Directly below the Latvian ledge is a large boulder just up from the shoreline, it is home to 3 good sport lines. The rock here is a little different than the main cliff as it is a little more popcorn like, making the routes fingery and sustained.
Warning: Although Lion’s Head is a treasure and highly regarded, it is not a forgiving venue with a longer-thanaverage approach, challenging terrain, complex geography and high winds. It is a serious undertaking and requires a skillset often not needed at other Ontario cliffs. Climbers should be proficient at rappelling, ascending a fixed line, rigging hanging belays, and self-rescue. Those doubting their abilities at these tasks should consider sampling some of the many other local crags that offer great climbing in a less committing environment. By investing the time developing your skills abroad, you, as a climber, will be ready to reap the dividends of exploring areas like Lion’s Head. The physical climbing is but a fraction of what it takes to competently excel while climbing here. Some of the original hand drilled bolts are over 20 years old and are in poor shape. Efforts are being made by a few volunteers to replace these anchors but it is happening at a slow pace. Hopefully, in the coming years, all of these time bombs will have been swapped out with reliable stainless hardware. As a result, climbers should inspect all fixed gear and use good judgment when choosing which lines to climb. For the hanging belays, standard practice is to bring 2 ropes, one lead rope and one rap line to leave fixed in place. This allows for a means of escape should the weather turn bad, should you find yourself on the wrong route, or are feeling weak. There is no sense in taking a “factor 2 fall” on a hanging belay - when rappelling to your station, take advantage of the opportunity to protect yourself from a fall factor 2 situation.. Hanging belays take more time than ground up routes, so plan accordingly to avoid climbing out in the dark. Bringing ascenders is a good idea if you are unsure of the route or your ability to climb it. If you find yourself unable to get up the route you are on, it is not then end of the world. Stay calm; you have a couple of options: if you have ascenders, simply jumar to the top; if you don’t, then you can rappel to the ground and hike to the Stinger Gulley to get back to the top. Be conscious of the route length and the amount of rope you have left at all times when rappelling or lowering. The cliff varies drastically in height from one section to the next; it may be possible to lower from one route with a 50m rope but a short distance away, the cliff may be too tall for even a 70m rope. Always knot the end of your rope when rappelling or lowering. Loose rock on routes is uncommon, falling rocks from hikers or belayers at the top is more of a hazard.
Some possible supplemental gear would include:
- two ropes, 70m preferred
- long slings and webbing for setting up natural anchors, e.g. 5m+.
- pulleys for hauling packs out
- extra personal anchor system
- extra rope for leaving a fixed asension line, either for a ledge you’re
climbing in or for a hanging belay route you’re leading
- 2-way radios, especially if you’re new to the area and on windy days
- comfortable harness for hanging belays
- comfortable climbing shoes if you’re new to hanging belays and
climbing moderate routes
Orientation: The routes are listed east and west of where the trail meets the cliff (Headspace). Climber’s right is always called west (towards town), and climber’s left is east. Because of the size of the cliff and the fact the trail travels the top, locating routes at Lion’s Head has always been a challenging endeavor. Previously, many first few visits would be spent peering over the edge wondering where the hell you are. A strong attempt has been made to reduce this through photos of rappel areas and including GPS coordinates. The hanging belays can add to the anxiety. On top of this, most routes with hanging belays require natural anchors to be built, so you must be well-versed and have the proper equipment before climbing a route that has a hanging belay station, whether it be on lead or toprope. However, many of the routes are accessible from the base. By doing a bit more hiking, it is possible to descend the Stinger gulley and climb all the non-hanging belay routes without doing any rappelling. Areas are described with 2 approach options, the rappel at the route method and the no-rappelling option of taking the Stinger Gulley. The Lion’s Head lookout is a great vantage point to locate many of the major walls. Be patient, do some exploring and don’t be afraid to ask a fellow climber for some directions, the pieces of the puzzle will eventually come together. It’s all a part of the Lion’s Head experience.
