No matter how you describe the amount and quality of ice climbing in Quebec, it will be an understatement. While the Canadian Rockies often receives admiration and visits from around the world for its ice lines, the Quebec ice community happily plays on hundreds of quality lines that reliably form every year.
While the famous and very often repeated Montmorency Falls, just minutes from Quebec City, is a great place to start swinging your tools, once you start exploring further afield the real scope of opportunities presents itself.
Above: Jas Fauteux on the FA of Fourchette Sternale Droite at Nipissis. Photo by Maarten Van Haeren
For example, the remote area of Nipissis offers thin ice over granite slabs with amazing mineral-rich water which stains the ice a cola color. Part of the adventure is being dropped off by the train and surviving multiple days in -30c with a wood stove in your tent.
If you want ice on a large scale, check out the famous La Pomme d'Or, a world-renowned ice climbing route in Charlevoix. This 300m monster nearly tips the scales at WI5+ and is sure to make any ice climber’s day an adventurous one. It includes a 4km river approach and, unless you’re setting speed records, there will most likely be rappells in the dark.
If remote camping isn’t your thing, then spend a week in a cabin at Pont Rouge exploring mixed and ice lines. The Jacques Cartier River provides a calm atmosphere while you pick one of 100s of lines on these undercut cliffs, which have ice drools pouring out of the cracks everywhere. Pont Rouge has possibly the highest natural concentration of mixed routes in the world.
Above: Pont Rouge North Shore, Jean-François Girard on Vas-y Gilles M8, Image Courtesy of Nelson Rioux
Opportunities and exploration in Quebec continue today in Pic de l’Aurore in Percé. This amazing area is exceptional with blobs of ice glueing to the red limestone or conglomerate while the Gulf of the St-Lawrence rests half frozen below. The most famous hard mixed route in this area is Moby Dick, which was lost after a significant rock fall. However, it was re-established in 2021 by Jean-François Girard and Carl Darveau and now is known as Moby Dick Reborn. M8 WI5+ 165-metres.
Development continued at Pic de l’Aurore throughout the COVID lockdown. An outstanding new route was established and ironically named île de Fièvre, which translates to “Fever Island.” This instant classic M8 WI6+, 170m line was first ascended during an unsuccessful quest to climb Moby Dick, when JF and Carl found the top dagger was too unstable. Instead, the pair ‘settled’ for high quality new routes nearby.
Above: Images of Jean-François Girard on Moby Dick Reborn
Above: Jean-François Girard & Carl Darveau, île de Fièvre M8 WI6+ 170m
This new routing process was documented by filmmaker and photographer Nelson Rioux. You can watch a trailer to this soon to be released new film.
If mixed climbing isn't your terrain of choice and you’d rather swing into pure ice, don’t worry, as Quebec has literally 100s of pure ice lines to choose from. Head to Mont Saint Pierre and pick from lines like Corneille, an intimidating wild WI5+ multi-pitch route with complex chandeliered ice and caves or, seek out easier lines like the pure blue ice found on La Cigarette Bleue (WI4+).
Above Picture One: Route Corneille WI5+, Climber: Etienne Rancourt
Above Picture Two: Route Corneille WI5+, Climber: Nathalie Fortin
Next time you’re thinking of taking an ice climbing trip, make sure you put Quebec high on your list. Not only will you be blown away by the ice climbing, the new route potential and opportunities for adventure, but the hospitality found in the small, rural towns is a warm contrast to the cold ice you’ll find yourself on. Oh, and we can’t forget to mention how the culture of Montreal and Quebec City is sure to rival any destination. Make sure to book your visit for February when the ice has formed and the conditions are still cold enough to offer stable ice.
A Lifetime of Ice
Quebec has so many areas and this essay only mentioned a few! However, if we have inspired you to start planning a trip over there, here are a few more suggestions that won't disappoint.
Sainte Marguerite River
- Le Pilier Simon Proulx WI5 150m
- Le Mulot WI6+R 220m
- Speedy Gonzales WI6 150m
La Vallée du Bras du Nord
- La Mer de Glace WI3 200m
- Small is Beautiful WI 4/4+ 150m
- Rotterdam WI4+ 120m
Le Parc des Grands Jardin (for Scottish style alpine turf and dry tooling on trad gear)
- Gaston et Mademoiselle Jeanne M5 WI4 180m
- Ptite Tête M5 WI4+ 180m
Too Good Not To Be Mentioned!
Once in a while, a new line is established that captivates the whole ice climbing community. Think the Christmas Tree in China, or Mythologic in British Columbia’s North Okanagan region. To add to that list is Jean-Philippe Bélanger, Charles Roberge and Yan Mongrain’s route Maïkan, a 150m, WI6+ line. This new route is as beautiful and inspiring as anything we’ve seen anywhere, so we couldn’t go on without mentioning it. Enjoy exploring Quebec.
Thank you to both Nelson Rioux and Jean-François Girard for their invaluable local knowledge and the use of their images.