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.