Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Antre du Dragon

I have been trying to write this trip report for a couple days but have stalled several times. I'm always debating how much info to included. Does anyone actually want to hear my exacted thoughts as I remember them for each climb? For the most part I write these trip reports so I can look back in a year's time and know what happened on each trip. So I guess it is a personal yet public account of the trip.

Matt, Hedy and I headed to Montagne d'Argent last Saturday with fantastic weather. It was a nice change from the previous week of rain and iffy weather predictions. Of course, nice weather brings more climbers and the parking area was overflowing with vechiles.

After a pit stop at the main hut I sent a text to some other Ottawa climbers who had come up for the day. Word from le Fou was that most of the dry lines where busy. It had rained the night before and many of the routes a Montagne d'Argent take a day or two to dry out this time of year. Cool, it was a good excuse to move on to one of the "out there" crags. I'm an obscurist at heart. It is really easy to climb the same routes over and over at Montagne d'Argent so I have a policy this year of onsight climbing when going there. Walk up to a new route, onsight it, down climb in retreat while removing my gear or climbing it with falls if I want to push it (I have a pretty strong no fall policy) but once it is done, it is done. Of course, locally, in Gatineau, this onsight policy breaks down quickly due to the availability of routes in my grade range. Anyway, this is getting way off topic.

Antre du Dragon is an "out there" crag for most people. The approach time from the main hut is around 30 minutes up the stairs to the Grand Canyon, through the Canyon and past Dame Nature. Antre du Dragon, situated on the left, is viewable from the main approach trail and is easily identified by this massive flake.


On arrival I was surprised to see eight other climbers at Antre du Dragon. Perhaps this was not really that "out there". They seemed to be regulars to the area and were most likely there avoid the crowds too. The wall has seven routes as listed below. Note, the numbering matches the guidebook.

1) La Saint-Georges 5.10b, gear, 20m

This is one of the climbs I came for but unfortunately it was soaked from the rain the night before. Based on how it looked when we left I suspect it would need a few days or more to dry out. The climb is a beauty of a hand crack, #2 and #3 camalots by the look of it.

2) La Saint Arnould 5.13a, 3 bolts and gear, 20m

Did not bother to look at this one so not much to say here.

3) La Saint-Ambroise 5.9 , 6 bolts, 20m

This was the warm up climb. The first bolt is high and the bottom is covered in a green moss rug up over a slabby ramp. To reach the first bolt requires a hand foot match mantle to a sloped ledge. Given the wetness of the moss I place a #1 C4 in a shallow horizontal crack, after digging the mud out with a nut tool, before moving to the first bolt. With the uglyness out of the way the climb becomes a fun climb on flakes. Basically the wall is devoid of holds between flakes which means lots of mantling and hand foot matching up the wall. Just commit to standing up each time and you will be fine. That said, be sure of clipping the 3rd bolt; there is a big ledge below you.

4) La Griffon 5.9-, 3 bolts, 25m

Despite what the guidebook shows this route shares its first bolt with La Gaillarde. You will understand if you take a look at the actual wall. Since there was a group on La Gaillarde I decided to avoid there intersection at the first bolt and try to traverse by following a diagonal crack onto a slab and then to the second bolt. It seemed reasonable at first.

I replaced the #1 cam as for La Saint-Ambroise and start the traverse. The crack quickly becomes a shallow and flared tips crack out onto the slab. I tried C3s, small metolius pieces, small C4s and small nuts but nothing would take. I climbed further on smears to find no protection again. Although my #1 is bomber, it is the only piece in and I'm looking at nasty pendulum with a potential grounder at this point. The bolt is only 3 moves away. I down/back climb to the #1 and rest. I climb out again and find a #00 C3 placement which is marginal and I'm not going to bet the farm on it. I was now starting to understand why this crack was not part of an route in the guide. I down climbed again, pulled the number one and climbed to the ground. I must have wasted 45 minutes with my shenanigans. After coming down L'ecaille du dragon, the awesome flake pictured above, became open. In fact all but two of the other climbers had left the area. I offered the lead to the others since I had wasted so much time. No takers, I was elected to lead it.

7) L'ecaille du dragon, 3 bolts and gear 25m

After the Griffon fiasco L'ecaille du dragon climbed like a dream. The hand/arm crack formed by the flake provides solid jams for feet and hands with bomber gear wherever you want or need it. You can sew up the bottom with a #2 and three #3 camalots before traversing out to a bolt. Pulling around the corner to mantle on to the flake is the crux and super fun. Once on top you can place a #4 or run it out to a bolt on the slab above the flake. It is a little freaky walking up the six inch wide flake so I was happy to have a #4, just sling it long to prevent rope drag. The upper slab is protected by two bolts about 20 feet apart on easy climbing. The final moves to the anchor are on a short vertical wall with a shallow hand crack, it takes a bomber #.75 C4. One last mantle to top out and you are at the anchors. A fantastic climb.

