Friday, October 16, 2009

Vivre libre ou mourir!

A few weeks ago, I saw the following on my friend Steve Sagar’s facebook page – “Sexy Scuba Steve: What are you doing Thanksgiving weekend? if you can find a partner, want to come climbing at Mt Rumney!?”. To which I replied – “So, Steve ... I hear you need a partner for Rumney ...”. This is how I started the ball rolling for my Thanksgiving weekend plans. It turns out that Sexy Scuba Steve was being picked up in Kingston by his two friends from Waterloo and St. Catherine’s, on their way to Rumney, New Hampshire. So, I filled the slot of Steve’s partner for the weekend and it seemed like we were on our way to New Hampshire to clip some bolts for the long weekend. Note the word “seemed” as an obvious foreshadowing of plans to be changed.

Steve’s friends, Lee Anne and Travis, rolled in to town Thursday night to see their friend Dan. We were supposed to meet up with them at 4AM on Friday morning to go to New Hampshire and climb that day. However, the entire East coast of North America was being buffeted by rain storms. So, at the last minute (several hours before we were set to leave), we changed the departure time to 10AM. We were also told to lighten our loads, as Lee Ann and Travis had brought a fifth member for our trip and had driven in a two door sedan. I stripped down my kit to the lightest I could for a weekend in below freezing temperatures, rain, possible snow, etc. and left my trad rack behind completely. I arrived at our rendezvous point (the Shopper’s Drug Mart at Princess St. and Division) at the designated time and sat down, beside my minimal load. Soon after, Steve came walking down the street carrying a massive ruck sack and a second back pack. “Oh no!” I thought “we are never going to be able to fit all this gear into the car”. Well, I was wrong; we did manage to fit all the gear in. Lee Ann, Janina (the fifth member of our group) and I were just covered in gear, crammed in the back seat. Steve also lacked sufficient leg room for a comfortable trip.

Figure 1: In the car, on our way to Montagne D'Argent.

Figure 2: Travis wearing a helmet, while driving, for safety and to save room.

First we headed to Stauffer Library to print directions to Rumney. While there, Travis saw me move my passport from my bag to my pocket. “Why do you have your passport?” he asked. “Uh… because we are crossing international borders” I replied. “Ah… we didn’t bring ours…” he said. “Hmm…” we all thought. Anyhoo, it looked like we weren’t going to the USofA this weekend. So, I suggested Montagne D’Argent. Everyone agreed, and we were off like a herd of turtles.

The drive to Ottawa was uneventful and uncomfortable. We spent some time getting to know each other and just talking. In Ottawa, we stopped at the MEC to buy the guidebook for Montage D’Argent and lunch at “The Works”, as usual. Continuing to Montagne D’Argent was a rather boring trip through backwoods Quebec. Eventually, we found the camp site, set up and were ready to go. Unfortunately, it was cold, wet, raining and soon to be dark. So, we headed into town for supplies (namely beer). Grocery run complete, we came back to the camp and almost immediately hit the sauna. The reason Montagne D’Argent is such a great climbing area is not the climbing itself; it is the cheap beer, the hot sauna and the low camp fees. So, we made the most of all these great facets of climbing in Quebec.

Figure 3: Us on arrival at Montagne D'Argent

Figure 4: Us in the Sauna (a very common sight over the course of the weekend).

The next morning (Saturday), we made the decision that even though the weather was good, the rock was far to drenched for us to climb. So, we headed into town, looking for a place to slackline. We figured that we would probably find a park or something nearby that would suit our needs. After driving almost all the way to the resort area known as Mont Tremblant, we decided to just go there. Upon arrival we realised that parking would be very expensive. So, we headed for Steve’s Dad’s Girlfriend’s new condo. They were just moving into it that day and had offered to host us for a drink, anyway. Once there, we all put our helmets on and roped up, for safety of course, we were on a mountain, after all.

Figure 5: Roped up and climbing at Mont Tremblant.

After some brief chatting with Steve’s Dad and his Girlfriend, we headed into the resort village (still roped up and helmeted). On our way to the village, we bouldered every rock we saw. Once we arrived in the resort, we took the gondola to the top of the summer resort area, ate some beaver tails and started looking for a place to slackline. We discovered the best place for it, would probably be directly in front of the Marriott hotel, in the centre of the village. Only Steve could really do it. He was awesome; the rest of us could barely, if at all, stand on the line. We did get some good pictures that make it look like we can do it, though. While we were there, a guy who apparently had lived in Squamish for the past year came over to talk and try out the line. He was pretty interesting and promised to give us a deal at the Roots store he worked at, but we never went to visit him, oh well, it would have been expensive with or without the deal. Soon, we realised the rock would probably be dry, so we headed back to Montagne D’Argent.

