Sunset in Ottawa tonight



Some photos from the weekend

Almonte, Ontario

Climbing La Gloire de mon Père in Ste-Adele, QC. Photo by Mathieu Elie.

Climbing La Gloire de mon Père in Ste-Adele, QC. Photo by Mathieu Elie.

Climbing Sexy Chocolat in Ste-Adele, QC. Photo by Mathieu Elie.

Climbing Sexy Chocolat in Ste-Adele, QC. Photo by Mathieu Elie.

A tale of two climbs

The Niagara River downstream from the falls

Well, it’s been a long journey but I’m finally here – I’m at the point in time when I’ve finally climbed both Crazy Belly and The Phoenix. In two days I’ve completed two of my longest outstanding projects. A lot had to come together and I’m glad it did. “It’s about time” is the congratulations I received from my “friend” Adam. In a way he’s right.

Last fall I decided that in the spring of 2014 I would take a “vacation” for about a week and park my ass in front of these boulders and get them climbed. Obviously travelling there once or twice a year for a day at a time wasn’t getting the job done. I would find that I’d have to rework all my sequences and deal with the possibility of shitty conditions and friction. It kind of felt strange to take a week off just to travel to places I normally go for a weekend trip, but I believed that was what it would take, and I was right.

Sherman on Sibishi V6

Sherman came with me. He is super keen on bouldering right now and he’s doing new personal bests almost every week. His goal was to climb one V9 and already he’s done three in the last few weeks. He’s had more climbing days than rest days in the last month and he’s been to the Niagara Glen five times already this year I think.

Almost the worst motel in Niagara

We started our week in Niagara Falls. The rain scared off most people but 80% of the boulders were dry. The Phoenix was wet at this point so I tackled Ko-Chi-Minh Trail, a very illusive V9 vertical problem next to another improbable slab called Carpet Munching Diablos. Here’s my video description:

“The Niagara Glen Impossoboulder is a legendary blank faced boulder with two notoriously hard vert/slab problems on it. It took me 2+ sessions to figure out Carpet Munching Diablos. Once I got it, and laughed at the V5 grade, I thought I could maybe give a try on Ko-Chi-Minh-Trail which is a harder problem up the blank centre of the bloc. Keith MacKay provided some insight (I couldn’t find the holds) and not after long I was able to piece that one together as well”.

Check out the video on or watch it below. I suggest watching fullscreen with headphones or something with a little bass because the music is really good.


The next couple of days were spent supporting Sherman, resting, eating at some great restaurants and hiking from end to end across The Glen looking for boulders and wildlife. We saw deer (dead and alive), turkey vultures, foxes, gophers, snakes and hawks. I hiked to edges of The Glen I’d never visited before and it was quite fontainebleau-esque. The holds on The Phoenix remained wet so time was also helping the holds feel better and stop seeping. On Sunday it was dry enough to work on it, and I had a small crisis regarding the beta. I determined that my exit sequence which I’d recently developed, and considered easier than last years, was too difficult to do on red-point. I was just too drained from the incredible crux-slap. I couldn’t finish. At this point I played on the boulder for another couple hours and determined that my exit beta from two years ago was, in fact, a better decision. The move feels really crazy: You’re literally falling off the wall but the trick is to catch yourself before you fall too much. So unusual.

I sat there and repeated the sequence over, and over, and over until I hammered the sequence not only into my muscles but also into my mind. I needed to be able to do these moves when I had nothing left.

I taught myself how the move felt as I was falling, and to accept that feeling. “If you’re falling off, that’s fine”, and “It will feel like you’re going to fall” were facts I had to believe. I tried the sequence repeatedly, even without chalking or resting, until at some point I couldn’t even lift my body off the ground any longer.

Obviously at this moment some rest days were in order. I rested. Sherman climbed. Two days later I returned determined to finish it. I did the exit once for practice and Sherman said it “looked easy”. It didn’t feel easy.

I put on my shoes, and on my first try Tuesday morning I did it. Barely. In the video, near the end when I swing out and catch the right hand, you can actually see how my left hand lets go of the pinch block during the swing but I just stay on. Crazy.

Check out The Phoenix video on or watch it below. I suggest watching with headphones or something with a little bass because the music is really good.


I figure that The Phoenix must be the hardest problem I’ve done. It took me approximately seven sessions before I sent it and it never, ever, felt any easier. Normally moves get easier and everything just falls into place but for this one, even in the end, it was still tough.

