Not for the squeamish. In the late seventies and eighties, this was the place to be. Almost all mainland development was centred here. The cliff is a broken face with a maximum total height of about 70 metres. Some lines are two or three pitches in length but most are single pitch lines. Primarily the routes are traditional in style, although there are also a handful of sport routes and a few lines with mixed protection.
Climbing here is always a bit of an adventure. You’ll find that many of the older routes are quite lichen-covered and almost all routes offer opportunities to graze on blueberries when they’re in season (late summer). The prevalence of lichen is due, in part, to the low traffic over the last decade but also because the original ethic practiced here seems to have been with minimalist approach to brushing (if at all)In addition to the lichen, the cliff is a difficult place to describe (with it’s many ledges, gullies, and buttresses), which previously required at least half a dozen visits to make sense of the place. Another aspect of the excitement (at least in part anyways) was the fact that many routes were under-graded (by as much as a full number grade or two!), which helped to firmly establish the Nova Scotia tradition of sandbagging. This guide attempts to reconcile the grading of climbs. It also gives a clearer description of where the climbs are (with the help of maps, photos, and sketches) so that visitors can become oriented fairly quickly. All in all, the place takes some getting use to, but like mold it will grow on you and as Sean Willett discovered during his apprenticeship with the early developers here: “… it really [is] fun to climb lichen-covered rock.”
To many, I suppose, the above description will make climbing at Main Face sound horrible. And for some it will be. For many others it carries them mystique of adventure. Given its incredible setting and quality and height of its lines, Main Face has an irresistible allure. There are enough climbs here (almost 70 routes) for many seasons of enjoyment. In fact, there is room for many more lines. I suspect Main Face will experience a renaissance in the coming years as the hardcore boulderers in the area turn into crusty old trad climbers!
How to get there
Option 1 (hiking):
Approximately 4.5km northwest of Musquodoboit Harbour on Highway 357 is a dirt driveway on the left hand side of the road with an iron gate across it. A couple hundred meters past this driveway, also on the left, is a faint trail leading into the woods and a sign that reads “Climb Nova Scotia Members Only” – (see Note below).
Park along the side of the highway and walk in a short distance along the trail until you reach a well-travelled ATV trail/road (this extends back to the highway and iron gate). Walk along the road for fifteen minutes until you reach a cabin at the top of the cliff, overlooking Paces Lake [Note: please respect privacy of the landowner and stay clear of the cabin]. Just before the cabin is a sign-in box for visiting climbers. At this point there is a trail that breaks left and runs along the top of the cliff, and also a trail that goes straight downhill towards the lake and into the E-Gully.
Option 2 (paddling):
If you have access to a boat, a simpler way to approach the cliff is by paddling in from the north end of Paces Lake, where the access road for First Face leads to a public dock [see First Face description]. From the dock paddle south for about fifteen minutes to reach Main Face which rises out of the lake. There are numerous places to pull up your watercraft near the cliff.
Note: Around 1990 the landowner came to an agreement with Climb Nova Scotia (CNS) to allow climbers to use his land to access the cliff as long as they are CNS members or are with a CNS member. TO ensure future access, please respect this arrangement. [The landown reserves the right to check membership cards, so bring it with you.]