Jenn and I accompanied Roland on an exploratory ice climbing outing to a small valley cut into the Eardley Escarpment in Gatineau Park last Sunday, on the very first day of March (2015). Although there weren't huge faces of ice to climb, it was nevertheless a nice combination of a pleasant snowshoe hike, quick climbs, and solitude.
The small valley Roland wanted to explore is called Hidden Valley (likely an unofficial name). It is a fairly narrow drainage carved into the face of the Eardley Escarpment, which itself forms the western boundary of Gatineau Park near Ottawa, Canada.
To reach Hidden Valley, we parked at the small widening along Chemin Cregheur (see map), then hiked along the signed access route to Cabin Creek / Farm Rock. This route crosses the private land of Venturing Hills Farm, so it was important to follow the proper access corridor.
Escarpment and Hidden Valley
The face of the escarpment loomed ever larger as we walked across the flats. Once we reached end of flat ground, we turned right, following an already beaten-out snowshoe track headed roughly in the direction of Farm Rock. The cliffs of Farm Rock mark one side of the mouth of Hidden Valley.
Nicely-packed access trail
Approaching first ice climb location
Fortunately for us, the well-beaten snowshoe track led diagonally upwards, on a nice, rising traverse that contoured us directly into Hidden Valley. Soon we left the slopes of the escarpment behind, continuing mostly on flat ground into Hidden Valley. We began to scan the sides of the valley for spots that looked like they might be promising for ice climbing.
Roland soon spotted a potential spot off on our left. We were fortunate that a narrower snowshoe track led right past this spot, making our approach easy. There indeed was a cliff here with ice, although on first glance it looked steep and rather thin. However, the more we looked at it, the more we thought that it was worthy of some of our time.
Hidden Valley Ice Climb 1
Roland felt it was a bit too steep for him to lead, so he and Jenn snowshoed around to the top to set up a top-rope, and I stayed below to ensure the setup occurred directly over the ice. In short order, Roland came rappelling down over the cliff, knocking down a fair amount of snow that had lain undisturbed since the last party climbing here (which appeared to be quite a long time ago).
I was up first, and chose to tackle the easier of two short but steep routes. I almost made it up over the top of the vertical section before tiring out, and gave way to Roland, who completed it in short order, and then Jenn, whose overly-flexible crampons did her in. In then gave it another shot, and with some better foot placement, made it up the route in reasonably good form.
Roland then decided to try the sketchier of the two routes at this spot: a climb up a vertical and rather narrow/thin pillar of ice. He popped an ice placement on a traversing maneuver and fell off, but on the second attempt, with more careful placement and a lot of huffing and puffing, he made it cleanly up the pillar, proclaiming that that had been the hardest bit of ice he'd climbed yet.
Two minute video clip, Roland climbing in Hidden Valley - Click on video above to start
With the afternoon drawing on, we decided to pull the rope and explore around a bit more, looking for another spot to climb in Hidden Valley. While near the top of the current climb, Roland had spotted a promising looking spot across the valley from where we were. We carefully landmarked the spot and then snowshoed over in that general direction.
Hidden Valley second climbing location
A nicely-packed out snowshoe track didn't exist over on this side of the valley, so we had to break trail, which proved to be surprisingly tiring. The snow was quite loose and unconsolidated, making the going tough. Eventually, we made it, arriving at a series of vertical seeps of ice and a longer, more ramped section of ice.