Classic ice routes of southern Ontario's Madawaska Region

Where Egos Dare, Diamond Lake

Photo: Peter Hoang

When the first ascent team started up the initial corner, little did they know that their efforts and the ice they’d climb that day would inspire generations. The conditions that day were lean and even from the ground, they could tell the climbing would be serious. The prospects of protection in the upper corners and the perfectly formed tongues of ice that flowed down the slab proved irresistible; fortunately, their mindset was strong enough, the ice was just thick enough, and their swings delicate enough to see them to the top.

The conditions this year are much more forgiving. When you make it to Diamond Lake (home of SOIceFest1 this year) and see the climb for yourself, you too may find the perfect ice simply irresistible.

Before you set your sights on WED, make sure you have all the gear you need. MEC stocks different varieties of stubbies (10 and 13 cm screws), leashless tools (so you can shake the dreaded forearm pump out) and long ropes that are needed to climb this classic route.

More information about Diamond Lake and Where Egos Dare can be found on pg 126 of Southern Ontario Ice

Black Pearl, Hidden Gems

Photo: Bojan Uzicanin

The focal point of the central amphitheater is this water-streaked set of blocks and ramps that leads up towards smears of ice. It’s a line that captures your intrigue: the ice high on the route has a magical magnetic attraction to it. And although the rock section down low appears straightforward, the experienced climber knows not to underestimate the angling features that require control and precision. It’s surprisingly pumpy and worth every effort to get on.

It’s well-protected with bolts down low, but if the ice is on the skinny side, you may want to bring a few pieces to place in the flaring cracks and pods.

The Nomics have set the standard by which all other tools are judged. They could very well be the last tools you would ever want to buy: they excel on all mediums, on all angles, and can be tailored to fit the climbing on the day’s agenda. Need to mantle your full weight off a tool torqued horizontally? Np. Need to swing non-stop up an endless pitch of blue? Of course you can. Finally starting to feel the dreaded pump? Just match hands and chill. Seriously – the tools don’t shift, so relax. They're available at MEC, or if you're lucky, you may even leave the 'Fest, with a new set!

More information on Hidden Gems and the Black Pearl can be found on page 86 of Southern Ontario Ice.

Dirty Harry, Eagle's Nest

Photo: Fernando Nuflo

The imposing chimney, the yellow pillars of ice and the gaping mouth of icicles low down make Dirty Harry the most frequently talked about ice route in Southern Ontario. It being situated directly across the street from the Tim Horton’s in Bancroft makes it the most looked at piece of ice too! It forms early in the season and is a bell-weather for climbers’ form, both mentally and physically. If looking to top-rope this route a 70m rope comes in handy!

On the day of this ascent, Astrid found the Arcteryx jacket to suit her needs admirably! It moved with her during the stemming, chimneying and mantling down low. (See how the jacket is still tucked under the harness?) The dripping water wasn't a distraction thanks to the water repellant material. And she didn't overheat, despite the route's long length. All those features add up to smiles! Come to SOIceFest1 and you can win the grand prize: The Procline Jacket and Pants. Check them out in advance at the Arcteryx Toronto store.

More information about Eagle's Nest and Dirty Harry can be found on pg 78 of Southern Ontario Ice.

Naked SOul, Papineau RoaDside

Photo: Martin Suchma

This route climbs up an elegant series of cracks to gain a thin smear of ice that flows off the summit bulge. Naked Soul tests your ability to torque your picks in the crack and gently tap your way up thin & dense ice. Bolts, nuts and cams protect the climbing (and maybe even a short screw if you’re lucky), or simply walk around and set a top-rope from above.

On Peter’s ascent, the La Sportiva Trango Ice boots proved to be the perfect combination of sensitivity, support and warmth. Check out the newest editions to the Sportiva line-up: the Nepal Cube GTX and Trango Ice Cube GTX at the La Sportiva Demo Tent at SOIceFest1 or find them at

More information about Papineau Roadside and Naked Soul can be found on pg 104 of Southern Ontario Ice.

Holy Hannah, Watt Lake

Photo: Justin Bryant

Deep in woods south of Algonquin Park lies this thin ice route that cascades down the face above Watt Lake's east shore. It is a smidgen off of vertical, allowing the ice to grow slowly, without air pockets or elaborate displays of chandeliers, yet steep enough to offer a sustained workout to those that are curious enough to take a closer look. As you climb up the narrow cascade, you can’t help but be amazed by the blank looking wall to either side of you.

Is it thick enough to be climbed safely today? Is the ice well bonded? Am I strong enough?

Andriy said the Cassin X-Dream ice tools were a great choice for this route.  Their lightweight head allowed for quick and accurate swings. It’s easy to match on the two main pommels, without worrying about pick shift. And when you swap hands to shake out, you can actually calm yourself down - that's how confident you are the tools won't pop. The steel pick handled bouncing off the rock really well (it's bound to happen when climbing thin ice). The Cassin Blade Runners crampons, worn for this ascent, inspired confidence right out of the box! They have plenty of well-positioned points to suit the beginner or advanced. Whether standing on a blob with the arch of your foot, side stepping a sloping ledge or delicately front pointing up candled ice, these crampons have the points to keep you from sliding around. Get your hands on a demo pair of the X-Dreams or Blade Runners at SOIceFest1 or find them in stores at

More information about Watt Lake and Holy Hannah can be found on pg 96 of Southern Ontario Ice.