The setting sun was hidden behind a slate-grey bank of snowy cloud, but the dipping temperature and a faint pink glow around the horizon alerted us to the race against daylight. When it comes to climbing in Ontario, I’d always taken the words “range” and “peak” with a grain of salt, considering the elevation of our home province pales in comparison to the Rockies and the Coast Mountains of western Canada, and doesn’t hold a candle to the great Andes or the mighty Himalayas that have taken my breath away over my travels. Nevertheless, after climbing its flanks for four hours on a brisk and snowy day this January, I found myself weathered and winded, half-way up one of Silver Peak’s snow-crusted cliff whose sheer silver quartzite offered a scarcity of hand and foot holds. Above me lay a near vertical route that would require no less than three perilous moves to ascend; a fall on this exposed face would have put our two-person team in dire straits. Before the next move, Noah and I shared a glance that betrayed a bit more anxiety than either was willing to put into words, and after reaching the next plateau we agreed that while the maximum elevation of 500+ meters won’t induce altitude sickness, the climb definitely delivers on the experience of alpine ruggedness.
After a very busy holiday season that saw Noah back in Montreal and Briagh and I bouncing around the eastern seaboard visiting family in big cities, plus finishing off a year-long house hunting mission, this winter escape into the wilds of Killarney is just what each of us needed. We went fast and light on gear, with an 8x10 Snowtrekker Expedition Crew tent and tiny woodstove from Muskrat Metalworks.
We opted for 3.5″ pulk sleds attached to hip belts, and pulled our packs and duffels across the snow with a bit of help from the MSR’s Denali Ascent shoes, designed to dig in on icy climbs, and rugged portages, but with enough surface area to stay above deeper snow on the flats.
Weatherwise, the day time weather fluctuated between clear blue -30 to snowy -10, and we only passed one really cold night. Our sleeping system involved spruce and hemlock boughs with a poly tarp cover, and a combo of blue foamie pads with our inflatable Thermarests provided our bedding, and solid cold-weather bags.
As usual, we ate well, and didn’t forget to pack some left over holiday cheer to celebrate our first backcountry trip of the year.
This season, we’re running a series of winter camping skills workshops led by The Land Team and the legendary Kevin Callan. These sessions are designed to help you learn to survive and thrive in the season Canadians know so well, and will be a fun and informative adventure. There are one-day and overnight options available for all dates:
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Saturday,February 10, 2018