Nigel Pike’s wife Quinn scales a rock face in the Gull Pond area. — Submitted photo
CORNER BROOK The resurgence of rock climbing on the west coast is beginning to grow in one tight-knitted community after being recognized in a world-renowned magazine called Gripped.
Nigel Pike of Stephenville is a climber and Newfoundland rock expert who had an article about the west coast’s Gull Pond published in the magazine recently in an effort to put Newfoundland on the map among worldwide climbing destinations.
With rock climbing becoming a mainstream sport in the province, Pike is excited about the direction it’s heading.
“It’s great to hear and see that more and more people are getting involved,” he said. “It’s not like kids going out and riding around on skateboard, but it’s becoming more of a recognized sport.”
Pike, who has been climbing for about 15 years, said since his article was published less than a month ago the Gull Pond region has garnered quite a bit of interest from several people — even some from across the border.
“The thing about Gull Pond that people like is that they can get first descent,” Pike explained, referring to an area with landscape yet to be climbed.
It is first descent that experienced climbers seek and it’s exactly what the island’s rocky, rigid coastlines offer — and due to the limited number of climbers in comparison to the vast amount of landscape available, there remains a large portion of land still untested.
The next step for Pike through his contact with Gripped Magazine is to promote the hills of Gros Morne National Park — not for hiking, but rather as an area for climbing. His intent is to focus his article on the new routes he discovered in the area in an effort to familiarize climbers with the level of challenge the area can provide.
“I’d like to see where there is lots and lots of ... younger people getting into it, older people too, since it is becoming more of a recognized sport,” Pike said.
The passion for climbing did not spontaneously happen for Pike. He was in his final year of high school and his two friends from the west coast — who had both attended university out of town — returned over the summer and couldn’t stop talking about climbing.
Pike decided to give it a try and was hooked ever since.
He said it’s the crux point of the route — the most difficult portion of a climb — and the feeling he gets during this time that he claims is the most addictive aspect of rock climbing.
“It’s almost like you’re meditating because you’re only thinking about one thing ... to really get a kind of sense of yourself,” he said.
Trevor Beck from Pasadena is another avid west coast climber who has been involved in the sport for about nine years. Beck said underdevelopment of routes remains a forefront issue as to why the popularity of the sport has yet to take off at the rate it could.
“We basically still have the same number of climbs as they had 15-20 years ago when climbing began (on the west coast),” he said. “There are a very small number of climbers who are dedicated to climbing around here.”
The west coast is recognized by many climbers in the province as having some of the largest rock faces as opposed to the St. John’s region, but Beck feels the stage of the sport’s development on the east coast is far beyond that of the west.
But Beck said the opportunity on the west coast is almost endless — it just takes more searching and patience to find the climbs.
“As climbers, we’re usually pretty humble people and not out for the limelight,” he said. “Pretty much every climber knows every climber.”