Quirke | N46 28.336 W82 33.785
From Elliot Lake, head north on Hwy 108 for 10 km to Stanrock Road. Turn east on Stanrock; at about the 8 km mark you might be able to see the cliff from the road across one of the bays of Quirke Lake. If you want to access the cliff with a boat, there is a public boat launch just after this point. If accessing the cliff by foot, continue on Stanrock Road all the way around the bay until you come to a closed gate for the now-abandoned Stanrock Uranium Mine (total distance about 14 km). Park here.
There are signs on the gate that warn that the area is the private property of Denison Mines. However, there are no “No Trespassing” signs, only “Use at your own risk” notices. We have bumped into locals out for a hike to the top of the cliff on several occasions – trespassing isn’t an issue. One of the people we met was an employee of Denison Environmental Services, a local company that specializes in cleaning up and decommissioning old mine sites. Apparently, they monitor and test the site regularly, including the water in Quirke Lake, and they say it’s clean. Locals can be seen trolling and they do eat the fish from the lake.
You can get to the base of the cliff either by rappelling from the top or by walking down around the northern side of Rooster Rock.
Go around the gate and follow the road straight ahead. About 75 m after the gate you will come to a fork/intersection in the dirt road – keep going straight ahead. Some 350 m further along you will come to another fork where the trail actually forms a big loop – go straight ahead (on the right-hand branch of the loop). Keep going to approximately the far point of the loop (the communication antenna will be almost directly behind you) where a fainter side path veers away from the main path towards the cliff edge across some black gravel. You should come out on a rocky point with a small juniper bush on it very close to the cliff edge.
There are currently two rappel points to get to the bottom of the cliff.
Rappel Point #1: From Juniper Bush Point head over to the next rocky point over to the right when facing the water - Boulder Point (easily identifiable by a small round boulder sitting on top). Walk below the boulder on slab/grass towards a line of cedar trees and look for webbing and rap rings on the last tree in the line, on a ledge about 4 m below the top of the cliff. The rap station is a bit hard to spot. The rap is located where an ice flow forms in winter – look for some cleaner black-streaked rock. Your rope will invariably land in a puddle when you toss it. It’s two raps – the first is shorter (20 m) and not so vertical to a large cedar. The second is almost a full 30m from the cedar to the base of the cliff.
Rappel Point #2: This is a longer, more involved rappel. Walk down the slope/gully immediately to your left of Juniper Bush Point when facing the water. There is a clearly visible pair of rap bolts there on the wall below Juniper Bush Point. Make a short rappel down to Bellyful Ledge - the long, wide upper ledge where Low Grade Radiation, Critical Mass, U-235 and the second pitch of Lichen It Up all top out. You will be rappelling directly over the short exit route Enriched Uranium. There are two bolts at the base of Enriched Uranium, but pass by these and continue rappelling across Bellyful Ledge, angling slightly to climber’s right, to reach the rappel station on the cliff face at the top of U-235. From this station it’s one single rope rappel to another rap station on a ledge midway down U-235, from where it’s another single rope rappel to the ground. That’s a total of 3 single rope rappels from the top. You can also do one full length 70 m rappel from the cliff top, if you have two 70 m ropes.
You can also scramble/climb down to Bellyful Ledge from several places along the cliff top (use your judgement; be careful). Once you’re on the ledge, it is safest to use the bolts set 5 m back from the top of Critical Mass to start a rappel. There is also another set of rap bolts on the face at the top of Critical Mass, but to clip these from Bellyful Ledge you have to step carefully down onto a chockstone.
Walking Descent Route
You can also walk down and around to the base of the cliff. This takes longer, but gives you a chance to scope out much of the cliff along the way. 75 m after crossing the Denison Mine gate you'll come to a fork/intersection in the dirt road. Take the right-hand fork all the way downhill past a small quarry to where the road ends in a grassy field. The capped mineshaft of Stanrock #2 is located in the middle of this field. Cross the field until you get to the crushed rock slope. Head towards the cliff (on your left) across the top of a slope of crushed rock; don't drop down to the lake. As you walk along the top you will get to a small rock cairn - this is the beginning of the trail. Go in here and that will take you to the base of the north cliff.
A Note on Peregrine Falcons
Be aware of peregrine falcons at Quirke. You will likely hear the peregrines screeching away as you climb at Rooster Rock, but they generally don’t bother climbers. However, please be aware that the peregrine falcon incubating/nesting/rearing season can run from April to the end of July/early August and that it’s a good idea to stay far away from their nest, should it be in the vicinity of a climb. Climbing on the north face is always a safe bet if the birds get agitated.
North Face Routes
The north face of Rooster Rock is the section of cliff that rises above the grassy field where the capped mineshaft of Stanrock #2 is located. It is generally easier-angled and slabbier than the west face routes, but it does have several roofs and interesting crack lines. One of these crack lines has been climbed. To get to the north face, it is easiest to simply take the descent trail that goes past the quarry and ends at the grassy field where the capped mineshaft of Stanrock #2 is located.
