There is a climber’s dreamscape right outside of Harrison Hot Springs. It’s tucked away, hidden behind a bright yellow gate just past the Harrison Resort Golf Course.
The Harrison Bluffs are unique because there are multiple-level routes clustered together, allowing climbers of different skill levels to climb together.
“You can do everything from climbing for an hour to spending a whole afternoon and evening, climb all the way up to the top and have a really adventurous time,” describes longtime climber Mike Worn.
The type of rock at the bluffs also makes it a safer climb than many.
“The quality of the rocks is fantastic, it’s the equivalent of granite in Yosemite Park in California,” says Worn. “It makes it really safe to climb on because you don’t have to worry about chunks coming off.”
He compares the quality to being on par with Squamish, but with far less crowds.
While the climbing routes have been around for many years, it was only within the last 10 or so years that Worn and a few other climbers rediscovered it. He and some fellow climbers worked to uncover old routes and added a few climbs himself. Over the past few years, climbers have volunteered their time to add routes, scrub rocks and maintain trail access.
Climbers have quietly enjoyed this recreational pursuit just off of Hot Springs Road for years. But now, a small group is working towards upgrading the site, with a wish list including a proper parking lot, an outhouse, perhaps a garbage can too.
Sam Waddington, a Chilliwack city councillor and outdoor enthusiast, is one of the climbers interested in seeing upgrades and promotion of the bluffs. He enjoys the bluffs for their varied routes and easy accessibility and says on a hot summer day, dozens of climbers can be found scaling the rocks. He says from his understanding, the area used to be much more popular before the climbing in Squamish (the Stawamus Chief) was developed.
“As the area grows more and more popular, you can’t have unlimited amounts of people parking on the highway,” he explains. “We want to make the area’s council aware of this asset in their backyard, and work with them on how to make it better.”
Waddington even envisions a future where the parking lot is the start to community walking trails and as a base for an already-popular area to drive further recreational use.
“Climbing and outdoor recreation in general can be a huge economic driver.” he comments.
Waddington has joined forces with Community Futures North Fraser to see how they can make the bluffs into a destination. One of the mandates of Community Futures North Fraser is community economic development, looking for opportunities to help support local business. Executive Director Alan Main says they are working on a proposal to present to the District of Kent Council on the benefits of upgrading the Harrison Bluffs. Main has already approached the Agassiz-Harrison Chamber of Commerce and found them to be “very supportive” as they see the benefit of more tourists coming into the area.
“Generally, working with climbing, biking or hiking groups can be really good for communities,” says Main.
He has found groups such as climbers will spend countless hours volunteering their time if given just a few resources like a parking lot and port-a potty.
Currently, climbers either park on Hot Springs Road or beside the gate, which does not have much room and needs to be kept clear for hydro use. What the Harrison Bluffs climbers would like to see is to make the site accessible in perpetuity once the twinning of the hydro lines is complete. They also would like trail development along the base of the bluffs and perhaps an informational sign.
“There used to be a trail that went up to the left of the climbs and there’s an amazing viewpoint up there,” recalls Worn. “We want to have that trail re-established. It would be really great to see that trail come up and over the hill and connect to the source of the hot springs.”
The Interior to Lower Mainland (ILM) project is being constructed now near the Harrison Bluffs. Just last week, letters were sent to local residents warning of detonations taking place over several days and in different locations along the line. According to BC Hydro, the process is scheduled to take place on BC Hydro’s transmission line right-of-way south of Harrison Hot Springs throughout the month of May, in the area the Harrison Bluffs are located.
Worn says the new hydro lines going through there have made a positive difference for the Harrison Bluffs.
“There’s a lot more sunshine on there,” he says. “It’s a good thing for the area because it means there’s not as much moss that we have to clean off.”