Kamouraska – Carling don’t make crags, but…

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine your perfect road-trip crag: Location; Rock; Style of climbing; Amenities etc.Okay, how does this fit the bill:

Location: Overlooking the Bas-St- Laurent (or Lower St Laurence) River estuary in a tranquil corner of Québec, set in lush woodlands with stunning vistas of the mountains.Rock: White Quartzite – a hard, metamorphosised sandstone (I think?), covered in edges and pockets – it looks, and climbs, like the finest pockety European limestone, but with better friction and less propensity to polish. The nearest thing I’ve climbed on is at Arapilles (which set me wondering how many other people have visited both?)Style of climbing: A little bit of everything – slabs, walls, roofs (though not many cracks) and because the rock is so featured there are outstanding routes from 5.5 to 5.12. It’s a sports crag (and impeccably bolted), which in some ways is better suited to a road-trip, where you are constantly arriving at new places and don’t have the time to get tuned in to more nuanced trad. Not sure if it’s part of the “French connection” but the routes all have painted names and grades (the first time we’ve seen this on our trip) which makes navigation more straightforward.Amenities: There’s an absolutely gorgeous campsite on the river shore, the perfect spot to enjoy a fabulous sunset… or contemplate the birdlife over a morning brew.You can walk from the campsite to the parking area for the crag in just over a kilometer (or of course drive) and then it’s a pleasant 1.3km stroll to the start of the climbing (ignore the 2km sign! – I’m guessing that’s to the farthest sector)There’s even a cliff-side convenience, reserved for Grimpeurs!If all that doesn’t do it for you, then I’ll throw in one extra bonus: between the campsite and the crag parking (about 5 minutes walk from either) is a microbrewery! I kid you not!Welcome to KamouraskaCarling don’t make crags, but if they did…

Inevitably, there are a few minor quibbles: The crag is on private land and you have to buy a permit to climb there (anathema to most Brit climbers, but far more common in USA and Canada, where land rights and liability issues differ). The good news is it’s only CAN$8 (about £5) as compared to The Gunks which is US$20 (about £16).There’s also not that much of it – about 120 routes in all, and a maximum of about 80ft (but plenty for a passing visit). BTW you can buy a micro topo at the campground for $2, and it’s also well covered on Mountain Project, or you can download a somewhat dated topo here http://qc.drtopo.com/north-america/canada/quebec/kamouraska/kamouraska.pdf. Finally, being NE facing it doesn’t catch the sun until around noon (on a few protruding buttresses) and isn’t fully in the sun for another hour or two after that (no doubt welcome in the summer, but it’s maxing out at 13C in mid October and you need those rays!)

Anyway, none of these were enough to stop us declaring Kamouraska (or L’Ampitheatre, St-Andre de Kamouraska to give it its full name, or Kamou for short!) top position on the current provisional leader-board in the “crag of the trip” awards. We stayed 4 nights and climbed for 3 days, ticking about 20 routes in all including most of the “classics” identified in bold on the topo. Pretty much all of these were outstanding, but then so were most of those not on the list. Here are a few particularly memorable ones:

Here’s the view of the crag from the parkingYou can just about pick out a couple of sunlit aretes on southwest protruding buttresses, and these both offer excellent warm-ups (literally) to make for on arrival at an otherwise shady crag: Hocus Pocus, 5.6and Cassonade, 5.8Bonsai, 5.8, lies between these and is a bit steeper.Further right, sector Prestation is perhaps the most impressive, with a bunch of 11s including the latest “route-of-the-trip” contender, Prestation Aerienne, 5.11a(with the almost as good Derision, 11.b, to the right) and Tintin au Tibet, 5.9+ taking the arete to the left with a really fierce pull over the bulge (make that 5.9+++!)

Further right again is the next major sector, La Renversee, (and accessible more directly via a more circuitous route) – check out this wikiloc trail https://www.wikiloc.com/rock-climbing-trails/kamouraska-sector-le-renversee-42291418The start of this is marked by another protruding buttress for early sun – here’s Helen rapping off Cryptogrammes en Folie.Beyond that, the main wall has three “top 20” routes in a row, with the eponymous Renversee, 5.9+, sandwiched between Le Baiser du Crapaud (kiss of the frog!), 5.9+, on the right… and Attache tu Tuque, 5.10c, on the left. Here’s a local on the easy ground before a really tough crux pullSector Complicite is towards the far right of the decent climbing and has half a dozen 11s with fine more moderate routes either side.Le Monde a L’Enver and Complicite are both very good 11as… and Le Baiser de Melanie, 5.8

… and Princess des Neurones both come recommended.

The sun sets around 6pm for a short climbing day (in October) but magnificent views on the walk downdappled pools of evening rays illuminating the fallen leaves… and a moonrise over the crag

… Followed by a swift half in Tete d’Allumette (I did warn you that the microbrewery was between the climbing and the campsite!)

That brings us to the halfway point in our roadtrip – just over 3 weeks and 2,000 miles have seen us climbing in 5 states on a dozen crags. Kamouraska marks the northernmost point of the journey – it’s all south from here (but hopefully not down hill!) Next stop, Lac Long near Montreal.

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