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Calabogie

Between a Rock and a Cold Place — Ottawa’s Rock & Ice Climbing

By Sam Chilton

Who says this time of year is just about hibernation or hitting the slopes? Rock climbing is a great way to stay active and have a blast in the colder months. The region is home to three comprehensive indoor rock-climbing gyms and a wealth of frozen cliffs for every level of climber. Whether you wish to harness the wild in wilderness, or tackle standing puzzles safe from sub-zero temperatures, Ottawa-Gatineau can rock your world.

Photo and featured photo: Kristina Corre

Coyote Rock Gym

Coyote is Ottawa’s oldest climbing gym and a go-to for beginners and advanced climbers alike. Housing an impressive array of climbing walls and programs for adults and youth, it also has five areas dedicated to bouldering — short, artificial rock walls where one can focus on technique without the aid of ropes or harnesses. 1737-B St. Laurent Blvd., coyoterockgym.ca

Vertical Reality

Vertical Reality’s walls tower 54 feet high, and features climbable edges, ceilings, and a number of overhangs. This gym focuses on intermediate to advanced top rope and lead climbing, but there are plenty of options for beginners. Hone your chops on the “Moonboard,” a universal training wall set at a 40-degree angle, with an accompanying app and website that allows users from all over the world to climb and train on the same problems. 161 Middle St., Victoria Island, verticalreal.com

Photo: Marc Fowler – Metropolis Studio

Altitude Gym

This gym operates two locations, each with themed climbing routes, a day camp for kids, and an emphasis on family fun. The Gatineau location has something for everyone: 100 different climbing routes up to 45 feet high and 2,000 square feet of bouldering. It sports Willy Wonka-inspired walls, ladders, ropes, and aerial installments for soaring across and above the gym, Tarzan-style.

Altitude’s Kanata location is a brand new bouldering oasis with a stretch of walls specifically designed with kids and beginners in mind, and one for advanced climbers running parallel. “Ninja Warrior,” a parkour-style obstacle course, features foam fixtures, nets, monkey bars, and swinging platforms. 35 Saint-Raymond Blvd., Gatineau &  501 Palladium Dr., Kanata, altitudegym.ca

Photo: iStock-Slmonker

Ice Climbing

For true thrill-seekers, the Ottawa region also offers a number of breathtaking destinations for ice climbing. Just north of Ottawa are 64 spots across the Eardley Escarpment, forming the south-western boundary line of Gatineau Park. This includes the 100-metre stretch of Luskville Falls, which is transformed into a dense, climbable expanse come winter. South-west of Ottawa, Calabogie possesses a handful of favourites — cliffs boasting ice consistently two to three meters thick, and a swathe dubbed “The Green Fang,” the steepest and most dependable ice in the area.

Access to many of these areas is limited due to the dangerous nature of the sport. It goes without saying (or it should) that this is incredibly weather dependent. Knowledgeable guides curate training opportunities and weekend excursions from the Ottawa chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada. alpineclubottawa.ca