1 Y Not? | 5.9 | 23 m
FA Danylo Darewych/Mike Grainger July 19 2014
Look for a Y-shaped crack, the leftmost one of a group of three towards the right side of the face. This is the line. Walk up a very small talus field and traverse left along a treed ledge to the base of the route at a small right-facing corner. Climb up the crack/corner which heads slightly leftwards, to a ledge. The crack (and pro) gets very thin before the ledge. The face above the ledge is steep and composed of very solid conglomerate rock with stones and pebbles for feet. Climb up to a small pod from where two cracks diverge slightly, forming the Y-shape. Jam and stem up the two cracks to easier-angled, moss-covered slab above. Belay from a pine tree (blue webbing with two rap rings).
Main Wall Routes
Routes are described from left to right (north to south). The first climbs, from The Cryptkeeper to Heap of Humble Pie, are all climber’s left of the first rappel line.
2 The Cryptkeeper | 5.9 | 35 m
FA John Cotgrave/Max Pinion/Scott Ross September 22 2013
Located about 120 m left (north) of rappel line #1, past the point where the cliff line turns and faces north. Look for a left-facing corner with a big cave/opening 15 m up in the right wall of the corner. Climb the left-facing corner to the cave, and then the amazing hand-crack above to easier ground. This climb will need some traffic to clean the moss. Belay at a tree on a big ledge. Scramble up another 10 m to the climber's left to exit.
3 Contemplation | 5.10c | 35 m
FFA Marco Foladore/Laura Schmidt July 15 2017
Located on the face in between The Cryptkeeper and Plumber's Crack on the obvious crack system. There is a rock on the ground at the base of the climb with Contemplation scratched into it. This line follows straight up the face with two cruxes. It loves the small gear and gobbles up the nuts. Eases up on top and has two bolts for an anchor. This is a beauty of a climb, highly recommended.
4 Plumber's Crack | 5.10+ | 60 m
FA John Cotgrave/Max Pinion/Scott Ross September 22 2013
Located about 100 m north of the first rappel line.
Pitch 1, 5.10+, 25 m: Ascends the right-facing dihedral to a short, wide roof and off-width corner to a ledge, escaping out left to avoid blocks (cleaned later), followed by a wide 5" crack to a birch tree and a good belay ledge above.
Pitch 2, 5.8, 35 m: The next pitch (not visible from ground as it hides behind the birch) starts with a right-facing corner, to a clean hand crack and slabs above. Either belay at the first ledge, or continue up the mossy slabs to twin huge pine trees.
5 Rebirth | 5.8 | 28 m
FA Marco Foladore/Danylo Darewych October 6 2012
FFA Dave Marrone/Kielyn Marrone/Mat Masin May 18 2013
Located about 70 m north of the rappel line. The route starts below a big, slightly-wider-than-body crack in a dihedral above.
Pitch 1, 5.8/5.9, 15 m: Climb up a big crack past a small birch tree. If the crack below the tree is wet, then a harder (5.9) alternate start is possible on the left, but pro is very thin (brassies). Past the birch, the crack gets progressively wider. At the top of the crack, pull awkwardly up onto some blocks to your left and step into the base of the big, slightly-wider-than-body crack - the “birth canal” - above. There is a 2 bolt anchor at the top of pitch one, just outside the “birth canal” or you can use a chalk stone a few feet into the “canal” at head height.
Pitch 2, 5.6, 14 m: Squirm and chimney your way strenuously up and out of the “birth canal” - a deep slot that is barely wider than body-width at the bottom. No protection if you squirm your way up the middle of the slot. Decent protection at the very back, where the slot is slightly wider. Anchor bolts at the top.
6 The Big O | 5.9 | 5 m
FFA Dave Marrone/Kielyn Marrone/Mat Masin May 18 2013
This is the left variation start to the initial crack leading up to the Huffing Roof. It’s an awkward, strenuous off-width – not as nice as the original start, but a worthwhile alternative.
7 Huffing and Puffing | 5.10a | 40 m
FA Marco Foladore September 2011
FFA Dave Marrone October 1 2011
Huffing - Pitch 1, 5.10a, 20 m: Located about 45 m north of the first rappel line. Look for a roof above with a wide crack leading up to it. Climb up the crack, traverse out right below the roof, turn the corner and climb up to a belay on a ledge. Two bolts at the ledge to belay from.
Puffing: Pitch 2, 5.9, 20 m: From the Huffing belay continue up a wide crack/slot to the top of a pillar, then up another corner with an off-width slot on the left. Hard to protect – needs very big pro. Interesting moves to say the least.