At this point we hiked out, packed up our hotel room and hauled ass back to Ottawa – I had one chance on Crazy Belly the next day. We drove six and a half hours that day, slept, and the following morning did the remaining two hours to get to Val-David. I only had one day left of vacation before I had to get back to prison my job.

The good news was that I arrived at Les Dames well rested (except for sleep, I hadn’t got much of that) because doing The Phoenix only took me one try that day. I had rested the day before that, so I was feeling solid. Upon arrival we discovered that the friction was also incredible. Everything felt magnetic.

I did a couple laps on the V6 exit of Crazy Belly, still waking up. Trash can Phil and a crew of boulderers from Montreal showed up to join in and add some pads. Everything was ready.

A little bit of history:

In 2009 I had been racing against Seb Lazure for the first ascent of Crazy Belly (I named it that because it was the start of Crazy Carpet into Slapping the Belly of a Whale). If you know me you know I don’t do first ascents very often (we have no boulders) and I don’t really enjoy the process as much as other people do. However, the Crazy Belly project would be the hardest climb in Val-David (still is) and there were a number of climbers at the time who were looking to break into this grade range. One day I was extremely close and I fell on the last easy move to the topout jug. I remember exactly what it felt like when it happened too – I got the holds, and casually went to reach up for the jug and as soon as I moved I realized that my body was in fact tired, and before I knew it I was falling off the wall. Pallek got it on film and I’ve been haunted by that video for years.

The following weekend Seb Lazure got the first ascent.

After that, my motivation to try the problem kind of diminished. I tried it on and off for a few years, but mostly off. Everyone knew it as my project, but I was never again as close as I was on that attempt. Since then Yves Gravelle repeated it and Hans Montenegro after him after putting in something like seven or eight days of work.

The moment:

I now sat in front of it once again, feeling mature and stress free. Lots has changed in my climbing since 2009 including my strength physically and mentally. I don’t know if I’m any stronger but I do know that I am a better climber now. I sat in front of it remembering how the moves felt and I realized that I’d end up doing it. I would do it that day. I knew that before I pulled on. The pressure was off – Crazy Belly isn’t that hard, it’s just another rock climb and I would do it that day.

After refining some beta on my first and second attempts I did it on my third try.

And like that, I had accomplished my goals. I did The Phoenix and Crazy Belly back to back. I had no more projects at home. I was free. I could feel a weight lifting and experienced a mental relaxation. It honestly felt like something which was holding me back had been removed and I could move freely.

I felt like a dog taken off-leash in a huge field full of birds. I look ahead excitedly, however I’m choosing not to chase them all at this moment. I will chase some of them, and I will catch them. I will won’t chase all of them and I won’t catch all of them, but the ones that I do catch I will top out and add to my scorecard.

Side Note: The camera battery died during my ascent so I don’t have video footage. If you google it I’m sure you’ll see Yves or Seb or Hans footage out there.

photo from the niagara glen

Photo I took of my friend Eric on Carpet Munching Diablos V7/8, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Japanese soup number two – Udon

my udon

Tonight I took a shot at another classic Japanese soup: Udon. It’s is one of my favourite Japanese meals but it’s not as common as Ramen and less famous. I borrowed some cookbooks from the library and found some recipes.

crazy ingredients

This time I found most of my ingredients at the Win-Tai grocery store on Ogilvie road. This asian grocery store has the best selection of Japanese food in town. I found everything I needed no problem, from the Kombu (dried kelp) to Bonito (smoked fish flakes). I found a nice package of “fresh” Udon noodles too. The noodles are really what makes the soup so great! Big fat chewy noodles a bit al dente is the way to go. Unfortunately the noodles were just a liiiitle bit too soft in the end because it was hard for me to make sure the shrimp tempura were cooked at exactly the same time. Next time I’ll have to be more meticulous.

The broth was just “good”. It wasn’t as amazing as my ramen was, but it also takes less than an hour to make this soup from scratch! I think I’ll try a different recipe next time. I want a more sweet seafood type broth but that might not be the most authentic. I also used the wrong recipe for the batter of the shrimp tempura. There’s always room for improvement I guess eh?

the finished product

It may sound like it didn’t turn out, but I wouldn’t quite say that. Leanna liked it: we both did actually. It wasn’t a home run like the ramen, and didn’t quite satisfy my Udon itch, but my taste buds didn’t complain one bit!

Photos from today




Éric Serré climbing Saigon in Bishop, California

Here is a video I made of my friend Éric climbing Saigon in Bishop back in March. Make sure you watch it in HD and in fullscreen if you still use a computer.