Lion’s Head 101

Ask anyone about climbing in Lion’s Head and likely you’ll get one of three replies- Where is that? It’s so beautiful there! Isn’t it really hard to access?

Where is that?

Lion’s Head is nestled in a bay, that’s in a bay, on the Bruce Peninsula. It’s in Isthmus Bay, in the almighty Georgian Bay. The geology of the area is fascinating! A long long long time ago (400 million years give or take) the area that is now the Niagara Escarpment was a shallow tropical sea, home to crustaceans, living corals, and mollusks. As the sea dried, the minerals that dissolved in it became concentrated. Magnesium in the water was absorbed into the limestone, which then became a harder, slightly different sort of rock, called dolomite (thank you Parks Canada for the history lesson). Then a long long time ago (10,000 to 5000 years ago), water from melting glaciers flowed from the west (Lake Huron) and drained to the east (Georgian Bay) over the massive cliffs along the escarpment- that must have made for the most incredible waterfalls back then. Eventually, the water filled the bays and lakes, the waterfalls receded, and what we are left with are some pretty bitchin’ cliffs to climb that have some of the most amazing views.

If you’ve never been up to the Bruce Peninsula you need to go!. It’s an easy drive up Hwy 6, and that’s it. (It’s a really quiet place, there are pretty much no other roads!). Lion’s Head is one of the ‘bigger’ towns, with Tobermory at the tip of the peninsula. I could go on about the Flower Pot Islands, The Bruce Trail, Harvest Moon Bakery, and the Grotto, but this is about climbing!! So let’s get our hand sweat on 😉

It is so beautiful there!

Yes. Yes it is. The first time I went was to Halfway Log Dump, a bouldering spot in the Bruce Peninsula National Park. Turning off of Hwy 6 onto Emmet Lake Rd, it’s a nice 1km hike to the water. I wasn’t expecting the view when we arrived- the most gorgeous blue water I’ve seen outside of the Caribbean, and gleaming white rocky beach!

Taking a break after climbing The Kids Are Alright (V3) at Halfway Log Dump.

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How I Stay on the Wall


When I first started climbing a few years ago it actually came pretty easily. I had always been active and eager to try new activities, so I was excited for this new challenge. I loved it right away- I felt natural on the wall, and quickly moved through a few grades on top rope. Things were great, I was flagging and smearing and locking off and loving every minute of it. Within a few months I was flashing 5.10- pretty regularly, ready to take on any 5.10 with the same expectations. But it didn’t happen- it felt really hard all of a sudden! The holds felt super small, the beta was more technical, and I was pumped out. I was frustrated. Besides that, I was watching the other climbers and friends at the gym who seemed to flow through route after route, and it made me feel that I wasn’t doing well at all.

My stoke was gone! That glorious feeling that makes your hands sweat, even when you aren’t even at the gym! I didn’t want to be on the wall anymore.

I took a step back and thought about what was bugging me so much- compared to them maybe I wasn’t as good, but what does that mean anyway? Most athletic endeavours came easy to me and I expected to be able to move through each grade consistently, which if you think about it, meant that I should have been climbing about a 5.18+ after 5 years into it! So, once I shook that out of my head I realized I had some pretty unrealistic expectations!

I decided instead to consciously set goals. Realistic goals. I try to pick out a hard route that makes me think “Hey- I could do that!” and keep trying to get to the top as long as it’s up. Maybe there’s a route I think I can do but it ends up being a lot harder than it looks- and that’s ok, too. I realize that to reach some of these goals it may take longer than I want, but the more I practice and train and learn, the closer I get. Some are big, like lead climbing goals, and some are small, like pull up goals.

Before I was not managing my expectations well, and as a result I felt self-pressure and missed out on the confidence that allowed me to progress in my earlier days. Making a conscious effort to set realistic goals has made a huge difference in my trips to the gym. Talking to other climbers has also helped- realizing that this is a lifelong activity, not a race to the top. There’s so much to learn that I’ll always be able to improve- just one great thing in the long list of great things about this sport!

So, now my ego is in check, my confidence is back and I am feeling stronger than ever! And let’s just be frank- this is supposed to be for FUN!! Crazy thing is it has trickled into other things as well, and I try hard not to put that same pressure on work, family and life in general (that stuff is supposed to be fun, too!).


Me super stoked after finally flashing a 5.10+. This photo was from May 2014, and I’m still happily and humbly working on 5.11- climbs! Just try to keep me off the wall now….