Lac Long

After Kamouraska, the other climbing area in Québec that came highly recommended is Lac Long. Halfway between Québec City and Montreal, the Parc Naturel Regional de Portneuf has been established fairly recently by the local community of St Alban to protect and enable recreation in the surrounding area, with canoeing, MTB, hiking and, of course, climbing all well catered for. It certainly seems a well-loved spot. We only had a couple of hours after driving over from Kamouraska so we checked out the St-Alban sports crag at the entrance to the Parc. It’s in an attractive spot, immediately next to a fast-flowing riverBut the climbing (on heavily stratified bolted limestone) is definitely in the “if you happen to be passing and have a couple of hours to spare” category – happily, that suited our purposes.Here’s Helen on La Fin Est Proche, 5.7 (with a crowd of onlookers)… and me on Sans Toit Pointe de Repos, 5.10bWe also did Les strates de nos vies, 5.8, and Le mouton noir est de retour, 5.10c (which would be a 3* E2 at Stoney, but we didn’t come 5,000 miles to climb at Stoney!)

Here’s a picture from passing photographer Marc-André Lavoie. Thanks!

Onwards a few miles into the main Parc area, through more “colors”… and another sublime camping spot near the river, with the ever-present sound of rushing water and a huge, if somewhat ramshackle firepit.Next day we were climbing on the main Lac Long crag, and this is much more impressive – up to 130ft high Gneiss cliff, with splitter cracks and corners bounding clean-cut walls. It bears a passing resemblance to Millstone, but on a slightly grander scale (and with more trees!) There’s a generally trad ethic, but around a third of the routes are sports climbs and others feature the odd bolt where there’s no gear. Just a pity that the weather didn’t quite live up to the venue – grey and a bit cool, despite the southerly aspect.You approach across a footbridgeand a carefully constructed path of stone and wooden steps (marked with red tape) leads to the crag in about 10 minutes. Heading left a bit further, you arrive at perhaps the most popular sector Croisse des Chemins, which features a 15m lower tier with half a dozen bolted routes from 5.7 to 10a, which can be used to access or link to a bunch of mostly trad upper pitches (we ticked the lot over the course of two days). Here’s Helen on Petitte Orchidee, 5.10aJust left is Intergalactic Love Machine, also 10a but a much tougher proposition, which I ran together into Party de Brosse, trad 10b corner, to give a 120ft Intergalactic Party Machine at around E2. La Cha-Cha d’Obélix 5.10c/d is one of the routes of the crag, taking the striking 100ft clean-cut corner on a mix of trad and bolts, maybe E2/3… and Fellation, 10d, is also 4* and a similar grade.We finished off our first day with Fougère à Me Plaire 5.8+, 25m of trad fun bridging and jamming; a Canadian Great North Road lookalike, but a tad easier.Fabulous views from the top… and of the crag from the other side of the riverThe weather perked up considerably for Sunday so it seemed rude to leave!We climbed the remainder of the lower tier routes at Croisees des Chemins – here’s Helen on Ferrocarille, 10a, and perhaps the best of the bunch.… and I did a couple of the full-height sports routes to the right. From Portneuf with Love is simply outstanding, a 5.11 short first pitch which I ran together into the 5.11+ second pitch for a 35m rope-stretcher. The crux is a bit of a heart-breaker: tricky undercling moves for a blind clip over a roof (beta – even further left than you’d think) lead to a bouldery pop for a decent break (or sag on the rope in my case).Also recommend is Premier Contact 5.10b, also about 35m. It has a really hard (but fun) start and then sustained climbing until a crescendo over a final small roof (this time successfully surmounted).For the first time in a while, it was tiredness rather than daylight or temperature that precipitated close of play – great couple of days in a tremendous spot.

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