L. Kris MacLellan

A collection of my interests, professional and personal

Raptor Crag

Raptor Crag is a technical rock climbing face located in the Musquodoboit Valley in Nova Scotia. It offers excellent rock with a handful of traditional climbing routes and trail amenities. Climbing ranges in difficulty from 5.7 to 5.10a, with promise of more to come. The wall is a unique and curious feature in the valley, visible from the trail but unclimbed until visited by Kris MacLellan and Anthony Lord in July of 2016. Raptor Crag joins the ranks of walls that were hiding in plain sight, passed by numerous hikers, cyclists and dog walkers every day.

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Access/Directions

Raptor Crag is located in Musquodoboit Harbour, Nova Scotia. It is part of the same valley system that includes popular existing climbing areas like Railway Crag and G-spot. 

  • From Halifax, drive 41 km along Hwy 107 until it terminates.
  • Turn right on to highway 7, and continue to Musquodoboit Harbour.
  • Turn left before the RCMP detachment onto #357
  • Finally, turn right onto Bayers Mill Road and follow until it ends. 
  • Observe parking rules here - signage is clear and simple. Parking is ample.
  • From here, head North on the Musquodoboit Trailway for 2 km to reach the trail head. Bring a bicycle to shorten this to a pleasant 5-7 minute ride.
  • Google Maps link shows the location from space, though we believe the crag isn't visible
Prussik marker - turn right here

Prussik marker - turn right here

Rock-In-Tree

Rock-In-Tree

protocol

Access to the bottom of the crag is done a few ways. From the top of the crag a sturdy tree serves as either a good rappel anchor to the ground, or as a first stage to access the bolted anchors for toproping. Climber's discretion. Please use tree bark protectors.  

To climbers and future route developers: the rock is sharp and edgy. Keep your wits about you - minimize swinging on the lowering line. If you rappel in, be prepared to ascend out.

At the foot of the crag is a relatively flat, stable, and very convenient rock platform from which to belay topropers. Here there is a large rock with good trad placements with which to build floor anchors. Observe personal anchor protocols when working in this area.


Note: This Cliff is on crown (public) land

  • Climb at your own risk
  • Leave no trace - pack out trash
  • We have no authority to advise on the legality of camping, fires, or other human activities on this land. For more information, see rules around Crown Land in Nova Scotia
The Upper Tier and Apron

The Upper Tier and Apron

The Elephant's Foot is a large, distinct triangular feature at the base of the crag. It marks the beginning of climbing at Raptor Crag. So far, most routes start here and then diverge. The Elephant's Foot boulder problem is about a V1, and gives access to the Apron. 

Be aware of your surroundings here - the Elephant's Foot feels like "ground level," but just behind you is yet another long drop into rough country. 

Lead belayers are suggested to belay from the Elephant's Foot position, rather than the belay platform. Use discretion. 

The wall faces generally westward, and starts to get sun around mid day. Bugs are consistent with typical valley conditions, or perhaps a bit better.

If there is a weakness with the site, it is water. The deep fissures seep throughout the spring.

Wooden Bridge marks the start of the forest hike

Wooden Bridge marks the start of the forest hike

Rock-In-Tree

The crag overlooks the Musqudoboit Trailway system, at approximately the 2 km marker. The cliff is below what is popularly known as the Bayer Lake Lookoff Point (official MTA map). Access is gained by hiking the Bayer Lake Lookoff portion of the Admiral Lake Trail System, starting at the wooden bridge located after the 2km marker at the south end of Bayers Lake (see image). Hiking trail begins at the wooden bridge and is marked with red trail markers.

A few hundred meters past the trail head you will find a comfortable outhouse. This is maintained by the Musquodoboit Trailways Association. Please respect it. 

Hiking time from the trail head to the top of the crag is approximately 15 minutes. Access to the lookoff point is indicated by a prussik cord tied to the trail marker (see image)

Turning right at the marker will bring you to Rock-In-Tree, the staging area. Climbers are suggested to rack up here and stash gear behind Rock-In-Tree.  

Be advised, people do hike past Rock-In-Tree, and will occasionally check it out now that the path has been cleared of windthrow. Mind your gear, though we've had no problems.

