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Ice climbing in and around Southern Ontario
On this page we've compiled some brief notes about ice-climbing in the following areas.
- Southern and Central Ontario
- Sault Ste. Marie and area
- The Adirondacks
- New Hampshire and Vermont
- Orient Bay (North-Western Ontario)
The following pages also have useful information:
Southern and Central Ontario
Unlike rock-climbing, ice-climbing in Southern Ontario is still in its formative stages. New crags are being discovered every season, and it's rare that you'll encounter more than a handful of other climbers, even at the most popular crags.
Unfortunately, although the winter weather is ideal for ice formation, the topography is not so favourable and there are few crags with a large number of climbs. A typical winter excursion might involves a drive of three hours or more, and perhaps another hour of walking or skiing, to reach a crag that features just one or two pitches of climbing.
Despite this, a day spent climbing in the winter wilderness, amongst the snow-covered hills and frozen lakes, the silence broken only by the distant drone of few snowmobiles, is an experience that is not to be missed.
The best and most scenic climbing in the area is to be found at numerous small crags that dot the Madawaska Highlands between Huntsville and Bancroft. For those who prefer convenience of access to aethsetic considerations, there is also ice-climbing to be found on the southern Niagara Escarpment in and around Hamilton, but the warmer weather in this area and the salt run-off from enroaching urban development means that ice forms less reliably than further north.
The nearest area to Toronto with a high concentration of multi-pitch, good quality ice routes is the Adirondacks in upstate New York, some seven hours' drive away. As a further enticement, the Montreal Section owns a well-equipped cabin that is available to members of other sections. There is an abundance of excellent climbing within a few minutes' drive of the cabin, such as the Chapel Pond Slabs, Cascade Pass, the North Face of Pitchoff, the Roaring Brook Falls and Multiplication Gully, as well as longer alpine-style excursions such as the North Face of the Gothics and the Trap Dike on Mt. Colden.
New Hampshire and Vermont
The ice-climbing to be found in New Hampshire and Vermont is well worth the ten- to twelve-hour drive to get there. Areas such as Mt. Washington, Cannon Mountain, Frankenstein Cliff, Smuggler's Notch and Mt. Willoughby feature climbs of world reknown.
About 25km north of Nipigon, in North-Western Ontario, lies the greatest concentration of climbable ice to be found anywhere within a day's drive of Toronto (at fifteen hours, admittedly a very long day); indeed, perhaps the greatest concertration anywhere in North America east of the Rockies. Along a single 20km stretch of highway lie upwards of five dozen documented climbs, many of them multi-pitch and most no more than a few minutes' walk from the road. All grades are respresented and the lengthy winters mean that climbs form reliably from November to April every year.
The best time to visit is probably March, when the weather starts to warm up. Earlier in the season temperatures can be minus 40 degrees and below, at which point even the hardiest of climbers would prefer to be indoors.
For further information about climbing in Orient Bay and the Thunder Bay region (current conditions, accomodation, partners, etc.) you can contact Frank Pianka (807-577-7950) of the Thunder Bay Section of the Alpine Club. For another source of information, you can refer to http://www.climbingcentral.com/ or contact Shaun Parent in Sault Ste. Marie.