The Skaha Bluffs in Penticton, British Columbia are one of the premier climbing destinations in Canada. Penticton, Canada's Iron Man capital, is located in the Okanagan region, Canada's lake/wine district. Due to their arid climate, the Skaha Bluffs are ready to climb in spring and are also fantastic late in the fall.
Situated roughly in the middle of Calgary and Vancouver, Skaha is perfect distance from the major cities, attracting all kinds of climbers.
We recently did some spring climbing in the region, and these are the most useful items we took along.
Skaha isn't a huge climbing area, but there are many crags. Some of the approaches can be rather quick, but they are often on varied terrain of boulders in and out of valleys. Skaha can heat up fast, so you will want a super comfortable shoe that is breathable. The La Sportiva TX3 was the best shoe for the job. It features a rugged, grippy sole that sticks to everything. The body of the shoe is made with a mesh material that kept sweat moving out of the shoe. The TX3 is lightweight and felt great after wearing tight rock shoes. Better still, they were easy to take on and off with their genius back loop.
Dogs are welcomed at Shaka, but you will want to keep them on-leash because it is a provincial park, and also because there are rattlesnakes. Wherever rattlesnakes are, it’s sure to be hot, so keeping your pooch hydrated here is important. RMU's The Grrowler is an easy to use, perfectly designed portable dog water bowl. We found that fully unzipped, the collar could sit anywhere upright. If your dog doesn't finish the water you can easy pour it back into a water bottle to reuse at the next crag. It has a big clasp and is adjustable, and comes in two sizes, small and large, which will fit a variety of dogs.
Skaha features mostly sport climbing routes, making it a giant playground for those who want get strong. Having a super light harness will give you an edge. Petzl's Sitta harness is ultra-lightweight, with thin yet durable tie-in points. The minimal equipment loops were stiff and great for racking draws on even longer climbs. Not only did we find the Sitta to be beneficial for climbing, it also packed down into a small package, leaving more room in our pack.
The Cragsmith 45 L Pack from Patagonia is hands-down one of the most useful items we brought. When moving from wall to wall, we simply opened the main zipper to gain full access to the contents in the bag. When we decided to move, we threw most everything in the bag (in a rather unorganized fashion) and zipped up the back zipper. Then we would put the bag up right, and were able to stuff even more on the top. The Cragsmith is proof that simple designs are best.
The beauty of Skaha is that you can always find a shady crag amongst the sun, so having a light jacket to belay in and also keep the sun off is definitely a must. We found that Arc’teryx Atom SL was light enough to wear as sun shelter, but had enough insulation to keep us warm in the shade. In the late afternoon, we found that the Atom SL's sleeves were soft and comfy on sunburnt skin. The two side pockets were super useful for carrying small items like chapstick and fingernail clippers.
Having enough water can make or break a day of climbing at Skaha. With such a dry climate, we knew that we needed extra water. Although traditional water bottles can have some benefits, packing some Platypus SoftBottles can keep weight down and make your pack more spacious as the day goes on. We found that having that extra space in our pack each time we moved made the process much less arduous.
All Photos By Kate Erwin
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