The Climbing: The climbing at Lion’s Head has something to offer everyone. The clean exposed walls serve up some of the best technical pocket climbing on the escarpment. The hanging belay routes with their exposed setting give a feeling of exhilaration not typically found on single pitch climbs. No other Ontario crag has so many high quality 5.10’s and 5.11’s. New route and trail development has opened a large number of ground-up routes for those that don’t want the cramped legs of hanging in a harness for hours at a belay. While most of the quality moderate lines have been done, every year, difficult new lines go up on the faces that once seemed impossible. New development has made Lions’ Head Eastern Canada’s premier destination for hard sport climbing. The reputation as a place where the hard routes are all vertical and fingery has been changed by new lines such as “Lion’s Head Express” and “Maxi Pista.” With their massive roofs, they offer hard, physically demanding sport climbing that is truly world class. There are also many classic crack lines and heady gear protected faces for the traditional climber to enjoy. While some of the more popular areas can be busy on summer weekends, it is always possible for those willing to hike a little further to find an area all to themselves. Some longer routes require up to 14 draws but 8 to 10 quickdraws will suffice for most sport routes. A standard trad rack tailored toward limestone placements in horizontals and pockets is suggested. Almost all of the ground-up lines now have top anchors unless they are too tall to be lowered from with a 70m rope. While pockets are the general theme, there is a distinct nature to the different walls. The walls that face a northerly direction tend to be a darker, less featured rock. The routes on these walls tend to be thin, balancy and more footwork intense. Good conditions are the key for the best friction on these walls. The walls that face a westerly direction are often more pocketed, steeper and on lighter colored rock. Many of the routes that start from the base climb through the lower more fractured band of rock. While much of this lower band is initially loose and broken, when cleaned up it usually offers solid overhanging climbing.
Access Status: Climbing is tolerated as a non-conforming use of the park. Lion's Head is a highly sensitive area. Please strive for minimal impact and maintain a low profile. All fixed protection should be camouflaged. Parking along south side of Moore Street is permitted. Do not disturb the cottagers. Approach via the Bruce Trail entrance.
Weather: The weather at Lion’s Head deserves special mention. Because the cliff faces northwest it doesn’t receive any sunshine until about 2 pm. Early and late season, the sun doesn’t come around until 4 or 5. This makes the climbing season a little shorter than most crags in Ontario. As a result many of the lines tend to seep a little later into the spring; once things dry up for the summer, conditions usually stay very good. Because of the exposure, the cliff dries incredibly fast after a rain. Another common annoyance is the strong winds off the bay that can make communication and rope management nearly impossible. On these frigid or windy days, White Bluff is a good alternative as it is more sheltered and faces a southerly direction getting early to mid-day sun. On the plus side, the things that make Lions Head’s climbing season shorter also make it one the most pleasant places to climb when the heat is unbearable everywhere else. Bugs are rarely an issue on the exposed hanging belay routes. At the base of the cliff and on the hike in, bugs are only a minor annoyance in May and June. Make sure you check hangers, nuts, and bolts, especially in the early season, as the freeze thaw pushes the nuts up and down on the bolts.
Approach: As you enter the town of Lion’s Head from the south turn right (east) on Moore Street, drive past the hospital to the designated Bruce Trail parking area. Do not park in the paved turnaround as some of the cottagers have an issue with this. From this parking area, walk east along Moore Street for 500m to a logging road with a gate (trail marked with blue Markers). Some people choose to park at this point. If you decide to park here, please keep noise to a minimum, don’t loiter at your car, and be friendly and respectful. The blue marked trail follows the logging road for about 750m then heads north on a wood chip covered path for another 750m. An alternate more scenic approach is to follow the white marked Bruce Trail out of the south side of the McCurdy Parkette parking area; this trail joins the Blue trail at the wood chipped section. After about a 20 minute hike, passing the Lion’s Head pothole feature on the way, you will arrive at the edge of the top of cliff. The route immediately to your left is “Headspace.” Take note and remember this area. When returning, especially when it’s darker, it’s easy to miss this area or lose sight of the trail out. - From Latvian ledge, scramble to the base at the east end, (or approach from the Stinger gulley). Locate a faint path that leads down and around the east end of the boulder to the start of the routes. Note: a second trail leads to the base of the routes from just below the Lion’s Head lookout.
From the town of Lion’s Head, the access trail to the Lion’s Head access trail is only a few minutes drive. White Bluff can be reached in about 10-15 minutes up north along Isthmus Bay Road. TV Tower is south, and is about a 20-30 minute drive from the town of Lion’s Head, depending on the condition of the final dirt road and the vehicle you have.