Rock climbing in Lions Head in Ontario, Canada is serious. Way more so then many of the sport climbing destinations I’ve been to. Me and my friend Steve found out the hard way.
After starting the day on some routes on a big ledge we had rappelled down to, we hiked to another area and decided to attempt a classic climb with the iconic Lions Head hanging belay
We slung our rope around a tree and I rappelled down 50 feet to the anchor. The hanging belay was on the edge of the rock, so there was about 100 feet of exposure directly beneath me and nothing to the right as well. The route climbed up and right to this overhanging point, which served as the best overlook in the area. Overhung and exposed. Epic climbing.
As I waited for Steve to join me at the anchor, I shivered as the wind picked up. Looking to my right I saw the ends of the rope blowing sideways in the wind. Like the obsessive neurotic climber I have become I stared at the rope, checking to make sure I had stopper knots, you know, just in case these old rusty bolts in the wall decided they didn’t want to hang on anymore.
Steve finally joined me and we started to pull the rope. Tug. Nothing. Tug again. Nothing. I tried my side of the rope. Nothing. We yanked, pulled, and whipped the rope to no avail. It would not budge. This is when we realized that we weren’t going to be able to pull our rope to lead on. We were stuck.
Our engineering minds kicked in and we started discussing ways of getting out of the situation. We considered leading off of the end of the rope we had, but given the length of the route and the overhung nature, we weren’t sure if we had enough. And we defintely didn’t want to be stuck in that position if I ran out of rope. We finally decided that Steve would prussik his way up the rope, and then belay me from the top. He had just watched a video on self rescue, so no better time to practice. It took him a little bit to get the technique down, but slowly, and I mean slooowwwly, he started making his way up the rope.
I just hung there. At the anchor, 100 feet in air, shivering. It started to sprinkle a little bit. Cold and alone. What was I doing here? I didn’t get scared, but I definitely thought why this might be a scary situation to most. I watched the wind continue to blow the rope sideways, dangling high above the trees. It was both beautiful and ominous.
As Steve got about halfway up the rope, our friend Shane peeked his head over the rock and yelled down if we needed help. He could pull the rope for us. Steve and I yelled back and forth and he decided he wanted to finish what he started. Shane and our other friend Duane decided to build an anchor and send me down a different rope so I could climb my way out.
So with Steve still making his way back to the top, I started climbing the route, much later and colder than intended. It took several feet of climbing before my numb hands felt usable again.
Luckily the route was really fun. Big jugs and shelfs with wild exposure all around. After fighting through several roofs I pulled over the final lip. I was glad to have finished the route and glad that we weren’t completely stuck hanging out in Canada.
I felt bad for Steve since he didn’t get to climb the route, but he laughed it off as a natural part of climbing. He got on plenty of other amazing routes, including a huge 120 foot route we climbed from the bottom of the cliff to the top. We definitely were satisfied with the adventure of it all, which is why we do this.