Thursday, 24 October 2013

We call it, Ontari-ari-ari-o.


"Give us a place to stand, And a place to grow. And call this land Ontario. A place to live, For you and me. With hopes as high, As the tallest tree. Give us a land of lakes and a land of snow. And we will build Ontario. A place to stand, a place to grow. Ontari-ari-ari-o!

From western hills, To northern shores. To Niagara Falls, Where the waters roar. Give us a land of peace, Where the free winds blow. And we will build Ontario. A place to stand, a place to grow Ontari-ari-ari-o!"

Recall if you will my homeland, Ontario. I wrote a post almost a year ago now about the month I spent in my suburban homeland. Ontario is a place I love to hate, but love all the same. It's home after all.

Well, this October I made another sojourn to my home. This time, in the company of my most favourite person, my boyfriend, Colin. Colin was born and raised in Seattle. He is the quintessential west coast lad. Colin's only visit to the eastern side of his country involved a week working at a maple syrup farm -- an experience that should be made mandatory in schools. Wait, maybe it was mandatory at my school? And, spending 72 hours in Boston, MA.

So we committed to some much needed family visiting. My extended family was beginning to question if indeed I had a boyfriend, or had simply made him up. And it was time for me to take Colin to Lions Head, the limestone climbing area I had cut my teeth at in those first years of learning to climb.

We arrived to this beautiful land we call, Ontari-ari-ari-o amidst the glowing hues of fall. It was lovely. I arrived in Toronto two days earlier than Colin. I wanted to make sure that I was there to settle everything, and everyone, in before Mr. Haley arrived in all his glory from his most recent trip to Patagonia.

After picking Colin up from the airport, I immediately wisked him away to Lions Head which is hidden away in a quiet corner of the Bruce Peninsula. The Bruce is most recognizable by the limestone vein, known as the Niagara Escarpment, that runs the Peninsula's full length south to north. The Escarpment, in it's entirety, runs 725 km's beginning in New York state, through the Bruce, and on to Wisconsin and Illinois.


The little red A is Lions Head. And, look at all those great lakes!

How cool? I got this off of Wikipedia. It's an ariel photo of the Escarpment taken near Grimsby, Ontario.
The Peninsula is geologically rich, the Niagara Escarpment was designated an UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1990, and anthropologically rich, it's home to Ojibwa and Chippewa First Nations. And, lucky for us climbers, the Dolomitic limestone of the Escarpment just happens to be of the highest quality.

Lions Head has remained off the international climbers radar, save for a visit by Jerry Moffat. One of the strongest climbers of his time, Jerry travelled to Lions Head to establish, what was, Ontario's hardest route, The Big Kahuna 5.13d. If a little corner of Ontario, Canada was good enough for Jerry Moffatt, there must be something going on there?

When I first learned to climb while still living in Ontario, I'd never climbed anywhere else, and known no other rock than Escarpment limestone. Now that I've done my share of travelling, I still find myself waxing philosophical about the perfection that is Lions Head limestone climbing.


Our buddies who joined us for two days, Nick and Karina, atop the central lookout. To their left, and right, the limestone bluff extends for another half kilometre. 

Nick and Karina on an area classic, American Bucks 5.10b. Might just be the best 5.10 sport route I've ever climbed!

Colin, me, and the Georgian Bay.
Returning here with Colin this year only solidified my belief. Lions Head might just be the best sport climbing of my life. Envision if you will pulling on steep pockets of perfectly solid limestone with an emerald coloured lake lapping at the shore below. And, there is no one else around except your partner, and 1000 year old cedars.

Is this the Mediterranean? Nope, just central Ontario. And this is only half of the Escarpment we climb on in Lions Head.
To ensure that Colin had a wonderful experience -- I do want him to return to Ontario with me again one day -- I rented a little cottage for us in town. Colin was amused by the concept of the cottager. A term not readily used in west coast language. But, here in Ontario, the cottager is an institution. So for four days we embraced cottage life to it's fullest, cozying up by night in our little cottage, and climbing in glorious sun on the shores of the Georgian Bay by day.

That's our little cottage!

Colin is eating the nastiest food I've ever tasted, pickled herring, in our cottage.

First step to climbing at Lions Head, is figuring out where you are, and how to get to the start of your climb. Most of the old school classics are all accessed by rapping from the rim, and have hanging belays. So, you want to make sure you're at the top of the climb you intended to do, because otherwise, you might just find yourself at a hanging stance below a 5.13 tech. fest with nothing but air below you. Oops.

Huh, still trying to figure out where we are...

Nope, still not sure.

So instead, you just cross your heart, and drop your rope, hoping to goodness it's not a 5.13. Actually, we knew where we were at this point. Just above Nimbus, 5.10b, the area classic.

OK, seriously...this is in Ontario!

The bely for Nimbus. How cool is that? The cliff undercut us here by 10 metres or so, and fell 40 metres to the ground.

Rapping in for yet another absolutely classic 5.10.

Colin climbing 5.9 jugs above an emerald lake.

You can see the other side of Isthmus Bay far in the distance.

Holy crap that pitch was awesome!
So happy!
I believe this is called a photo-bomb! Nick and Karina in the distance. 

The first time Colin ever touched a Great Lake. 


Colin and I climbing American Bucks. Photo, Karina Benavides.

Shots of Colin and I climbing more radical limestone above the lake. Photo, Karina Benavides.

Photo, Karina Benavides.

Photo, Karina Benavides.

Photo, Karina Benavides.

Good ol' chalky pants maggie -- that's me. Photo, Karina Benavides.
After four days in our little paradise, it was time to head into the "thick of it"  in the GTA and do some visiting. It was so great to spend time with my adorable niece and nephew, and to see how much they loved Colin, and spend some much needed time with my best girl, Jackie. And of course all the extended family.

My dad, and my nephew, Emmett, sitting by the fire. Photo, my mom.

Callie, my niece. Who is the most adorable little girl in the world I might add. Photo, my mom.

Colin with Emmett and Callie. The just couldn't bare to part with him! I think they like him more than me. Hahaha...

My fathers favourite smoothie -- blended blueberry pie with chocolate chips, coconut, and greek yogurt?!

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