|White Lightning (WI3) -- a local classic|
|This sleepy town has some of the best climbing east of the Rockies!|
I go home to visit family and friends, but as a bonus, I get to strap on the crampons and ice tools, and get in some ice climbing with my brother. I even somehow convinced Teresa to get out ice climbing as well.
We climbed a bunch of moderate classics over 3 days, and didn't see another climber the entire time. Amazing. The first thing we climbed was White Lightning, a beautiful 60 meter ice climb a 10 minute drive from town, up on Mt. McKay.
|Teresa working the moves on White Lightning|
|Kyle on a variation|
|Ready to eat?|
|The family - waiting patiently for Finnish pancakes!|
The next climbing day we headed out to Orient Bay, which is a 90 minute drive from town. Orient Bay is amazing, the area holds ~60 ice climbs, several of them greater than 120 meters in height, with most of climbs being less than a 20 minute walk from the road. If Orient Bay were located near a major city center, it would be as famous as Hyalite Canyon or even Ouray! But, being in Northwestern Ontario, you are pretty much guaranteed to have the place to yourself most days. No Lee Vinning style TR cluster fu@k here!
The routes range from easy beginner routes routes like Tempest (WI2) and Cascade Falls (WI3) to amazing spectacular pillars and test-pieces like Parallax (WI5) and Reflection Wall (WI5) -- something for everyone
One interesting and unique feature of the local ice, is that it tends to have a yellow color. I believe this is because of the minerals in the rock.
|Tempest (WI2)- Easy classic!|
|Teresa climbs Tempest - note how close the road is!|
|Approaching Cascade Falls|
|Kyle leading up Cascade Falls|
On the last climbing day, Teresa was ready for a break, so Kyle and I headed out to Squaw Bay for a quick afternoon climb. It turned out to be my favorite climb of the whole trip. The climb was called Alpine Outing, a very interesting 2 pitch climb up into a gully system.
|Super fun climb in Squaw Bay|
|Squaw Bay - Sleeping Giant in the background|
Kyle led the climb, making it look easy. The crux section is very thin, and requires a bit rock gear to protect it, and you actually use the rock band along with the ice to climb through the difficult section. It does not look hard from the ground, but it is deceptively steep, and also much longer than it looks.
|Kyle places a screw before committing to the crux moves|
|The narrow ice gully on the 2nd pitch|
|Final tricky section before exiting the climb|
|Kyle rigs the rappel at the top of Alpine Outing|
Along with Christmas arrived, came a cold snap of -20 to -30 C temperatures, so that's it for ice climbing this trip.
We did a bunch of visiting of old friends (and their various children) including Scott and Sarah, Eli and Sarah as well Chris and Carolyn. Its always great to see how everyone is doing, and nice that old friends can take times out of their busy lives to catch up.
Teresa and I also braved arctic temperatures to explore Thunder Bay's recently renovated water front. Its very nice and I'm sure a lovely place to hang out when its not -25 C
On Boxing day, the temps dipped even further with wind-chill approaching -35 C. I decided it would be a good idea to test out my Alaska gear by going a quick hike up Mt. McKay (1,450'). Mt McKay is the largest "mountain" in the Nor Wester Mountains which ring Thunder Bay. Its on First Nation lands, and has two distinct plateaus, the first having a lookout and structures for the First Nations, and a flat topped summit.
|Summit plateau of Mt McKay as seen from the lookout. First Nations Pow Wow structure in the foreground|
It was a quick (~ 45 min) jaunt up about 1000' to the summit. It was extremely cold, but double mountaineering boots, and my Rab Xenon + buffs kept me toasty warm on the ascent.
I have not climbed Mt McKay since I was 12 years old. It seemed to big at the time!
|Very cold summit selfie|
|Looking down on Thunder Bay from the Summit of Mt McKay|
It was a wonderful visit home, lovely to see family and friends. As always climbing with my brother is a special treat, I'm glad that our passions converge on something we can both enjoy together.
Its always great to see some of my oldest friends, catch-up and see how much has changed. Looking forward to my next visit!
|Bye TBay! Until next time!|