8 Falcon’s Folly | 5.7 | 35 m
FFA Marco Foladore/Iain Miller
Located about 35 m north (climber’s left) of the rappel line or 10 m right of Huffing Roof. The letters FF have been scratched into the rock at the base.
Pitch 1, 5.7 12 m: The first pitch goes pretty straight up onto a ledge shared with Huffing and Puffing. An alternate start begins 3 m to the left and diagonals up to the right.
Pitch 2, 5.5, 20 m: Climb past a semi-bare tree through a giant slot that takes you over a bulge onto a ramp. From the ramp up it gets pretty easy.
9 Heap of Humble Pie | 5.9 | 35 m
FFA Hudson Mayhew/Danylo Darewych/Marco Foladore May 25 2016
Start half way between Falcon’s Folly and the rap line. Look for twin vertical cracks leading up to a ledge. Climb your way up the cracks on some slippery jams and a nice lay back with good pro to the ledge. Look up to a slightly overhanging wide-looking crack straight ahead. Pull your way up the crack with some cool jams and holds. At the top of the wide section traverse slightly right over the bulge (or go straight up if you want to make it hard on yourself). Continue up to the left for a belay off a tree.
10 Dry Ice | 5.5 | 50 m
FA Danylo Darewych/Erik Dokic October 7 2012
Located right underneath the rappel route.
Pitch 1, 5.5, 30 m: From the base of the rap route head up and slightly right following the path of least resistance, then straight up, over a short dead vertical section of 3-4 m (characterized by a crack in broken-looking rock), followed by easier terrain to a small platform with two cedars and a stunted birch (possible belay). From the small platform make an airy traverse right and up to a ledge, then up smooth step-like rock to a belay at the tree that serves as the midway rap anchor.
Pitch 2, 5.5 20 m: Head up in any direction you like, initially over a short steep step, then over easy angled tree and grass-covered slab to a final steep crack (5.5), just below the top rappel tree (the final steep crack can be easily bypassed on the right). This route would probably be harder for someone shorter.
11 1 Bro Wonder | 5.7 (or V0) | 8 m
FA David Marrone/Mat Masin August 17 2013
A low-angle slab route on one of the boulders near the base of the original rappel line. Named for the gear placed on it.
12 Lichen It Up | 5.9 | 50 m
FFA Marco Foladore/Andy Hunt/Chris Lill 2011
The first established climb at Quirke. Located 50 m south (climber’s right) from the rappel base. Look for a corner as the ledge system starts to slope downhill.
Pitch 1, 5.7, 13 m: Climb up the corner to a ledge. Tree belay (on the left).
Pitch 2, 5.9, 20 m:Climb the beautiful off-width to a big wide, treed ledge system (the left end of Bellyful Ledge).
Pitch 3, 5.5, 15 m: Above the ledge there is a final short cliff band. Walk 15-20 m right along Bellyful Ledge and climb up a bit of a left-facing corner.
13 Lichen It Up | Pitch 2 Variation | 5.5 | 20 m
FFA Danylo Darewych/Marco Foladore October 10 2011
From the first belay stance of Lichen It Up traverse up and rightwards around a corner, then step up and back left slightly, and follow a crack past a tree to the big ledge system.
Great exposure. Finish up the third pitch of Lichen It Up, or choose from any number of alternative exits up the short final wall.
14 Terrible Lie | 5.8 | 20 m
FA Dave Marrone September 26 2013
This route starts ~10 m left of U-235, on a nice grassy area under the shade of a birch. Look for a nice right-facing corner to a roof. Climb the initial crack and traverse left under the small roof to a ledge (bolt). Continue up a shallow, low-angled, right-leaning corner to another ledge (small micro-nut placement). Traverse left on the second ledge and up another shallow, low-angled, right-leaning corner on deteriorating rock (bolt at the top of this corner). The final 10' up the steep crack to the roof above has terrible rock, so traverse right on easier ground over some ledges (also bad, blocky rock) to the roof (2 bolts). Dave still intends to go finish this route properly up the steep crack to the roof and beyond.
The next 6 climbs all end at or start at the right end of Bellyful Ledge, a wide, somewhat treed, rubble-strewn ledge that runs about 12-15 meters below the cliff top. It also happens to be full of blueberries. You can reach Bellyful Ledge from the top by scrambling down to it at various points through trees or by rappelling in from rappel point #2, as described earlier.
16 Give Thanks for Cheap Labor | 5.7 | 35 m
FA Andrew Moores/Jeff Girard October 12 2013
Start 15m north (climber’s left) of the base of rappel line #2.
Pitch 1, 5.7, 15 m: Climb up right crack to belay ledge.
Pitch 2, 5.7, 25 m: Climb left-facing corner to off-width crack, which turns to hands. Finish left on low angle rock at cedar tree.
