Newfoundland’s Flatrock Climbing Festival

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Living the high life in Newfoundland and Labrador

Far from the Rocky Mountains, out on the eastern edge of the country you’ll find the small but busy Newfoundland and Labrador Section of the ACC. On one weekend in August, at one of the most unique and spectacular climbing crags in Canada, you’ll find the annual Flatrock Climbing Festival – the biggest event in Newfoundland climbing. This year’s festival ran Saturday August 16. The seaside cliffs in the fishing village of Flatrock, Newfoundland, 30km north of St. John’s, were first identified as a potential crag in the early 1990s by a very small group of local climbers and have been used and developed ever since by the growing local climbing community. It has become the prime climbing area in the province with more than 40 routes on four different crags as well as plenty of bouldering set in dramatic coastal scenery.


About the festival

The first Flatrock Fest was organized four years ago by the Wallnuts Climbing Centre. When the local section of the Alpine Club of Canada was formed in 2012, they took over the organization of the event which has now successfully completed its 4th annual event.

This ACC NL festival is not only a great summer gathering for climbers but it’s also been very successful as a public outreach event by inviting everyone with an interest in climbing to come out. Flatrock Festival has plenty to offer the experienced climber as well as beginners and first timers and it’s a great opportunity for those who want to transition from the gym to the crag to get a taste of outdoor climbing with some supervision.


Each year the event gets bigger with more climbers, more clinics and more sponsors. This year saw more than 150 people attend which is close to capacity for the small number of volunteers.


Planning the event

Chief Organizer Keely Whitelaw and her merry band of volunteers start planning the festival three months in advance. They set the dates, contact sponsors, select routes and organize what they can ahead of the event. Closer to the date the organizing team moves and sets up tents, barbecues, two dozen ropes and anchor hardware for the climbing as well as enough shoes and harnesses for beginners. Everything has to be carried down the tricky scree strewn approach to the ocean side flat rocks


Set-up and logistics

The day before the festival, the “Rope Guns” set up camp at the crag and begin the task of building anchors and hanging ropes on more than 20 routes that have to be ready for the morning of the event. On Saturday morning at the trail head everyone is encouraged to pitch in and haul in a little something extra.

All participants are given a route map with photos and difficulty rating and experienced ACC volunteers are at each route to belay, give beta, provide basic instruction and ensure everyone climbs safely. The routes themselves range from a beginners 5.6 to the challenging 5.13 and everything in between. Flatrock may not have the tallest routes but it does offer difficulty and challenge for the experienced climber. This year there was also a small rappel station set up to give people the opportunity to try this and learn safe rappel skills.


Partners and athletes attending

The big coup for the festival this year was having Black Diamond athlete and tech rep, J.P Ouellet, attend and give clinics for climbers who are beginning to trad climb. This was arranged through long time festival sponsor The Outfitters, who are the Black Diamond dealer in Newfoundland.


Shoes and harnesses were provided by Wallnuts Climbing Centre from their rental pool and lots of goodies were donated for prizes and swag bags by Black Diamond, Metolius, Flashed, Wallnuts and Rock and Ice magazine.

So, if you find yourself in Newfoundland next August be sure to set aside a day for Flatrock and collect a memorable climbing experience.


Stay connected to climbing culture

You can keep in touch with the Newfoundland and Labrador Section through their website or Facebook page.

The section’s next big event is an overnight camping and ice climbing trip sometime in the dead of winter at Lance Cove on the Southern Shore. Bring your layers.