Northern Ontario Has a New Bouldering Area—Some Consider it World Class
"The Nooks will be the next big destination for GTA climbers to get a taste of what being ‘disconnected’ and climbing in nature feels like. [Plus] the climbing is GOOD—really good.”
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Located just north of Elliot Lake, Ontario, roughly six-hours by car from both Toronto and Grand Rapids, Michigan, The Nooks was found in 2018 by guidebook author and developer Brendan Baars. The main area of The Nooks, called Gold Mine, “will have 300-400 problems if fully developed,” Baars told Climbing in an email, and he believes there is more untapped potential nearby. The area could be a boon for Canadian climbers tired of the crowds at Niagara Glen and stone-poor Michigan climbers like Baars.
“In recent years, climbing has exploded in the Greater Toronto area (GTA),” Toronto climber and coach Dillon Elliot told Climbing in an email. “Our options for large-scale, high-quality bouldering haven’t changed much since the 90’s. … The Nooks will be the next big destination for GTA climbers to get a taste of what being ‘disconnected’ and climbing in nature feels like.” Plus, he adds, “the climbing is GOOD—really good.”
The Nooks is remote, and its season is short, but it still has some of the highest quality rock in Ontario—so good, in fact, that it’s been referred to by some as “little Squamish.” Gus Alexandropoulos, a longtime climber, developer, and owner of OntarioClimbing.com noted that people had previously recognized the climbing potential in the area, but “what hasn’t existed [were] individuals willing to put in the work” to develop in such a remote location.
Baars first became interested in the region’s potential after two friends—fellow Michigan climbers Charlie Hall and Aaron Bopp—reported being floored by the sheer quantity of rock up there. He began pouring over satellite images and topographical maps, searching for rock along Highway 546 in Ontario. Baars and his friends crossed the border and snowshoed around, eventually finding the zone that would later be called Gold Mine West. They did significant development and trail work in 2019 but were stymied the next year by COVID.
Southern Ontario climber Danny Plonka told Climbing in an email that he first heard about Baars’ development at The Nooks on Mountain Project, but “at that time, it was really hard to tell if it was going to be very good or not.” On a trip west in summer 2020, Plonka and a friend decided to see the area for themselves. “Well, we discovered quickly that these guys knew what they were talking about and had found a new world-class bouldering location. … The rock quality up there is amazing and a nice change from Southern Ontario limestone.” During that 2020 season, when Baars was unable to cross the border due to the pandemic, Plonka and other Canadians helped to maintain trails and establish more lines. When the border opened back up in August 2021, Brendan and his friends were able to enter back into Canada, joining the Canadians and continuing to develop and send. It was during this time the video above was filmed.
Seasons: Mid/Late April–Early June (though beware the black flies); August–October
Guidebook: The Nooks Bouldering by Brendan Baars