Figure 6: More bouldering.

Figure 7: Lee Anne and I buying Beavertails for the group.

Figure 8: A picture that makes it look like I know how to slackline.

Figure 9: Steve actually slacklining.

Upon arrival, we headed to the cliffs, which were about one minute from our tents. Steve, Janina and I went to the Controverse area, while Travis and Lee Anne went to Le Fou. We climbed “Controverse” and “Friction Constitutionelle”, both rated 5.8. It went well. Steve lead both, Janina seconded and I went up and tore down the anchors. Once we had completed these, we headed to Le Fou to find Travis and Lee Anne. The sun was quickly setting, but we decided to try for a 3-pitch climb anyway. It was called “La Centenaire” and was only 5.8. I lead the first pitch, brought Steve up and then Janina. Upon Janina’s arrival, we decided it was too dark to continue and rapped off. I have done the climb before and the third pitch is the best one. Oh well, Steve and Janina will have to wait until next time to climb it. We got to the ground and headed back to camp. Basically, we repeated the previous night’s fun. We ate dinner, sat in the sauna for far too long and drank beer.

Figure 10: Tearing down the anchors on "Controverse".

Figure 11: Realising it was too dark to continue.

Sunday morning arrived and the weather was much better than Saturday morning. So, we headed to town, bought some food and ate a warmish breakfast. Once we thought the rock had warmed up, we made our way back to camp, collected our gear and went to the Grand Canyon area. The weather was great, other than the very cold temperatures, and we started climbing. We started on 5.10b called “Lucky Luke”. I had climbed it before, but it was fun. It is a relatively easy climb until the finger crack at the top. From there, we hopped on a few other climbs nearby, such as “La Cha-Cha des Felins” (5.9-), “Mauvaise Herbe” (5.10d) and “Le ‘Speech’ de Gaetan” (5.8+). They were all fun and everyone was having a good time. It started snowing, so Steve, Janina and I used the anchors from “Le ‘Speech’ de Gaetan” to top rope some easier trad climbs nearby, in our approach shoes and wool socks. Soon, the three of us moved back to camp and started cooking the turkey legs for dinner. Travis and Lee Anne stayed and climbed for a while longer. When they came back down to camp, we sent them for wine and chips, for dinner. While they were gone, several other groups joined the camp site. Upon their return, we cracked open a bottle of wine and ate our turkey legs. It was delicious.

Figure 12: Steve climbing in the Grand Canyon area.

Figure 13: Top roping trad routes in the freezing cold.

Figure 14: Cooking up some turkey legs.

One of the other groups asked if we needed anything from the grocery store, so I went with them and bought some more wine and chips. When I got back to camp, we decided to do an easy slab climb nearby. It was dark, but the climb was a bolted 5.3+ called “Deuxieme biere” and we couldn’t resist. We all lead it, in the dark, with headlamps. It was pretty fun, but the fun really started when we realised the slab was covered in slippery leaves. So, of course, we started climbing up about 20 or 30 feet and sliding down on the leaves. It was probably the most fun I have had in a while. We took some great pictures of ourselves sliding and had a blast. Soon, we ran out of leaves and headed back to camp. As usual, we moved into the sauna. The other groups probably thought we were crazy, since we stripped down in front of them, by the fire, and went to the sauna, but that is OK. We warmed up our muscles, relaxed and went back to the fire to join them. We all chatted for a while, until we got too tired. So, we retired to our tents.

Figure 15: Night climbing.

Figure 16: Night sliding.

Figure 17: More night sliding (it was fun, OK).

Monday morning, we struck camp quickly, headed for the car, loaded up and drove off. It was a highly uneventful trip home, with one McDonald’s stop along the way. Once back in Kingston we exchanged all the pictures so that everyone had copies. As soon as that was done, Travis, Lee Anne and Janina headed off for home. I went back to my apartment, took a shower to get the stink of four days off me and looked at the pictures.

All in all, it was a great trip and even though we didn’t make it too New Hampshire, I probably wouldn’t have changed it.

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