Canada Day long weekend again, and this year I spent it again with a bunch of people at David’s cottage on Lac Sam, some of us climbers, some not. David’s Canada Day party is a long standing tradition among his friends and he busts his butt to organize it each year. Some of his friends swim and hang out and play board games; lately, since we’ve opened up climbing areas on the lake, a group of us come with all our climbing gear too.
The lake from the top of Upper Cliff: this is definitely the most beautiful place to climb around Ottawa.
Over the four days, I hit every area: 5.SuperFunWall, Lower Cliff, Jumping Rock, and Upper Cliff.
5.SuperFunWall is back in there somewhere!
5.SuperFunWall has two bolted sport routes on it now, thanks to David’s efforts. You have to canoe a fairly long way to get to it, but when you reach it, pull up a canoe at the shoreline, step out, drop your pack and you’re at the base. Most of the climbs are pretty moderate, and the 5.9ish bolted line on the left is pretty cool, finishing with some burly and ballsy stuff for the grade, particularly the fine thin edges at the top, just before you’re completely done with getting over a bouldery roof. We did that on Friday, though I got there late with Jex, and as we got there, the others were already heading to Jumping Rock. So we missed out on Jumping Rock that day, but we did get to climb for a while at SuperFunWall, and have the occasional boater come past, spot us, then inch curiously up toward the shoreline to try and figure out what we were doing. “Oh!” a couple of older guys in a dinghy said, “They’re rope climbing. . .” (From halfway up one route – Gneiss & Grandy, I think – I invited them to join us. They declined.)
But then there was Sunday, when four of us – David, Jex, Noah and I – paddled over to Lower Cliff. Unfortunately, we found ourselves over there one harness short. D’oh! Never fear, David’s always ready to go (potentially painfully) old school:
Yes, that is, in fact, a harness constructed out of slings and carabiners.
Would you like a closer look at this feat of MacGyvering? Okay!
Admittedly, this harness was only used for top rope belaying – no climbing, no leading. We had to trade around harnesses a bit to accommodate for that. But, still, it worked.
I think for me the best part of the day was sending Slab O’ Doom, a 5.10a route on the big slabby face (I don’t think I’ve climbed it clean before, and certainly never with as much aplomb: Noah, who was belaying me, said, “You just sailed through that!” when I came down) and getting tapped to pink-point Dave, Dave, Dave of the Jungle, which is the oldest climb at the crag, and which I’ve led before, but not recently.
(It occurs to me, since we were climbing with Noah, who’s sixteen, that it’s likely some younger people might not actually get why we called it Dave, Dave, Dave of the Jungle. And that makes me feel a wee bit old.)
Anyway, David had left his gear in when he put a top rope up on the slab climbs, so someone had to go up and lead Dave, Dave on his gear, and that someone turned out to be me. I was glad of it, too: I haven’t been leading nearly enough lately, and this was a good lead. I remembered again that when I’m actually on lead, things get so much more focused, and I don’t actually feel scared. Instead, I just feel sort of hyper-sharp and aware of my own thought processes.
There were butterflies everywhere, and they weren’t afraid to land. This one didn’t even take off when Noah started taking up rope.
After we finished up at Lower Cliff, Jex and David went back to the cottage, but Noah and I grabbed the spare canoe and headed to Jumping Rock. He’d been there the day before, and had his sights set on sending the main line up the boulder, a steeply overhanging problem that starts out relatively easy, and then gets progressively harder and harder.
So we paddled up, got the shoes on, and jumped into the water below the rock. I had brought along my waterproof camera for just this purpose.
Jumping Rock. 30 feet of awesome. (Noah’s project was the semi-obvious right-slanting crack that starts at bottom middle and vanishes and rounds out at the top.)
Jumping Rock has a fairly accessible lower rail – that lighter bit you can see down by the waterline – and it seems like its usual pattern is that it starts out relatively easy and just keeps getting harder as it goes up. I can, on a good day, haul myself up to where my feet are on the rail. After that I slip off.
