With a crew of Ottawa climbers I ventured to Montagne d'Argent over the long weekend looking to bag some harder sport leads (for me anyway) and meet some new area climbers . I hit the road with David early Sunday morning with Scott, Richard, Hedy and JP meeting us there later in the day. Thanks to David for initiating this trip through the Ottawa climbing forum . Below is my account of the trip.
I decided to warm up on Controverse (5.8-, 25m, 8 bolts), a sport climb that names this area of Montagne d'Argent. I wanted to climb this on my last trip but it was too wet. Controverse is a slabby and interesting climb over rolling granite bulges. An easy on sight. I ended up climbing this a second time to put up a toprope for Richard and crew. Feeling strong after climbing Controverse I moved over to Escouade tactile (5.10b, 25m, 6 bolts). Starting in a dihedral you work up to a high first bolt and make a tricky transition left over the arete after clipping. The climb a this point, is a rather blank slab that transitions up over a large bulge and unfortunately there are no positive holds on top for your hands, only friction. I peeled on my first attempt. It felt like I was being dragged over sandpaper as I came back over the round edge, down the slab and past the first bolt. The fall was motivating enough that I managed to push through on the second attempt in a ungraceful gecko style scramble. This is the crux in my mind as the rest is just a slow game of one inch at a time on textured slab.
After the long ascent up the stairs to the Grand Canyon I setup shop in front of Pathfinder (5.10c, 25m, 8bolts). I've climbed Pathfinder before but for some reason it seemed harder then I remembered. The hot sun just seemed to be pulling me down. Anyway, I worked it out and finished the climb without coming off. A few climbs to the left of Pathfinder is Mauvaise Herbe (5.10d, 25m, 5 bolt). After 3 bolts there is a small roof where I thought the crux would be. I could see holds but I was not convinced that I could pull it off so I retreat to the ground. After a long hike to the top I setup a toprope and rappelled down to take a look at the holds. As it turns out this roof is not the crux; the crux is crimpy technical section at the 5 fifth bolt. Starting on toprope I moved quickly past the first 3 bolts back up to the roof. There is a jug side pull out to the right and a good left hand just over the edge to work your feet up high. Then heel hook out to the left, right hand up to a thin rail, match hands, rock over, and stand up. This is a good rest spot. At this point I realized that I was dehydrated as I shook out a leg cramp from my heel hook. The key now, is to carefully move up your feet so you can grab the rail located just above the fifth bolt. It is small but positive. This where it gets hard but the crimps are there you just need to work it out. I was pretty stoked to send this clean on the first go on toprope. I should be able to get the redpoint on lead next time.
My last climb in the Grand Canyon was Souris Chauve (5.10b, 34m, 9 bolts). Although tired from Mauvaise Herbe, I onsighted Souris Chauve without too much trouble. A couple big moves in the beginning to a standard Montagne d'Argent slabby finish to the anchors.
JP joined us Sunday morning at M&M. This is perhaps the most attractive rock face at Montagne d'Argent with a classic splitter crack called M&M (5.8, 23m, trad) which names this area. JP lead M&M on gear to setup a toprope for David and I. It was a great warm up with lots of hand jams and foot camming up the crack. I really enjoyed it; it will make you want to buy a trad rack. Next up, was my lead on Grenouille toxique (5.10c, 25m, 8 bolts). This turned into a bit of an epic for me. Don't let the start fool you, it is harder than it looks. At one point on the upper slab I was balanced on a single foot with only crystals and friction for my other foot and hands. At full extension I was just inches from sinking may hand into a horizontal crack. As I inched up on my left foot my right came off to leave only body tension to keep me on the wall. Unfortunately the crack was still just beyond my finger tips and my leg was starting to get the shakes. Well above my last bolt, "Chill, just chill" I repeat to myself as a eased back down to bring my other foot back into a smear. It was a bizarre calming moment. My breathing slowed as I reposition my feet, both to the good edge, stretched up and nailed the crack with my left hand. Now with good hands I clipped the next bolt and finish the climb. I'm glad I finished it but I'm not sure I will climb it again.
M&M has a number of attractive cracks. David pushed himself here too by leading Krakabra (5.7+, 25m, trad) on gear. I toproped it afterward, another fun crack with good hand jams. JP lead Psychokrak (5.10a, 25m, trad - 1 bolt) where the 1 bolt protects a traverse from one crack system to another. I sent this without a problem on toprope. However, anyone can be a hero on toprope. It was a solid lead by JP. Also, while at M&M I toproped Sonatine (5.12a, 23m, 8 bolts). Sonatine is a game of inches with next to nothing to put your feet on. A very technical slab climb that sandpapers off your finger tips with each move. With raw finger tips I threw in the towel at the sixth bolt.
Walking into Le Fou there is eye catching crack call Coeur vaillant (5.10b, 20m, trad). Props to JP for fighting this one out to the top. I did not climb much in Le Fou. I followed on a multi pitch to belay David but did not have the energy for much else.
As always, I found the other climbers at Montagne d'Argent friendly and easy to talk too. A shout out the Ed and the two Bob's that we met. Also, camping at Montagne d'Argent does not seem to be restricted to the wooden tent pads as I once thought. Heck, there were tents in the woods all the way out to M&M.