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Okanagan's oldest rock show starting to attract tourists

A frame from Clayton Arnall's short film called 'The Fields: A Bouldering Film'.
Image Credit: Contributed


KELOWNA – The Okanagan is already known for vineyards, beaches and peaches, but it could soon have a more solid tourist attraction—rocks. Or boulders to be more specific.

South of Kelowna, in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, a relatively unknown area at the base of a plateau is littered with thousands of boulders ranging in size from less than a metre to bigger than apartment buildings. It's a natural geologic formation called a talus deposit and it could be the next big tourist draw for rock climbers seeking a new challenge.

Climbers call it ‘bouldering’ and a short film called The Fields, made by four Okanagan climbers, highlights the rock playground in our backyard. The short film has since caught the attention of climbers around the world eager to practice their skills in an area that is relatively undiscovered.

“People are always asking me what bouldering is,” says Clayton Arnall, who made the film with fellow climbers Andy White, Jason Duris and Staci White. “The point of the video is to kind of explain what it is and why we do it. We’ve been contacted by a few professional climbers from all over who want to know more about the area. A lot of people go on trips just to go climbing and they’re always interested in new areas.”

Bouldering is similar to indoor free climbing, except it takes place outdoors on large rocks, or boulders. It involves no safety ropes, just a dense foam pad in case you fall, a pair of shoes and a rock.

“It’s shorter but more intense (than traditional climbing),” Clayton says. “It’s very power-orientated and usually more difficult. You’d never be able to hold that intensity up over a long time but you can do it for five to ten moves.”

Clayton first heard about the sport at a climbing gym and says that he has since found the Okanagan to have some of the best bouldering spots in the world.

“After I changed my focus from trad (traditional) climbing to bouldering, I started to realize how much amazing rock there is in the Okanagan."

Although the process of rock shedding is not uncommon, the size of the boulders found around the Okanagan in general and at the Boulderfields specifically is unique and unusual, says geologist Dr. Murray Roed. 

“The rocks in the video are huge,” Dr. Roed says. “It looks like they’re in an area where they’ve got large spaced fractures in the rock, which more or less controls the size of the rock that is popping out.”

Essentially what is unique are ideal conditions to create larger boulders.

“Without a doubt it is a combination of meltwater, a type of rock called metamorphic, and environmental conditions that have created these large boulders over the last 30 million years.”

Clayton says bouldering could potentially be more popular here in the Okanagan than traditional climbing. It involves less equipment and because there is so much variation in rock sizes, climbers can tailor their climb to their ability.

“There are still risks but if you’re doing something really low then the worst that can happen is you fall off and land on the pad. I guess the extreme worst case would be if you miss your pad you could break your ankle or something like that.”

Despite the risks, Clayton feels that the popularity of the sport will only increase and plans to collaborate on a book about bouldering in the Okanagan with Andy White.

“That’s the biggest problem right now. People don’t know about it and it’s really hard to find where all this stuff is because there’s no guide book out... yet.”

For more information on bouldering in the Okanagan, visit Clayton's website.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at aproskiw@infotelnews.ca, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013
Tags: Bouldering

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