Monday, July 27, 2009

Montagne D'Argent

This past weekend I was supposed to go to Quebec City, QC. I was going to travel by train for free, because of a deal VIA gives military members during the month of July. The plan was to stay at the Citadel, do a bit of climbing, party it up and generally have a great time. That is, until VIA went on strike an hour before my train was scheduled to leave.

Boy, am I glad they did.

Instead, I had a great weekend at Montagne D’Argent. It is a climbing area about an hour and a half North of Montreal. I can not believe that more people haven’t heard of this place. It was excellent. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Friday afternoon, I left work early and went home to pack my gear. Then, I met up with Colin and Arnaud to buy groceries for the weekend. Soon, we parted ways and waited at our houses for Pat to come pick us up. I got picked up first and then we went for Arnaud and Colin. We hit the road around 4:45PM.

The ride to Ottawa was very uneventful. Our directions took us straight through the ByWard Market, so we decided to stop for dinner. We tried to get a table a pub I like, Chez Lucien, but it was packed, coupled with the fact that I embarrassingly thought a patron was a waitress, we left and carried on to Pub 101. There, we all ordered the $10 steak and fries, and a beer. It was pretty good, not excellent, but good for the money. Once we were done, we carried on towards our final destination. A few near miss car accidents later, we arrived in La Conception, QC. We pulled into the campsite and everything was going fine, until we found out it was going to cost us $220 dollars to camp for the weekend. We decided that we were certainly in the wrong place because none of us would ever stay in a place that expensive. So, we asked for directions to another camp site. After quite a long hunt for the other camp site, we stopped at the single bar nearby. We had a beer, talked with the locals and had some fun. Then we started looking for the camp site again. An hour or two later, we found ourselves back at the bar, after unsuccessfully following the directions that my broken French gleaned from another campsite attendant. By this time, Pat was very frustrated and he was taking it out on a telephone pole with a metal rod. So, we called Eric for help. He managed to, eventually, guide us to the proper camp site. We joined out compatriots around the fire and went to bed dreaming of the day to come.

Figure 1: $10 Steak and Fries at Pub 101

Figure 2: At the local bar in La Conception

The next morning, we all awoke to mediocre climbing weather. It was better than expected, but not as great as we had all dreamed it could be. So, we headed up to the Grand Canyon area of Montagne D’Argent. Colin and I snagged the driest line available and started up a 5.10b called “Lucky Luke”. It was an excellent route; it was moderate climbing, with a few tricky moves. Coling breezed up it. I struggled with the last clip, took some big falls and eventually gave up. For my first hard sport climb in a while, I think I did pretty well. We climbed a bunch of other routes in the general vicinity, with various degrees of dryness and success. Soon, we left and went back to the tents for lunch. Then, we moved on to the “Le Fou” area. I lead “Boeing” (5.9+) and then hung out with Pawel, one of the Montagne D’Argent legends. He has a ton of First Ascents in the area and bolted most of the lines at “Le Fou”. We hung out for a while and shared some belays; it was fun to talk with one of the developers of the area. Pat and I then moved on and climbed the first pitch of “La Petite Delphine” (5.7/5.8). I set up a belay at the top of the climb and we decided to opt out of the second pitch, so we simul-rapped down. We rejoined the main party, did a little more climbing/talking and headed back to camp. From camp, we went down the trail to the river, where we stripped down in front of many shocked campers, located on the other bank, and went for a swim. It was awesome! The current was strong, so we would swim upstream and let the current carry us down. Although, as they say, it is all fun and games until Greg gets a leech between his toes. This situation required us to burn it off of him, only to have it reattach itself, requiring a second torching. Bloodsucking disaster averted, we headed back to the campsite.

Figure 3: Just a tidbit of the amazing climbing at Montagne D'Argent

Figure 4: Pat and I rapping off

Figure 5: Climbing at "The Grand Canyon" area

Figure 6: Colin pulling hard

Figure 7: More climbing at "The Grand Canyon"

Once we arrived back at the tents, we discovered the camp sauna. It seemed newly built and was amazing. Whoever decided to install it is a veritable genius. Greg, Colin and I proceeded to spend copious amounts of time in there. Eric and Pat joined in for a short session, and the rest didn’t seem interested. We, on the other hand, loved it and got our fill. In between sauna sessions, we made and ate dinner. A bunch of people went to the grocery store to get food, Colin, Arnaud and I made a giant pot of pasta, which we shared amongst ourselves. While out shopping for groceries, they discovered that Quebec sells beer for incredibly cheap prices. So, they returned with two cases. We drank the corona, but couldn’t finish the Keith’s. It was a good night. We all, eventually, turned in. I stayed outside in my bivy bag and the rest were in tents. Later that night, it started pouring rain. It wasn’t the rain that kept me awake, but all the people seeking shelter in the nearby picnic area. I eventually slept, once they braved the downpour and returned to their tents.

Figure 8: In the sauna

The next morning (Sunday), we woke up and decided it would be too wet to climb. So, we ate breakfast, packed up and headed to Ottawa. Breakfast was quite the affair. Arnaud, Colin and I made a chocolate-banana for everyone. Basically, we sliced open some bananas, shoved some chocolate inside and cooked them directly over the coals. Delicious!