5) La Gaillarde 5.8, gear, 25m

Next up, La Gaillarde. I was feeling a little tired by this point and perhaps that lead to this climb being troublesome. The first bolt is guarded by some delicate slab moves and is dangerously high. The route traverses from the left on a ramp onto the slab whereas the fall is down the slab and over a 12 foot vertical drop. From the ground the climbing looks straight forward but I quickly down climbed. I seem to do a lot of that.

I fashioned a 20 foot stick clip from some recently cut brush, climbed up on the ramp and clipped the bolt. The crack that defines the line is again shallow and irregular. The bottom half protects with small gear; I remember placing a #00 C3, #2 C3, #.3 C4, a small nut. The top half is #2 and #3 camalots. For a 5.8, I found this climb tricky and the small gear down low finicky. Of course your mileage may vary but this was much harder than the 5.9 sport route I warmed up. While climbing I do not remember hearing the birds, Matt or Hedy talking; it was just me and the rock, nothing else.

6) La Joyeuse 5.12d, 3 bolts and gear, 25m

Did not bother to look at this one so not much to say here.

Antre du Dragon is a small crag where each route has a distinct character from the next. If you have not been there it is well worth the walk. I'm not sure these are good routes if the grades are at your limit. However, the top of the cliff can be accessed by the trail to climber's left as we found out while retrieving an anchor.

After Antre du Dragon we proceeded toward Paroi du lac. Paroi du Lac is the second farthest crag from the hut. We past Mousquetaries which has three cracks named after the Three Musketeers and got to the area in the following picture.


We thought this was Paroi du lac based on the signs; we were wrong. It is in fact Vertigineux that we had thought we had missed somehow during the hike. With the black flies biting a decision was made to climb the nearest sport route and once again I was handed the sharp end. After consulting the guidebook later at home this climb turned out to be Conjonction de cellulaires 5.9, a short 14m sport route.


The crux is a crimpy match on a half pad edge with varied climbing above and below. An average route, nothing note worthy.

Humbled at the gym

So I was at the gym last night and wow did I suck. I could not commit to any move, zero strength, zero motivation and the list goes on. To top it off one of my wrists is beginning to bother me enough to be annoying. Ugh.

In other news I was at Montagne d'Argent over the weekend so check back for a trip report in the near future. Also, coming soon is a post on reslinging cams with Maxim Techcord.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Camalot trigger wire replacement

I picked up a used #4 Black Diamond pre-thumb loop camalot off the Mountain Project used gear forum. The price was right but the trigger wires had seen better days. I did not actually notice this in the seller's photo nor did the seller mention it when I bought. Although not a big deal I was a little annoyed when it arrived.

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On MEC's website the replacement wires for Black Diamond C4 cams are $7.50 for two. Since I had an older model I measured the current wires to make sure I got a set that would work;  about 21 cm for the #4. In the end this did not matter as the Ottawa store had all sorts of trigger wires dating back the original duel stem model. We managed to find a trigger wire for my original #4 marked at $6. The pre-C4 wires were actually on clearance so the final cost was $4.50. Not bad at all.

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The kit comes with installation instructions for the various types of cams and trigger bars. Step 1 is to cut the tigger wire above the swage and step 2 is to remove the wire from the bar's cleat. The cutters shown had a hard time cutting the solid wire. It was in fact easier to uncleat and then cut.

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Step 3 calls for the trigger wire to be straightened and removed from the cam lobes. As you can see in the following pic that the wire itself was rather brittle and came out in pieces.

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Installation is straight forward. The only thing to account for, is that both trigger wires terminate on the outside of the cam for an older style #4 (also #3.5); other sizes face in and out. Note that the trigger wires should not be crimped tight to allow smooth motion of the lobes. After an initial bend with needle nose pliers, a pair of vice-grips, set to the desired width, makes the final bend easy.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Al on the run, sequence

A number of images taken by Iris Bujold; best watched full screen.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Mid week at Montagne d'Argent

Pete and I took advantage of the nice weather and made a mid week trip to Montagne d'Argent. As expected the place was more or less deserted. We started in Le Fou to warm up on a couple sport routes before finding a gear climb to work on. Since Pete had not been up the multi-pitch routes yet it seemed like a good choice. We climbed  the usual linkup: P1 5.9+ of Lollypops, P2 5.10b Maudit fou and P3 5.9+ Krakatoa. I lead the first two pitches and Pete took the third. P2 was damp which made the moves a little more thought provoking as I moved up the thin slab. The second half of P3 was quite wet. After topping out we walked off as it is much faster than rapping.

