• Hunter Cresswell

Panorama bonanza

New rock climbing cliff open in Bowman

Sweating, swatting, and sending. That’s how the first official day at the Bowman crag went.


Sweating because of the heat. Swatting away the bloodthirsty bugs. And sending – climbing lingo for finishing or ascending – routes put up by Wakefielders at the Outaouais’ first Fédération québecoise de la montagne et de l’escalade (FQME) site in Forêt Bowman – about a half hour drive northeast from Wakefield.


Wakefield resident and Bowman cliff developer Chris Jackson (white helmet) belays Altitude Gym youth coach Adrian Das at “Panorama,” the Outaouais’ first FQME rock climbing site in the municipality of Bowman, on May 14. Hunter Cresswell photo
Wakefield resident and Bowman cliff developer Chris Jackson (white helmet) belays Altitude Gym youth coach Adrian Das at “Panorama,” the Outaouais’ first FQME rock climbing site in the municipality of Bowman, on May 14. Hunter Cresswell photo

On May 14, over 100 people came to the opening ceremony of the cliff to check out the 40 beginner-to-advanced rock climbing routes, some up to 80 feet high, across the five different sections of the cliff — officially named “Panorama” because of the impressive views of the area from the top.


“It was pretty amazing to see those people,” site developer and Wakefield resident Jason Thorne said.


By all accounts of the people there and the developers the Low Down interviewed, this crag is something special.


Almost the whole team (from left) Bowman Mayor Gaston Donovan, Wakefield resident Simon Jackson, site developer Melanie Douglas, site developer Edith Prescott, site developer André Gauthier, Gatineau residents Xavier and Samuel Gauthier, FQME outdoor climbing site director Charles St-Louis, Jason Thorne, MRC Papineau forestry engineer Jean-François Larrivée, former Bowman Mayor Michel David, and Forêt Bowman president Serge Corbeil at the Bowman cliff opening ceremony on May 14. The only main player in the cliff’s development, Wakefield resident and developer Chris Jackson, isn’t pictured because he was busy at the cliff. Hunter Cresswell photo
Almost the whole team (from left) Bowman Mayor Gaston Donovan, Wakefield resident Simon Jackson, site developer Melanie Douglas, site developer Edith Prescott, site developer André Gauthier, Gatineau residents Xavier and Samuel Gauthier, FQME outdoor climbing site director Charles St-Louis, Jason Thorne, MRC Papineau forestry engineer Jean-François Larrivée, former Bowman Mayor Michel David, and Forêt Bowman president Serge Corbeil at the Bowman cliff opening ceremony on May 14. The only main player in the cliff’s development, Wakefield resident and developer Chris Jackson, isn’t pictured because he was busy at the cliff. Hunter Cresswell photo

“Climbers can grow here,” site developer and Wakefield resident Chris Jackson gushed on opening day.


Unlike other local climbing sites, Bowman is family friendly. The approach – climber lingo for the walk or hike to access a climbing area – is short and accessible to people with young kids or dogs. And once at the cliff, the parents don’t have to keep an eye on their kids or dog the entire time to make sure they don’t fall off a nearby precipice. The parents can focus on climbing, while the kids or pets frolic in the forest. And once those kids are old enough to start climbing, there’s plenty of routes that are perfect for beginners. As kids’ climbing abilities progress, they can set their sights on harder routes, which are just around the corner. Once they’re ready to learn how to set and clean their own climbing anchors, there’s a place to practice while on the ground in Bowman and most of the anchors are safely accessible from the approach trail, which runs along the top of the cliff. This means that climbers who only know how to top rope – climbing with the rope running from the belayer to the climber over an anchor at the top of the route, so that the climber would only fall a few inches – can come enjoy this new crag.


“As it was coming together, Chris and I would say how it ticked so many of the boxes that make a good site,” Thorne said.


Chelsea resident David Bowman, 9, climbs a route called “SAXE o’fun” on May 14. Hunter Cresswell photo
Chelsea resident David Bowman, 9, climbs a route called “SAXE o’fun” on May 14. Hunter Cresswell photo

Even the developers who’ve spent almost the past two years prepping the site and climbing the routes are stoked to go back.


“I can’t wait to come here and do laps on routes and then sleep in my own bed,” site developer and Wakefield resident Melanie Douglas said.


Site developers and Gatineau residents Edith Prescott and André Gauthier did the lion’s share of prep work that goes into making a cliff climbable, including cleaning most of the cliff face of lichen and moss and checking that there were no loose spots where the rock could break while someone climbs on it.


“This is awesome,” FQME outdoor climbing site director Charles St-Louis said, sitting at the base of the cliff. “It’s a perfect example of locals who find a cliff and want to develop it.”


The cliff was first discovered around 2009 by MRC Papineau forestry engineer Jean-François Larrivée. He took photos and sent them to the FQME, which forwarded that information to Thorne. He had graduated from the federation’s route development course and helped establish their climbing site on Lac du Poisson Blanc, which is close to Bowman, but the FQME considers it to be in the Laurentians. He assembled the development team of Douglas, Jackson, Prescott and Gauthier.


Wakefield resident and site developer Melanie Douglas belays her son Simon Jackson. Hunter Cresswell photo
Wakefield resident and site developer Melanie Douglas belays her son Simon Jackson. Hunter Cresswell photo

“They did what would take mere mortals four years and they did it in less than two seasons,” Thorne said.


He helped with some site development and routesetting, but mostly dealt with the municipality and the FQME to make sure the volunteer developers had everything they needed to work.


For more information on the site, visit fqme.qc.ca.