As well as Penticton being one of BC’s prime destinations for sun, swimming and wine, it is also home to one of Canada’s best rock climbing areas – Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park.
A climbing mecca
One of those places that you probably wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking for it, the Bluffs has approximately 1000 climbs on 66 different cliffs hidden away above Skaha Lake.
Over 60% of these climbs are sport routes and hence it is particularly known as a sport climbing destination, though there are opportunities for traditional (trad) and mixed climbing as well. Climbing lingo aside, this basically means that Skaha rightfully attracts thousands of climbers every year from all over North America and further afield. The main climbing season in the Bluffs runs March-June and then September-October (most people find summer too hot), but some hardy locals climb all year round!
Jean Robert and I had never really climbed before we arrived in Penticton last summer. A few goes at a climbing gym or two, but no real solid experience. When we moved here however, it would have been silly not to take the opportunity and learn to climb (especially since we both work in an outdoor store and all), so we took a course with Skaha Rock Adventures and got things started.
Since then, we’ve been top-rope climbing (where we attach our rope to a fixed anchor point at the top of a cliff) just the two of us, with our neighbours and also with Jean Robert’s father who was visiting last week. One of the best things about climbing for me is that it’s such an accessible sport – once the initial equipment has been purchased (shoes, harness, rope, slings, carabiners, belay device, quickdraws if sport climbing), there are very few other costs involved.
One of my other favourite things is the beautiful places that is the Bluffs. Perched high above the water, you get little glimpses of the intensely blue lake, surrounding hills and Penticton itself from the hikes in and around the Bluffs. Within the Bluffs themselves, it is incredibly dry and hot. It rains so very occasionally here and when it does, the sun quickly dries everything within an hour or so. There are rattlesnakes here, of which JR has seen a couple at close quarters. Mountain goats also roam the area; they like to sit at the top of climbs or hide behind rocks and surprise both hikers and climbers.
A park for everyone
It is only a short ten minute drive from Penticton’s Main Street, but Skaha Bluffs honestly feels a world away. Even if you’re not a climber, I would honestly recommend a hike around this area for the views, rare wildlife, unique rock formations and added entertainment in the form of watching rock climbers!
Every time we go to the Bluffs, I think about how fortunate we are to have so many outdoor opportunities such a short distance from our front door. I am also reminded of this every time I speak to someone at the store who has travelled 500/1000/1500km just to come and climb in ‘my’ back garden! The best time to visit is spring or autumn, but keep in mind that long weekends (Easter, Victoria Day, Labour Day) are horrendously busy in the Bluffs and it is best to keep away on those days or you may find yourself in a climbing queue.