Main Face

Main Face
Photo credit: Nathan Benjamin

Crag Description

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.]

Routes

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Start same as “Into the Blue” on flat block at the waters edge. Climb up to the first bolt and onto the small bulge up right. Crux moves between first and second bolt.
Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings
FA by:Todd Foster and Gavin King
FA on:9/1/2013
From single bolt belay anchor at bottom of ramp, clip high first bolt and pull long boulder problem up thin crack to gain deep jugs. Trend left along narrow ledge, following bolts to sloper crux blind throw. Then head straight up hand crack and finish right on good holds to rings. Excellent climb with great exposure.
Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings
FA by:Todd Foster
Start the same as 'Where Evil Lurks' but after the second bolt head right up and over the bulge going to the right of the tree. Cruxes are at the 2 bulges but well protected. Pull the second bulge and climb easy slab to the top. Possible to top out here onto the ledge and access Meatgrinder rappel area.
Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings
FA by:Alec Manley/Todd Foster
FA on:6/1/2014
The first bolted line as you come down into E-Gully from the cabin. Stick clip or reach the first bolt and climb through 3 bolts of boulderie moves and the obvious brain sticking off the face to gain the first ledge. Off the ledge work some smaller holds and face climbing to the top. Has a mix of many styles.
Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings
FA by:Alec Manley/Todd Foster
FA on:7/1/2014

Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings
FA by:Alec Manley/Todd Foster
FA on:5/1/2014
"Free the Mind" climbs the overhangs up the middle of the wall between Hurricane Corner and Meatgrinder Rappel. Climb to the top of the hanging rope ladder, reach up for large incut jug. Leave the ladder by moving your feet up into high smears. Climb through the steep dihedral up onto the slab to access a two bolt hanging belay. The second pitch continues up and right through the short but steep overhang. Crest the overhang and proceed up through the right facing dihedral. Top out and belay from the large tree. (Rap anchors will likely be placed in the future). The route can be climbed in one long pitch but rope drag would be an issue.
Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings, Natural
FA by:Todd Foster
FA on:10/1/2014
Start the same as Sleeper clipping bolts out left. At the third bolt transition out onto the face. Continue up through balancy moves to a two bolt anchor below the Lunch Bucket Ledge.
Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings
FA by:Todd Foster
FA on:10/1/1012
Starts left of Sleeper Cell...Tree at base of route. Good face climbing leads to exposed mini roofs and then the "thank GOD jug" gift from the rock climbing Gods! Keep your cool and gun for the big ledge where the belay awaits. The top out holds were covered in ice during the FA which made for some extra spicey moves.
Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings
FA by:Sean Therien
FA on:10/1/1012
In the "sport" amphitheatre up the hill from Magistar Ludi you will find this 5.9. Easy climbing in a bit of a dirty corner leads to some nice left working moves. Bust out to the right onto the face itself...clip the last bolt then fight the pump thru the runout to the anchors. **Rock is a little hollow from last bolt to the anchors hence the runout sorry....***
Type:Sport
Anchor Type:Rings
FA by:Sean Therien
FA on:10/10/2014