The heel hook while I got it together for the left-hand-up move. Which stuck for like, oh, maybe two seconds. Then – SPLOOSH.
Noah, though, is another matter.
That’s him on top of the leftmost problem, which no one’s really graded. Last person to estimate a grade for it called it a V7: Noah says no, but maybe there’s a harder variant at the top.
He went back for a couple of runs at his project, too.
… aaaand he hits the water.
We paddled back tired and happy about it.
Day Three: Noah’s parents and sister headed back to Ottawa (we’ve been climbing with Noah and his mother Chantalle for a while now: his father and sister were also invited along to the cottage this year, though they don’t climb. But Noah had decided he wanted to stick around the cottage and keep climbing. David wanted to spend some time with his non-climbing friends, and Jex had to go back to work. So. . . it was just Noah and me, heading off in David’s car to Upper Cliff.
The slightly odd thing about climbing with Noah is that while he’s vastly stronger than me (he’s on a competitive team) I have more outdoor experience, so I’m still kinda the leader when we’re out there. Plus, at Lac Sam, I know the cliff a lot better, and it is really hard to find the anchors if you don’t know where you’re going. Though, when you do find them, it’s a great crag.
Noah chilling out above the anchor for Pink Floyd Wall.
We spent the afternoon rappelling in to various climbs, then I’d climb back out and bring Noah up from the top. Then we’d move to the next anchor and repeat. I had a whole lot of fun on Tits ‘n’ Ass, which has been bolted, but which I didn’t lead this time: thought about it, but that opening crux kicked my butt too much, sadly. The second, though – the signature part of the climb – went better than usual. It’s an awkward wriggle, arms first, through a pinch at a pair of roofs. Like half a funnel: you have to climb up through the narrow bit into a widening dihedral, with very few handholds and your feet a little loose below you. Noah, somehow, got into it back first, so that when he made it through the pinch, he could actually just lean back in the dihedral like he was in a lawn chair, and look around. (It’s hard to describe, and I wished I’d had a camera – and a free hand.)
In between climbs, we chilled out at the top and took in the view.
And we wrapped the day up at Pink Floyd Wall, which Noah hadn’t been to before, climbing Shine on You Crazy Diamond (big overhang at the start full of sketchy crap friable rock, but fun, followed by a bit of slab and a nice twisty finger crack to the top) and Welcome to the Machine (big move to get onto the boulder at the bottom, followed by some ho hum, and then a lovely, hard, thin, three-move face, which I fell only once on. When Noah scrambled to the top of it, he said, “I don’t know you you did that face, but what I did was . . . weird. . .”
By then we were dirty and tired and sun-stunned, and the lake looked good enough to try jumping into from where we were (300m up). So we hiked back to the car and got ourselves back to the lake, and dinner.
And then the last day the weather was a little iffy. Unsettled. But that meant it was time to go back over to Jumping Rock (from which we could flee quickly if the weather people’s predicted thunderstorms started to loom) and see if Noah could send his project. David came along, and our non-climber friend Ian came too, to scramble around on the rocks and jump off.
I messed around too, but at this point I was getting a bit tired, I think. But, after Noah taped up his fingers, then somehow managed to swim to the start without getting his hands wet, he took a run at the project. He peeled off the first time where it starts to taper off and get vertical, took a break while the rest of us noodled around on the rock, and then I went to get the camera so I could catch it on video, and he made another attempt.
As you can see in the video, it was raining at the start, and the wind was really picking up. It started getting ominously dark just after this, and we piled into the canoes and raced home as fast as our arms could take us, particularly when we heard some thunder rumbling in the distance. But, we all made it back in time to get up to the cottage and be safely dry, with beer in hand, before the heavens opened up.
And then we had dinner, did some cleaning up, jumped in the lake one last time, and as night fell the last of us headed back toward the city.
And that was Climbaganzapalooza 2014.