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  • Writer's pictureRaul Alejandro

Rock Climbing at Lion's Head, Ontario with the Grand Rapids crew. #adventurephotography

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

Every true climber knows when your buddy says, "Do you wanna go climb?" You don't ask where; you don't ask when; you just look them in the face, real seriously, and say "Hell. Yes." Later, you deal with the consequences. This is that story.

We left Michigan for Lion's Head, Ontario on a Saturday morning with stiff necks and raging hangovers from a metal show the night before (stay tuned for blog post on the metal concert). Shout out to Advil.

After over 4 hours of driving at annoyingly-slow Canadian speed limits, we arrived tired, sore, hungry, and dehydrated, just like all high-performance athletes.

After setting up our camp, we needed to get some food for the week. Where do you get food in Canada? At the extremely obviously-name "FoodLand." (They sell food.) Like typical climbers, we stocked up on tuna, peanut butter, crackers, and pickles, all the essential food groups for gettin' sendy.

Not sure what day this actually was. That's our camp though! Hi, Matt!

Can't take a nice group photo.

The approach to Lion's Head was not typical to say the least. We had to hike roughly 40 minutes in to the top edge of the crag and rappel down to the bottom. That also meant that the only way out was to climb back up. Had I known this, I might not have gone on this trip. But, there I was, under-prepared and over-committed, so I looked deep inside myself, doubled down on my "Hell. Yes." and learned to rappel.

Then began the bushwhacking and quickly thereafter, the realization of my regrettable choice of footwear. Chacos, I love you, but you are not ideal for hiking on layers of loose limestone flakes, squeezing between trees, weaving over and under fallen ones, and trying not to roll an ankle. Don't worry, it gets worse. Those limestone flakes, which have probably been crumbling off the rock face for millions of years (I'm an archaeologist), are still actively crumbling. And sometimes, crumbling on people. Matt brushed the face with his shoulder, and a giant slab of rock came crashing down, grazing his shoulder as it fell right behind him. Yikes! Woah! Take it easy, wall!

After quite some time, we found a nice 5.9 to warm up on and a 5.10D next to it, which became quite the project for the group. After a good day of tough climbs, we climbed out via the easier 5.9. We attached all of our gear to ropes and lugged it up the cliff face. The sun had just about set, so we put our headlamps on and made our way out. Climbing until the absolute last drop of sunlight and then having to hike out in the dark seems to be a trend with this group of locos.

On the second day I was "casually persuaded" by my friend, Jake, to hop on Green-eyed Monster, the 5.10D I had watched everyone struggle up the day before. By this point, they had all sent the route. I looked even deeper inside myself, took a deep breath, and began climbing a route I was confident was too hard for me. I was able to refrain from power-screaming until the crux. Kids, there are two types of people in this world--the grace-under-pressure type, and the power-scream-until-it's-over type. I'll let you guess which type I am. After getting past the crux and practically losing my voice, I took a rest to catch my breath. Suddenly, I heard a very concerned voice shout down from the top, "Are you ok?" I looked up to see a very nervous woman peering cautiously over the edge. I managed to muster a "Yeah, I'm fine!"from my exhausted vocal chords. I can't imagine what was going through her mind hearing all the yelling coming from the edge of the cliff. Consequences of power-screaming, I guess.

After catching my breath I looked up and saw the last bolts and flew up the final portion of the route. Jake yelled up at me, "Take a moment and look behind you!" I looked back and saw the never ending pines, the crag hugging the bay for miles, and the sun skipping off of the waves. Lion's Head in all its glory. I couldn't help but cry. This was mentally and physically the hardest climb I had ever finished. It felt incredible to hang up there on the wall and take that moment to reflect.

Lion's Head, Ontario

Climbing will break you down, but if you allow it, it'll build you back up ten-fold. It's a special relationship between you and a piece of mother earth. You're allowing yourself to be completely humbled and learning how to push yourself beyond what you think are your limitations. I've learned over and over through climbing that when you think you can't, you freakin' can! Climbing is liberating; its a struggle; it's romantic.

The next few days of climbing were equally great. We found another crag across the bay, White Bluff, with beautiful lines and a beach that was easily accessible. It took us some time to figure out where it was, and we took a wrong turn which ate up most of that day.

Taking the Forester through some backroads while looking for new crags.

Headed to White Bluff

Post wrong turn vibes

The final day of climbing we headed back for a quick climb on the "B Movie Wall" on a route named "Blood Beach," an 11b. We weren't there for too long but everyone was able to get in some climbing. We will be back. To White Bluff. Maybe Lion's Head. But most likely White Bluff.

On our way home we stopped for some pizza. It was a main topic of conversation the night before as we drank too much whiskey (all of Matt's whiskey. Shout out to Matt) around the camp fire. If you camp, you know how good a burger or pizza sounds after a trip. With our bellies full of Canadian pizza, and ready to be home, we reached the border. Ally was driving. When the border patrol asked her where we were coming from she replied, "Canada." (cue the officer eye-roll).

...And that's how we do climbing trips.

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