Thunder Bay Festiv'ice 2013

I like climbing.  As my parents like to tell it, I used to climb out of my crib before I could even walk.  The doctors suggested putting a net over the top to keep me in, but my parents refused to put me in a cage--they indirectly supported this love from the beginning.

Since then, my life has taken me a lot of places but I've never lost my love for climbing--it's provided me with plenty of fun, and even a non-insignificant amount of trouble (if I get bored some day, maybe I'll elaborate on this).  Not long back life took me through a small gem of a city on the north shore of Lake Superior: Thunder Bay.  While far from the only thing going for the region, one beautiful facet is the climbing--as the glaciers receded, they carved out an amazing lake with lots of overlooking cliffs, rivers, and waterfalls.

While I'll leave a lot of this for other posts (both retrospective and future), it's that last point I'll focus on in this post.  Thunder Bay's location has an interesting effect on those rivers and waterfalls--they spend much of the winter frozen solid.  While I sadly didn't realize this while spending the winter up there, I got the wonderful opportunity to rectify that this weekend.  The Thunder Bay section of the Alpine Club of Canada had their annual Festiv'ice and I flew out to partake.  This year's location?  Powerline Falls, Kama Bay, near Nipigon, about an hour or two drive north of Thunder Bay.

Driving out early Saturday morning after a late Friday night flight, it was already clear this would be an awesome day--beautiful weather without the common morning chill often seen during Thunder Bay winter.  Meeting with the Thunder Bay and Manitoba section members at the Nipigon Husky gas station, we fueled up on a hearty breakfast to prepare for the fun ahead.  Once everyone arrived, we headed up the road, strapped on our gear, and hiked/climbed up to the falls.  Due to the hard work of a few section members, we arrived to a huge number of pre-roped ascents waiting for us to spend the rest of the day climbing.

And climb we did--from sunup to sundown, people were climbing up and down those falls.  The sound of axes and crampons gripping ice filled the valley, with the occasional shout of "ICE!" warning us of an especially large chunk falling off and heading for our helmeted heads.  As the day pushed on and the sun came out, people cooled off between climbs in t-shirts snacking on freshly roasted sausages while others threw on their gloves and returned to the top of the falls to be rewarded by wondrous views of Lake Superior over the trees.

When the sun began its inevitable descent towards the horizon, we cleaned up the climbs, packed up the gear and hiked back out to our cars.  To put a capstone on the already wonderful day, we headed to the Nipigon Cafe to relax and refuel.  Feasting on tasty pizzas we got the chance to chat and mingle with friends, both new and old.  Sadly, as with most things, the day eventually had to end and we drove back into town for the night.

Definitely an experience to repeat!  A big thanks to all the organizers, ropers, and regular members that made this such a wonderful event!

Hiking out to the falls. Frozen falls. Climbing! Climbing! Climbing!
Climbing! Climbing! Climbing, belaying, and relaxing. Ice caves behind the waterfall. Can you tell it's a good day for climbing?
People just don't want to stop! Even just watching is fun! Lake Superior from the top of the falls. Base camp. Looking down on climbers.
Ice pillars. They really are big pillars. When the ice is gone, still nice cliffs nearby! Working the way up. Otherworldly ice.
Otherworldly ice. Otherworldly ice. Otherworldly ice. Climbing, climbing, climbing! Yes, it really is a long drop.
Whee, I'm climbing! Everyone likes some sun! But it won't stop the climbing! Ice: slippery when wet. Getting up there!
As hard as it is beautiful. Are we there yet?