Note: There is potential for two alternate finishes either side of the original second pitch. The left follows a narrow dihedral to a crack (this finish looks slightly more difficult, but very promising with some cleaning). The right continues up a right-trending ramp to a blocky finish (not as attractive).
Toward the lower right (south) end of the Dead Bird Ledge you will come across two parallel cracks shooting straight up the wall about 10 m apart. This is also where rappel line #2 reaches the base of the cliff.
Beware of the small bushes of poison ivy beneath U-235 and Critical Mass!
17 U-235 | 5.9-5.10b | 50 m
FFA Dave Marrone/Mat Masin May 19 2013
The left crack.
Pitch 1, 5.9, 20 m: Climb up the right-facing corner, surmount a small roof/bulge and continue on slightly easier ground to a belay anchor (two rap bolts) on a ledge to your right.
Pitch 2, 5.10c, 28 m: Follow the crack to the top. Very sustained climbing, with lots of challenging sections to be worked out. There are two rap bolts at the top of the route (also 2 bolts in the rock about 12 m back from the top of the climb at the base of the route Enriched Uranium).
18 Critical Mass | 5.10b | 50 m
FFA Dave Marrone/Mat Masin August 17 2013
The right-hand crack. It is harder and more sustained than U-235.
Pitch 1, 5.9, 30 m: Climb straight up the crack to a two-bolt belay anchor (not rap anchors).
Pitch 2, 5.10b, 18 m: It’s a shorter second pitch, but the final steep headwall is a bruiser and takes big gear.
There is a bolted rap anchor on the face.
These bolts can be reached from above from Bellyful Ledge by stepping carefully down onto a chock stone. Otherwise there’s a second set of belay bolts 5 m back on the wall above the route.
19 Enriched Uranium | 5.11a | 7 m
FFA Dave Marrone/Marco Foladore September 26 2013
This is a short extension to U-235 that climbs from the ledge to the top of the cliff along a finger crack. 2 bolt anchor at the bottom of the pitch and 2 bolt rap anchor at the top.
20 Low Grade Radiation | 5.6 | 75 m
FA Pitch 1 Danylo Darewych/Mike Grainger September 1 2011
FFA Marco Foladore/Chris Lill/Danylo Darewych October 9 2011
The route starts almost where the rocky talus slope ends (in the centre of the cliff) on a vague buttress of what looks to be shattered rock.
Pitch 1, 5.6, 25-35 m: Head up and right over the shattered-looking rock (actually quite solid; pro is sparse at first) to a short kind-of-chimney, over that, then up a corner onto a grassy ledge. You will see a piton placed here, continue up to the ledge where the left-leaning crack system that entails pitch 2 is found.
Pitch 2, 5.6, 30-40 m: From the belay on the ledge, climb up the corner/ramp system above, stepping out of the corner/crack onto the face/ramp when needed, following the line of least resistance.
21 Air Boreal | 5.10+ | 12 m
FA John Cotgrave/Max Pinion September 22 2013
From the top of Low Grade Radiation traverse 20 m right along Bellyful Ledge to a cedar tree perched over the over-hanging wall above Low Grade Radiation and climb the crack above it. The crack trends left and has another small cedar growing out of the middle of it. It starts as a hand crack, narrows to fingers, then widens back to hands with some crimpers.
22 Top Hat | 5.4 | 15 m
FA Danylo Darewych/Mike Grainger September 2 2011
This is a short route at the top of the cliff. Walk skier’s left (south) of Juniper Point along the top of the cliff for about 40 m. Look over the cliff edge for a small grassy ledge with a birch tree before you reach the big corner where the Grand Central Chimney splits the cliff. Rap down to the ledge and climb back up along a nice corner crack on an easy ramp.
23 Seagull Alley | 5.8 | 90 m
FFA Marco Foladore/Dave Marrone/Jordan Cull October 2 2011
Traverse to your right over the water to the tree. Small ledge at the tree to the start of the climb. We didn’t rope up for the traverse but very possible if desired.
Pitch 1: Climb obvious crack to cave. Good rock.
Pitch 2: Beautiful off-width to start the pitch on solid rock that leads to a ramp (lots of guano, really smelly to boot). Follow ramp to the roof, step to the left and up onto a small ledge. Tread lightly - lots of loose stuff. Poor gear for belay (one solid nut).
Pitch 3: Continue up the crack, easy climbing here but lots of loose blocks, not the greatest pro at first but easy climbing. Rock gets better towards half way up the pitch. Nice exposed mini roof towards the top.
24 Seagull Alley | Pitch 1 Variation
FFA Dave Marrone/Kielyn Marrone October 15 2011
Instead of trending left to follow the corner/crack system, climb more directly to the first belay ledge, entering the belay ledge from the climber's right, rather than the climber's left as FA had. There is less pro in this variation, and climbing is slightly harder, but it is a really nice variant which is more exposed/direct/enjoyable.