Belay platform the bottom of the crag

Belay platform the bottom of the crag

A Wall in three parts

Raptor Crag is a wall in three distinct parts. At the bottom, The Lower Tier includes some mostly flat, blank faces (with good future climbing potential) and the Elephant's Foot (see below)

The middle section, dubbed The Apron, is a long, smooth, slab wall.  The apron gives access to The Headwall

The Headwall is the steeply overhanging, featured top of the wall. It has a number of ramps, roofs, and deep crack systems.  Placing traditional protection has been excellent throughout. Rock quality is superb. Lots of sharp edges here - watch your ropes for wear.

The Elephant's Foot

The Elephant's Foot

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Above is the bird's nest from which the crag takes its name.  Over two seasons at Raptor Crag we have seen quite a number of birds in the valley, and this nest has been unoccupied.

According to a wildlife biologist we consulted through speciesatrisk.ca, the nest "doesn't look recently active. Larger cliff nests are sometimes not used every year and the species often changes over time depending on who claims the site first. If it belongs to a raptor of some sort they will set up April (if they are winter residents) or May-June (if they are migrants) and they will rear chicks until late July or mid to late August." We have been at the crag regularly since Summer 2016, and have yet to see it visited.

Despite this, we have opted not to disturb the nest, and advise others to do the same. It is large and impressive. There is a long ramp climb to its right has been generally cleaned, but remains unclimbed. 

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The Climbing

We have identified five obvious lines on Raptor Crag. There remains great potential for future development.  Three of the main lines have been climbed. They are:

1. Apoplex *** 5.10a FA: Lord & MacLellan, 2017 [ T, 2 Bolt Anchors w Rings, 22m]

Use the Elephant's Foot to gain access to the Apron. Follow the slab up and left to gain the bottom of the ramp. Climb up the ramp into the top corner, then follow the obvious horizontal hand crack left to blocky, bouldery movement up and out. Fantastic climbing, surprisingly overhanging. 

2. Path of Totality *** 5.10a  FA: MacLellan & Lord, 2017 [ T, 2 Bolt Anchors w Rings, 21m]

Start as per Apoplex. At the top of the ramp break right into the offwidth overhead crack out into space, finding side pulls and hidden hands to escape the crack and reach the top. First ascent during 2017 solar eclipse. 

3. I Joined The Tripod Army ** 5.7  FA: MacLellan & Lord, 2016 [ T, Tree Anchor, 26m]

Elephant's Foot start. Break right on the Apron to traverse the striking, wide, sky-facing crack as far as it goes. Finish with few well-protected technical moves to the lookoff point. No bolts here due to locals/aesthetic issues, so build a tree anchor to belay a second. If you committed to rapping in to Raptor Crag, this route is a great way to get back up to the top and out. 

4. Unclimbed project

Severely overhanging crack system, looks like pinches and jams up the Headwall. Finish as per Apoplex. Has been brushed but not deep cleaned. Looks tough.

5. Unclimbed Project 

Long ramp with slopey hands up the shattered face. Top half mostly cleaned. Probably best to start from left near the nest, not at the Elephant's foot. 

Note: We would appreciate feedback on the grading. As you will experience, the climbing here is quite varied and bouldery. Suggestions and opinions are welcome. Also, lengths are approximate, based on how much rope we used beginning at the belay platform.

 

Be safe Out There

Two dudes who snuck out of perfectly good beds  so as not to wake wives and babies (with mixed success)

Two dudes who snuck out of perfectly good beds  so as not to wake wives and babies (with mixed success)

We offer our labours at this crag to the climbers of Nova Scotia. We have gained much from this community over the years, and it is our pleasure to give something back. It may not be an expansive new mega-crag, but it is a great place to try novel climbing in a style somewhat unique in the province. We see it as a gateway to future marginal climbing spots in the Musquodoboit Valley. 

As I write this, there have not been any second ascents or female ascents. If you lay claim to one of those titles, we would like to know. 

We'd like to extend sincere thanks to people who's help and guidance we relied on to make this project a reality. Firstly Megan & Freya, Wendy, Nell & Martin, who put up with us leaving at 6 in the morning as long as we got back "by lunch." That definitely happened.  Also our sincere gratitude to Todd Foster, Miles McGehee, Charlie Bourne, Adam Benjamin, and the team at Seven Bays Bouldering. 

Enjoy Raptor Crag. Be safe out there.

View of Raptor Crag from the trailway

View of Raptor Crag from the trailway

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