American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Chaleur Bay, New Routes and Exploration

North America, Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Sarah Garlick, AAC
  • Climb Year: 2009
  • Publication Year: 2010

Janet Bergman, Kirsten Kremer, and I loaded my 1991 Toyota van with two-and-a-half weeks of food and climbing gear and drove for 15 hours from New Hampshire to the tip of Nova Scotia, making the overnight ferry to Newfoundland with less than 30 minutes to spare. The boat had eight floors and accommodated over a hundred vehicles, even tractor trailers. Lucky for us, there was also a bar.

Another ferry got us to François, population 113, a remote fishing village that dates to the 1700s. The next morning George Durnford and George Fudge, captain of the intrepid Royal Oak, took us on a boat tour of the cliffs. The Georges dropped us on a small beach in Chaleur Bay, the only fjord in the region that had not yet been explored by climbers. Two miles of unclimbed granite cliffs stretched before us.

For the next two weeks of September, we paddled around the fjord in a little plastic rowboat, crawled up 50° slopes of fern and moss, climbed gorgeous, virgin cracks and crumbly, flaky horror-shows, and ate tons and tons of wild blueberries. We established three new routes—Billfish Dihedral (800', 5.10+), on Chaleur Blow Me Down; an unnamed 400' 5.10+ on St. Ilian’s (St. Elias), in Rencontre Bay; and Squid Cracks (400', 5.10+), on an unnamed wall in Chaleur Bay. We left one unfinished line, a 500' 5.11 left of Billfish Dihedral. The rock was unbelievably climbable; we sent our routes onsight and free. And the famous Newfoundland weather? Well, a storm did come, the last day. The ferry bucked and swayed in the surf as we pulled out of François into the open Atlantic.

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