The drive to Ottawa was pretty boring, since we were all tired. We arrived in the city and with some speedy navigation by me, made it to Mountain Equipment Co-op, where we were meeting the other car. We shopped around the MEC for awhile, picked up some things we “needed” and went to the parking lot for lunch. We sat on the rocks outside and finished the food we had packed for the trip. People gave us funny looks (particularly Nick, who had his rain pants pulled down to his ankles and was sitting in his long underwear), but we didn’t really care that much. On the way back to Kingston, I took an unexpected nap that made the drive much shorted than planned and was dropped off at home. I unpacked my kit, put my sleeping bag on the balcony to dry and ate some dinner.

All in all, a great weekend in Montagne D’Argent. I can’t wait to go back, but first THE ADIRONDACKS, next weekend!!!!!!

Figure 9: The group (sans Colin, the photographer) eating in front of MEC

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day

Independence Day is an American holiday celebrated on July 4th. This holiday celebrates several things, the most important of which are American independence and Will Smith punching aliens in the face. Now, however, we have a new reason to celebrate the Fourth of July – my friends, Alex Parker and Lynne Comeau were brought together in marriage yesterday.

Figure 1 An American flag

Figure 2 Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum ready to kick some alien ass!

I got off work on Friday afternoon, quickly tied up some loose ends, packed and rushed off to the train station. My train was leaving at around 6PM, but since I had to take the bus and then walk to the station, I wanted to leave myself a large margin of error. So, I ended up arriving about an hour early. It was OK, though, one of the soldiers we have role-playing at The Peace Support Training Centre (PSTC) walked in soon after I arrived. Of course, he tried to ignore me and pretend he didn’t see me, even though I see him everyday at work. So, I walked over and sat down next to him. We chatted, he seemed like an OK guy and soon the train was pulling in for us to board. While on the train, I tried to get all my work for the weekend out of the way. I made a dent in it, but still had plenty left over for Sunday. Upon arrival in Ottawa, my friend Ashley picked me up. I was to stay with her for the weekend and we were going to the wedding together. On the way home, Ashley, her friend Dana and I picked up some Vietnamese food and headed for her place. Once there, we sat down, ate and watched “He’s Just Not That Into You”. We were all VERY tired, so we took Dana home, and went to sleep.

The next morning, we woke up around 10AM. Ashley started to get ready for the wedding, which was at 3PM. I headed over to the mall to buy a belt. I came back and noticed no change in Ashley. I then went to get gas for the car. I came back and noticed no change in Ashley. Then, I went to pick some other wedding stuff up. I came back and noticed no change in Ashley. She told me to stop making fun of “the process”. Eventually, we were both ready to go and we both looked pretty good. As you can tell.

Figure 3 Ashley and I at the wedding.

We drove downtown, found a parking spot and headed over to the Notre Dame Cathedral. When we arrived at the front doors at around 2:15PM there was a wedding party exiting the church. “OH NO!” I thought “We somehow missed the wedding”. Luckily, I didn’t recognise anyone and we realised that the cathedral was just a really popular place to get married. So, we headed for the pub and had a drink. Around 2:40PM, we went back to the church and I recognised the wedding goers who were milling about the entrance, phew!

We went in and were both taken aback by the amazing Cathedral we were now standing in. It was huge, there were so many marble statues, they looked like wax melting down the walls, the ceiling was beautifully painted and there was gold everywhere. Amazing! We sat about eight rows from the front, on the right side, on the centre aisle. The cathedral started filling around us. All the student-types sat near me, no one sat closer to the front than we did. The left side of the church filled from the front back and was dressed in very bright colours. The right side filled sporadically from the middle out, and was dressed all in very dark colours. It was easy to tell which side was Quebecois and which was not. The ceremony itself was simple, elegant and wonderfully done. Lynne looked remarkably beautiful in her dress and Alex was dashing in his uniform. The whole thing went of without any problems. Once it was over, we realised that there was an hour to kill before the reception, so Ashley, Hanni and I went back to the pub.

Figure 4 The cathedral

Figure 5 A bad picture of the bride and groom, but the only one I have

Hanni was Alex’s room mate through law school and is currently finishing medical school at Queen’s. We sat, chatted and had a drink. Soon, it was time to leave for the reception. Ashley and I drove to Tudor Hall and made good time, even though the GPS made no sense for the majority of the drive. On arrival we were told that we were sitting at the “Dieppe” table. Alex and Lynne named the tables after places they had been together. I sat with Phil Osanic (a Kingston lawyer), Ryan Barber (ADJT GGFG), Rob Foster (CO GGFG) and their wives. Why Alex chose to sit all the military members in attendance at a table named for an Allied failure we will never know. However, it was good to meet the Governor’s General Foot Guard (GGFG) fellows.

The reception progressed smoothly. Dinner was excellent, the cake was FANTASTIC (way to put your foot down Alex) and the DJ was pretty good. Ashley and I spent the majority of the evening chatting with Steve (the best man), Hanni and Gordon (one of Alex’s friends). We talked about everything from the “Disappearing Male” problem to strategic missile defence. After a long day, Ashley and I headed back to her place and promptly went to sleep.

This morning went quickly. We woke up, I packed, Hanni picked me up and we took off for Kingston. We chatted the whole way home. We haven’t seen each other since Alex left for Ottawa, so it was good to catch up. We stopped at Tim Horton’s on the way home, only to run into Jay (another wedding go-er). So, we chatted for a minute in line and continued on our way. I arrived home around 1:30PM or 2PM, did some work and am now writing this report of the weekend.

All in all, the weekend could be assessed as good. I would assess it as excellent. I hope Alex and Lynne have fun on their honeymoon and have a long, prosperous, full life together. Best of luck!