Alpine climbing in North America originated in British Columbia.
More than a century ago, a hotel built below Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains opened the door to the unspoiled wilderness—and some of Europe’s best mountaineers took notice. From the Coast Mountains to the Rocky Mountains, BC is an alpine playground and a rock climbing and mountaineering paradise.
BC is also blessed with numerous caves—including thousands on Vancouver Island alone—and has become a world-renowned caving centre. Join a guided caving tour to observe brilliant crystal formations or rappel down an underground waterfall in Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. Northern BC offers great caving at places like Fang Cave and Monkman Provincial Park.
Today, outdoor adventurers from around the world flock to BC for everything from world-class rock climbing and caving to glacier treks and mountain ascents.
An hour drive from Vancouver leads to Squamish’s 700m/2,297ft Stawamus Chief, the second-largest granite monolith in the world and Canada’s most popular climbing site.
Penticton, in the sunny Okanagan Valley, is home to the popular Skaha Bluffs, a series of cliffs made of edgy, featured gneiss with over 650 routes.
In the Purcell Mountains, the tall granite spires of the Bugaboos offer one of North America’s premier alpine climbing areas.
BC has many outdoor activity stores catering exclusively to climbers, as well as numerous climbing schools where beginners can learn and experts can hone their skills. Not ready to venture onto rock? Try indoor climbing walls.
Caving in BC is another option for Indiana Jones-style adventure. Head north of Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island to explore Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, which offers guided caving tours that cater to the whole family. Learn about geology and ancient fossils first-hand, or embark on the Underground Extreme tour, which takes five hours. Other major Vancouver Island caving sites include the Upana Caves and Little Huson Cave Regional Park.
In Northern BC, cavers of all abilities flock to Fang Cave, the ninth-longest cave in Canada, and Monkman Provincial Park, where exotic rock formations highlight caves on the Stone Corral Trail. More challenging routes for experienced cavers exist in Bocock Peak Park and Kakwa Provincial Park.
British Columbia offers some of the best and most accessible mountaineering opportunities. Yoho National Park features dozens of glaciated peaks on the western slope of the Canadian Rockies, and an astounding 28 of them are over 3,000m/9,843ft. The Purcell Mountains’ towering granite spires lure mountaineers to Bugaboo Provincial Park in the Kootenay Rockies.
The southwest corner of the Coast Mountains is home to some great mountaineering opportunities within an easy drive of both Vancouver and Whistler.
Guiding companies offer both scheduled and customizable trips to popular areas, including the Bugaboos and the Tantalus sub-range of the Coast Mountains. Meal planning and technical gear (either rented or supplied) is often available with guided tours. Tours can be customized for beginners and advanced climbers and cavers.
British Columbia has numerous outdoor clothing and equipment stores, staffed by dedicated outdoor enthusiasts. One example is Mountain Equipment Co-op, founded in Vancouver in 1971. Pick up equipment, inquire about guided excursions, and obtain route advice and insider tips.
Remember to respect the terrain, environment, and other users while you are exploring a cave or cliff. Ensure that you carry proper, reliable equipment and know how to use it safely. Explore within your physical/mental ability and limitations, stick to established underground routes, and practice the explorers motto: “Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave no trace.” AdventureSmart and Leave No Trace are great resources to help you get informed before heading outdoors, and regardless of your experience level, never go canyoneering alone and always leave a Trip Plan!
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