Urbanity on Ice

Ice Climbing in Quebec City
  |  Gorp.com

It's an odd place to find world-class ice climbing, mere minutes from one of North America's most continental and sophisticated cities. But there it is in front of me: Montmorency Falls. Set no more than ten minutes drive from downtown Quebec City, it's that easy proximity that seduced me into doing this. I've got this fear of heights, you see, and I'd never travel any distance to be an ice climbing guinea pig. But, for Pete's sake, access is so easy. I took a TAXI to get here!

A young woman named Melanie joins me. Neither of us has attempted this before, not on ice, nor rock, not even on an artificial climbing wall. We meet Claude LeBreque, instructor for L'Ascensation ecole d'escalade, in the parking lot of the Falls' Visitor Welcome Center. We introduce ourselves, and get right to it donning heavy-duty snow boots and windpants, then trudging the half-mile to the falls.

Montmorency Falls, Quebec

Montmorency Falls plunge 105 meters (344 feet) off a ledge where the Montmorency River meets the St. Lawrence. They flash over a yawning, c-shaped escarpment, dropping into a frozen wetland about a half-mile in circumference, continuing into the St. Lawrence River, which is visible across the highway, and creating a highly dramatic and picturesque setting.So picturesque, in fact, that a fancy restaurant Le Manoir Montmorency and a footbridge across the falls themselves have been built on the top,and are accessible to the less adventurous by a ski lift-style tram.We march across the frozen parking lot, Claude pulling a plastic sledge piled high with equipment-stuffed duffel bags, and follow a snowy path that humps across a railroad track, passes an electric company substation, runs down a short ice-covered road, and then shadows the cliff.

We stop about forty yards left of the falls, and Claude explains what we're looking at. The iced cliff before us is called the Freezing Wall.

Mitch Kaplan is a New Jersey-based writer who covers action sports, family travel, fitness and business topics. His work has appeared in Skiing, Snow Country, Family Circle, and numerous other publications.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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