Back on the ground we ate lunch and enjoyed the weather. I did notice the Black flies are starting to make an appearance but not biting yet. Once fed and watered, Pete and I eyed up Coeur vaillant 5.10b.

Coeur vaillant is a very aesthetic finger crack with a pumpy crux about 15 feet of the ground. The tricky part about the climb is placing the gear, small cams and weird nuts. Off the ground you are faced with surmounting a bulge using an arcing thin crack to a short horizontal traverse into the main splitter.The hands are ok but the feet are pure friction in sloped dishes at the crux. I took a good fall onto a green 00 C3 here. Once though the crux there is fantastic ledge to rest on and gather yourself for the remainder of the climb. At this point the climbing is easier but sustained and the gear continues to be tricky in the irregular crack. This is a must do climb.   

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yeah I toprope, so what?

Matt, Andrew, Jeff, Pete, Iris and I headed to the Western CWM on Saturday for a bit of local climbing. The CWM was busy with what might have been an ACC group on North Wall. We started at Cave Wall and ended up staying there for the day.

I warmed up by doing my usual lap on Neruda. Then I gave Security my first lead attempt since last year and after falling at the crux I couple times I decided to put a toprope on Al on the run. Once I worked out the moves again I sent Al on the run clean on toprope. This is the first time I have got it clean. On anthoer note the black flies are starting to appear in Gatineau.   

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thrashed by Colonel Kirtz

I started this post on Monday. However, my motivation to write just was not there. It was, of course, raining again in Ottawa and to top it off I knocked my coffee, off my desk, onto the floor. I'm still trying to scrub the coffee out of the carpet. It is still raining but today I managed to drink my coffee so I'm take another shot at this trip report.

Piling into Pete and Iris' white Buick Century we hit the road for Montagne d'Argent after picking up Jeff in Alymer. The weather was fantastic; blue sky, a gentle breeze and 17 degrees Celsius. It was perhaps the best day, weather wise, this spring. A perfect climbing day. It was smooth sailing in our white boat until, well, we thought that we may actually needed a boat.


The Riviere Rouge had crested its banks and covered a section of Rang des Vents. After some inspection we decided it was only about a foot deep in the middle and definitely passable. The boat jokes aside, the roomy Buick makes for a comfy road trip car.

Walking along the Cliff we passed lots of wet climbs and ended up at La Petite Folie. We figured we would start here and then move later in the afternoon once the sun dried up the other areas.

Jeff was the quickest to get ready so he started off up a 5.4 crack on the slab called "Encore! mon lapin" with Pete providing a belay. This meant I was left with the wet and moss covered "Poussinet" 5.4 crack. It was an easy but muddy climb to the first set of anchors. From there I linked into "Le lapin au tambour", another 5.4 crack/slab route. With some climbing through the rather wet and mossy bit at the beginning I was now on dry rock. In the next photo you can see my rope trailing back through the slop.


Since Pete and Jeff where still messing about on their linkup into "Arretez-le quelgu'un!" I lowered to the top of the first pitch so Iris could climb "Poussinet".



I had come to La Petite Folie, a little madness, to try two crack lines called "Colonel Kirtz" 5.10a and "Hannibal Lecter" 5.9+. Both lines are short 10m hand cracks and I'm sure a walk for anyone with crack skills.

Colonel Kirtz starts under a small roof spilt by a finger crack which protects well with a BD .5 C4. Once around the roof and standing up I found secure jams as the crack widened. I placed a high BD .75 C4 and cautiously moved up. Grabbing an edge where the crack juts right I worked my feet up to find a soaking wet crack. As I thrashed around in the wet crack my hands started to bleed as my arms pumped out. I tried to put in a BD #1 C4 higher but the flaring crack and irregular crystals made for a less than inspiring placement. My pumped arms and wet hands were definitely wearing on my mind. I reached for another cam, a black Metolius, and thankfully it placed well around waist level. Not wanting to pull out rope to high clip a bad placement I opted to leave it and down climbed to find a rest position. This just pumped me out more and I came off.

Round two, was a waste as I was still too pumped. Round three, I climbed back up, fixed my #1 cam and tried to top out. Unfortunately I still had tunnel vision due to the pump and missed the obvious jug, grabbed a sloper and came off again. Round four, I grabbed the jug and ended it. Humbled by a 10m hand crack.




After being thrashed by the Colonel I managed to regain my confidence by flashing Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal is a fun route with a cool move to pull the small roof at the top. Having a bit of beta from watching Jeff and Pete's attempts certainly helped.

Later we toured the Petite Canyon which was total wet and dirty. I'm not sure I'll bother going back there; a long walk for nothing special.