Mt. Helen

  • Grade context: US
  • Photos: 4
  • Ascents: 6




Mt. Helen is a 70m tall gneiss slab just off highway 11 about 2km north of where highway 11 and 17 split (the split is just east of Nipigon).

Mt Helen offers good beginner to intermediate multi-pitch climbing on generally solid rock, with a mix of trad and sport.

The cliff is generally fairly easy to spot from the highway -- the vertical white streaks of the cleaned upper routes are visible and characteristic.

Access issues inherited from Thunder Bay

Many of the crags on on private land or private land needs to be crossed to access the crag. Please respect the area, it is a privilege to be allowed to climb at these crags.

Leave no trace, respect other parties, and be mindful if you have music or dogs at the crag.


Park on the side of highway 11, pulling as far off as you can -- lots of trucks pass along this section, often travelling quite quickly. Alternatively you can park across from St Sylvesters church about 600 meters before the cliff itself

Look for the fairly obvious, usually flagged, trail heading up. This climbs up a short (50m) way to the base of the cliff, arriving at the start of "Bowels in Transit".

Descent notes

"Bowels in Transit" and "Overdrive" can both be rappelled in two rappels on a single 60m (or longer) rope.

Or there may be a trail down (skiers) right from the top of the bluff.



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Grade Route

All three of "The Upper Dike", "Bowels in Transit", and "Traverse Mercator" start at the left-most point on the wall, where the access trail reaches the obvious flat spot and start of climbing. Each heads a different direction from this point - up-left, straight up, and up-right respectively.

Start at the lower left portion of the cliff, climb diagonally up and left along the obvious crack towards the start of the large dike running diagonally up and rightwards across the face. Do the rising traverse along the dike, until reaching the overhangs at the right end, then turn left again and climb to the trees. Belay on gear where convenient -- breaking into two or three pitches depending on rope drag.

On the left side of the wall, look for the left-most white streak and bolts on the slab above below this white streak. Climb directly up, supplementing bolts with gear. Has ring-bolted anchor for belay and top.

Pitch 1: (5.7, 29m). Climb up face past 2 bolts, over a depression, then past another bolt to the anchors. Pitch 2: (5.7, 22m). Continue up past the flake onto the face (bolts and gear) to the top anchors.

Start on the lower left, traverse the smooth face staying below the dike of "The Upper Dike". There are occasional bolts, but also long runouts.

This route goes up the once-cleaned, but now re-lichening face right of "Bowels in Transit". Starts up some initial steep terrain to the slabs above.

Starts below the overhang with a few steep moves on positive holds to a bolt, then through lichen to another bolt. Either lower-off at this point, or go up to the first anchors of "This is Indian Land".

As you come around to the climbs that start under the overhang, this is the first clear ramp, rising upwards to the right, with bolts on it, coming to a nearly vertical section of the roof.

Pitch 1: (5.7+, 5 bolts, 35m) climb up through the overhang and up the slab to anchors. Pitch 2: (5.7, 3 bolts, 35m). Continue up the slab above to the top. May want some gear to supplement bolts on the upper face. Pitch 2:

Starts farther to the right than "This is Indian Land", but similar -- though the roof is trickier to pull. Finish at either the first belay for "This is Indian Land" or the belay at the start of "Overdrive". Then, choose a 2nd pitch...

Start around the corner to the far right, bypassing the overhang by climbing up to it and going right around it, then up a bit, then back left to step up onto the upper face (bolt), then trend diagonally up and left along the ledge/crack system. Stop at a belay for any of the upper pitch choices: "Ode to Rambo", "Overdrive", or "Neutron Dance". ("Overdrive" probably the best choice., about 40m to the "Overdrive" anchors.)

Climb the low-angle dirty slab on the far right of the cliffs for 40m, then go up the overhang.

The following three routes all start part way up the cliff. The first two can easily be accessed by climbing either "The Upper Dike", "The Standard Route", or "Freitag's Dilemma", while "Neutron Dance" can really only be accessed from "The Standard Route".

From the right-bolted belay (start of "Overdrive") follow the weakness trending up and left across the upper pitches of "This is Indian Land" and "Amstel" to finish at the top anchors of "Bowels in Transit".

From the bolted belay (fat hangars, suitable for lowering), climb up the obvious scrubbed rock above, supplementing the 3 bolts with gear.

From a poor belay (optional) on "Standard Route", climb up the face above to easier terrain. Supplement the 3 bolts with gear as desired.

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