2016 Environment Grant Award: The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers

(Every year the ACC awards a number of financial grants to help our community members get outside, follow their dreams and to protect the environment. The ACC’s Environment Grant provides support for the protection and preservation of mountain and climbing environments, including the preservation of alpine flora and fauna in their natural habitat. The ACC is proud to contribute $5,000 through the Environment Grant to the preservation of Kinnaird Bluffs in Castlegar, BC.

Since 2002 the ACC has contributed over $30,000 to environmental causes. The deadline for applications for the ACC Environment Grant is January 31 annually. – ed )

Kinnaird Bluffs Saved!

One of the most historically significant crags in British Columbia has been preserved for climbers. Kinnaird Bluffs, a white and ruby-coloured granite cliff band towering over the Emerald Green subdivision in Castlegar, has been a playground for mountaineers and rock climbers for half a century. It’s been the site of some of the hardest climbs in British Columbia over the years and was visited by beginners and experts alike. But the future of the crag became unknown last November when the landowner put it up for sale.

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Kinnaird Bluff – Photo by Vince Hempsall


The bluffs are located on a 17-acre piece of property and harbours over 70 rock climbing routes from 5.5 trad to 5.12 sport. The property, which was listed for the assessed value of $57,000, includes the entirety of the climbing areas which were alluded to having potential as a site for harvesting “granite gravel/rock”. The thought of beloved routes being mined for low-grade ore spurred local rock climbers and recreational enthusiasts to action. A fundraising campaign began and plans were made to turn the property into a public space where people could hike and climb in perpetuity.

Instrumental in the campaign was Vince Hempsall, the Kootenay director of the Climbers Access Society of BC (CASBC). He helped register a local group, The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers (TAWKROC), as a non-profit society that could hold title on the land. He also spearheaded the campaign to help raise funds for the purchase price by setting up a crowdfunding page, a donation page via the CASBC website and applying for various grants. The application to The Alpine Club of Canada’s Environment Grant was successful and the ACC awarded $5,000 to the campaign.

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Something for everyone, no matter their age – Photo by David Lussier

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Just a taste of the variety that can be found at Kinnaird Bluffs – Photo by David Lussier


A community united

TAWKROC managed to raise 70% of the purchase price and were loaned the final 30% by the deal closing date this past spring. The loan will have to be paid back in the next two years. (If you are interested in donating to help pay back to the loan, please click here.)

The purchase went through successfully and now Vince says the organization’s next goal is to sit down with Castlegar’s city councillors to begin discussions about how to turn the bluffs into a public space.

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History at your finger tips with some rusty old glue-in bolts and chains – Photo by Vince Hempsall

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Improvements and safety take dedicated work – Photo by David Lussier


The path ahead

Thank you to everyone who donated to the Save Kinnaird Bluffs campaign. We couldn’t have done this without you. “We are so grateful to the rock climbing community,” Vince says. “This wouldn’t have happened without generous contributions from such organizations as The Alpine Club of Canada as well as private citizens who stepped forward to help ensure rock climbers, hikers and other outdoor aficionados continue to have access to this historic site.”

News coverage

The “Save Kinnaird Bluffs” campaign was big news in British Columbia and was featured on CBC Radio news, CBC Radio’s Daybreak South, in the Castlegar News, and on Shaw TV (below).


If you are thinking of visiting the area the Kinnaird Bluffs routes can be found in the West Kootenay Rock Climbs Book by Aaron Kristianson and Vince Hempsall. You can purchase the book at your local climbing shop or through Mountain Equipment Coop.

Donate Below

ACC-LogoSampleThe button below will redirect to the Climbers’ Access Society of BC homepage. Under Special Instructions for the
donation, add “Kinnaird Bluffs purchase”. Tax receipts will be issued.

If you would like more information about the Kinnaird Bluffs Project, please email Vince Hempsall, Kootenay Director of the Climbers’ Access Society of BC.

Donate Here


ACC Environment Grant

If you are in need of funding for your environmental project that meets the ACC’s Environment Grants qualifications, we encourage you to apply. The link below will take you to our submissions form. If you have any questions, please direct them to community@alpineclubofcanada.ca.

Apply Here

    About the Author

  • tulip wall7

    Vince Hempsall

    Vince Hempsall lives in the beautiful mountain town of Nelson, British Columbia, where he spends his time rock climbing, backcountry skiing and mountain biking. He is also the Kootenay Director of the Climbers Access Society of British Columbia and a founding member of The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers.

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