the experience of others and to the eco-systems found in and around the bluffs. By following a few guidelines hopefully climbing will continue to be one of the welcome activities in this important area of Quadra Island.
• Do not disturb or interact with wildlife in any way and respect any crag closures. Failure to do so may jeopardize all climbers' ability to use these crags. It is each climber's responsibility to check for current closures - this web site is one source.
• Avoid overly conspicuous cleaning next to the main hiking trails.
• Choose lines that are already naturally clean and avoid disturbing large areas of moss and wildflowers unnecessarily.
• Keep to obviously travelled paths to access top anchors and when hiking between the crags to minimize the impact to vegetation and wildlife.
• Respect other recreational users and groups.
• If scaling loose rock, ensure that no other people are in the vicinity.
• Only use stainless steel hardware: bolts (3/8” diameter x 3” long minimum), hangers, maillons, chains etc... DO NOT MIX stainless steel with regular mild steel.
- Thanks, see you at the crags!
Ask the locals questions and find out what's new at our Quadra Climbers FaceBook Group>
Further out from Quadra on the Outer Discovery Islands there is a lot of great looking rock on the King Islets, Dunsterville Island, the south west tip of Read Island in Read Island Marine Park as well as up in Hoskyn Channel. Beyond though things just get silly. Sonora Island, Bute Inlet, Toba Inlet and the Coast Mountains have vast climbing potential from ocean shoreline right up to the 4,000m (13,000ft) peaks of the Coast Range Mountains.