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Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide to Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret is a new climbing guidebook for Northwestern Ontario that covers the most popular crags within a 1.5-hour driving radius of Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

A few years ago I was able to spend some time rock climbing in the Thunder Bay area while making the Trans-Canada drive out to the Rockies. Driving through the area, I was blown away by the amount of gorgeous rock – Thunder Bay has quantity. And the crags that I checked out proved that Thunder Bay also has quality. And lots of it. My time there was painfully short, and I have longed to return. This longing has only been intensified by the release of Aric Fishman’s excellent new guidebook, Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide to Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret. Don’t let that bombastic title fool you; it could easily have the byline, “Canada’s Best Kept Secret.” The rock there is really that good.
Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

Aric Fishman moved from Toronto to Thunder Bay around 2007 to attend university and was instantly hooked on the area’s world-class climbing. He went to work establishing new lines a couple of years later and has developed an astounding number of routes in a very short time. This new wave of development, of which Fishman appears to be a major contributor, quickly showcased the need for a new guidebook. The last guide (Joseph/Reed) is now 10 years old and long out-of-print. Fishman started working on this new book three years ago, and his commitment to this guide is evident in the final product. This is a well-researched and informative book from someone who really knows the area. And as if knowing the area wasn’t good enough, Fishman also operates an outdoor adventure company. As the lead guide for Outdoor Skills and Thrills, he has a deep understanding of the type of information new and visiting climbers need to enjoy the area.
Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

Fishman’s passion for Thunder Bay comes through on every page. In as much as a guidebook can have a narrative theme, this one just screams “THUNDER BAY IS AWESOME!” In fact, the guidebook introduction starts with a piece by Fishman titled “Thunder Bay Rocks!” which is as punny as it is true.

The book is populated by entertaining anecdotes by prominent Thunder Bay climbers of past and present. In the introduction, Gripped editor Brandon Pullan reminisces about the passionate community of climbers in Thunder Bay and goes on to call it and the area his “favourite in North America.” This sentiment of community is carried throughout the book by the other contributors.
Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

The book is populated by entertaining anecdotes by prominent Thunder Bay climbers of past and present. In the introduction, Gripped editor Brandon Pullan reminisces about the passionate community of climbers in Thunder Bay and goes on to call it and the area his “favourite in North America.” This sentiment of community is carried throughout the book by the other contributors.

This book has everything that you’d expect out of a modern guidebook. And, to me, that might be its only real downfall. The book is thick with photos. A significant number of routes have more than one photograph. The photos serve to inspire and motivate, but I almost feel too inspired, as if everything is getting 5 stars. Calling something like this a downfall is like the spin you put on the standard interview question, “What’s your weakness?” to which you reply “Uggh, my strengths are my weakness.” The number of photos do jumble up the layout in places, but not so much as to add confusion. If you are getting lost while using this book, you definitely made a wrong turn in Albuquerque.
Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret

My only other gripes are rather minor: The book could have used a few more passes through the editing machine, and navigation might have been improved with some more maps to supplement the GPS coordinates and Goggle directions. But I’m being overly pedantic and these quibbles shouldn’t preclude anyone from buying the book.

This book by far exceeds what it sets out to do -- celebrate the amazing climbing of the Thunder Bay area. Buy this book and hop on the next plane. You will not be disappointed to be finally let in on the secret.
Thunder Bay Climbing: A Guide To Northwestern Ontario’s Best Kept Secret is available at the Ontario Climbing Guidebook Store as well as Outdoor Thrills and Skills.
Justin Dwyer
Justin Dwyer is an ACMG Climbing Gym Instructor and Apprentice Rock Guide. He has been climbing and documenting routes on the Niagara Escarpment for over 15 years. He has always been passionate about local climbing history and obsessively collects all-things related to climbing in Ontario. Over the years, he was given the prestigious title of Captain Nemo by prolific Ontario guidebook author, David Smart. He has climbed over 65% of Nemo’s 300+ routes, but his level of completionism extends far beyond to almost every crag. He is the undisputed master of the Escarpment’s weird, esoteric and obscure.