Sunshine and warm temps
Earlier in 2022, Laclu IceFest was cancelled due to healthcare restrictions in Northwestern Ontario. As we battled extreme cold weather and emerged from the restrictions, we set our sights on March 19/20 to enjoy climbing in the end-of-season temps.
And boy, did we get our wish. With the temperatures approaching the low teens,, twenty climbers headed across the ice on Saturday for this first-ever climbing festival hosted by ACC Manitoba and Saint-Boniface sections.
The spring melt was really on. Four vehicles ventured out on the lake, crunching through the surface ice and 12 inches of water that sat on top of 3 feet of solid ice (very safe, but felt ominous). Creating waves of splashing water, all vehicles and walkers arrived safely to the cliff.
Fuelled by Nautical Coffee
To start the afternoon, climbers were greeted with fresh-pressed coffee bevvies, prepared by cliff-side barista Jeremy, owner of new Kenora coffee company, Nautical Coffee (be sure to give him a follow on IG @NauticalCoffee). Yum!
With the climbers jacked on caffeine and ready to go, Trisha and Charles gathered the group to explain the climbing bingo challenges, then fired the starting pistol to launch the comp (just kidding, no pistol).
Climbing bingo competition
Trisha and Charles had been to the cliff the previous evening and set 8 routes to be ready for climbing on Saturday.
14 participants were divided into 3 teams based on varying skill levels.
Each team worked together to complete 25 challenges on their bingo card.
On and off-the-wall (literally and figuratively) challenges put everyone to the ultimate test - no giveaways here!
Some of the many fun challenges:
A one-tool climb
Setting a quad anchor
Raising the ACC flagpole
A pillar climb
Build a snowman
A down climb
30 second hoola hoop (pretty sure there were a few sore necks by the end of the day)
Firing a snowball successfully through a hoola hoop
And many more!
"BINGO!" was called at 3:15 pm. Erica, Tamara, Kasia, and Josée, assisted by River and Olivia, took home the prize and prestige of being the winners of the first-ever Laclu IceFest.
A massive thank you to Trisha and Charles for a super-creative bingo game – and to all the competitors for their enthusiasm!
After bingo, climbers relived the day’s epic challenges while enjoying lunch and snacks provided by ACC Manitoba.
Melting lake ice increased the epic vibe
Fortunately, the ice was still plenty thick to support vehicles, but the melt continued throughout the day, and by mid-afternoon, there were several open holes in the ice.
Still thick, but…you know...holes, which were growing.
A bit unnerving!
To be safe, the group hastily packed up to get the vehicles off the ice, with snowshoes ready for the return walk to the cliff.
Driving up onto the shore at Bennetts Marine, everyone breathed a little easier.
No cars sunk is always a good day.
With all vehicles safe on land, climbers headed back to the cliff – the happier ones wearing snowshoes.
Though several climbers initially planned to camp, the warm conditions, and the fact that the ACC tent was collapsing due to melting ice around the tent pegs, made some of us (mostly Jackie) nervous.
Climbers made their way back to Kenora and the Monney family cabin for dinner and a comfy bed (shout-out to Lake of the Woods Brewery and to Paul & Lisa!).
One intrepid climber (John) camped on the ice, a true adventurer!
After a leisurely breakfast, the Kenora and Monney crews made their way back to the cliff for an extra day of ice climbing.
Having had enough excitement travelling on the melting ice Saturday, the group snowshoed or hitched a ride on Paul's quad to the cliff.
When not climbing or belaying, we lounged in the sun, played with our furry friends Penny and Cyril, and chatted about life.
By the afternoon, the temps had risen to +12C.
The shirts (literally) came off for a few pillar laps.
Sunburnt and happy, we packed up around 4:30 pm for the snowshoe back to the Marina, and then the drive home.
Laclu IceFest 2022 is a wrap – and we can’t wait to plan 2023!
Will YOU take home the prize in 2023?
Many thanks to the organizing team for their hard work, and to all the climbers and spectators who helped make Laclu IceFest 2022 such an unforgettable experience.
See you on the lake in 2023!