Winter in Quebec is serious business. Snow drifts can easily pile 20 feet high, and icy winds sweeping over the frozen Saint Lawrence River can almost stop your heart. Yet this cold climate also makes Quebec the perfect place to hold North America's largest ice-climbing festivalthe Festiglace du Quebec.
This weekend, February 17 to 19, hundreds of ice aficionadosfrom world champion scramblers to knee-knocked beginnerswill bring their ice axes to the frozen waterfalls of the Jacques-Cartier River located 20 minutes west of Quebec City near the town of Pont-Rouge.
"The weather got much colder in the last two weeks and we have amazing ice like never before," says Geneviève Lamontagne, an organizer for the event, which celebrates its ninth anniversary this year. She expects hundreds of participants throughout the weekend, especially because the skies will be sunny with daytime highs of 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Festiglace will offer on-ice recreation for all ability levels. For beginner and intermediate climbers seeking to improve their skills, there are full-day courses staffed by climbing experts. Canadian gear maker Arc'teryx will also sponsor a free top-roped climbing course, and there's even a place to practice rappelling over a 100-foot cliff. "We have more fixed ropes this year," says Lamontagne, "so that people won't have to wait in long lines to get on the ice."
Equipment manufacturers like The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Simond, Koflach, Petzl/Charlet Moser, and Black Diamond will be manning tents featuring their latest and greatest gear, much of which is available to demo. The site also features a snowshoe course, speed-climbing competitions, and a huge heated tent with hot food and beverages to take the chill off.
Saturday night brings a slideshow and lecture by Everest summitter, Pete Athans, which will be devoted to the Himalayan Cataract Project, a medical mission to Nepal profiled in Outside senior editor Nick Heil's December 2005 article, "The Light of Seven Mountain Suns."
For more information about Festiglace du Quebec, including course reservations and accommodations, check out their Web site, www.festiglace.com or call at (418) 934-1499.