Jake’s birthday falls around Valentine’s Day, which just so happens to fall around President’s Day, which means we have the perfect excuse to take a mini-vacation in February every year. Jake, who fiercely self-defines himself as from Florida, chose Boston last year, and we had a lovely time wandering around in the snow and sightseeing. This year, he decided Boston in February wasn’t cold enough for him, so we drove up to Quebec City for some snow sports and in hopes of seeing the northern lights (spoiler alert: we didn’t).
In the past few years since I’ve moved to New York and have gotten involved in a lot of outdoor activities, our focus has changed from city sightseeing to active sightseeing. When we planned this trip, we wanted to be outside as much as possible. We loved regular canoyning when we were in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, and thought ice canyoning would be a perfect wintry adventure.
We arrived at a ski resort that was about an hour north of Quebec City. I know French well enough to read a few things, but had difficulty getting around the resort enough to know where I was supposed to be. Finally finding our guide, we went over to the main lodge where we went over procedures, signed waivers, and fitted ourselves for crampons.
I had bought winter boots the week earlier and luckily the soles of my boots were rigid enough for hybrid crampons. Jake’s however, were not, so he had to rent boots. There were only four participants total, and the guide made a fifth. To get started, we literally walked out of the ski resort parking lot and across the street.
We got on a little hiking path and walked about a mile to what was a little “test run.” It was a fairly easy slope to get us used to the height, and I was glad we had the chance to practice the techniques, like situating your arm away from your body as you’re giving yourself rope going down, really getting into a sitting position, and attaching the rope to your harness with the carabiners.
Because there was only one guide, he was dependent upon us to help out a bit, which to be honest, I found a bit odd, especially since we were still charged the full price of the adventure. I never felt really unsafe or like we weren’t capable of doing the jobs he asked, but because Jake and I were asked every time to be the one either belaying the rope or the last one down, neither one of us had the chance to get photos of each other, which we were super disappointed about. The other two women on the trip weren’t asked to help with these tasks, for reasons we’re not really sure of. Maybe Jake and I were just ice canyoning naturals? Perhaps our bulging biceps were just that visible through our winter puffies? We radiated athletic confidence? It forever remains a mystery.
After the first true cliff, which I went down first, we attached ourselves to a narrow ledge that was barely large enough to fit all five of us. There was a rope bolted between some rocks that we quickly attached ourselves to, and got prepared to go down the next ledge. I couldn’t even think about taking photos here, sadly, for fear of my phone toppling into a snowy abyss.
We went down three cliffs total (including the test run), and the last one was by far the best! It was a beautiful semi-frozen waterfall that was about 100 feet tall.
Afterwards we drank some tea and took some photos before heading back up a LOT of stairs in order to reach where we were before. On the way up we were sure to take in the beautiful views of the cliffs we had just canyoned down.
I’m a bit neutral as to whether I’d recommend this adventure to anyone else, because it is unique in that it is the only place in North America to go ice canyoning. That being said, it was quite pricey, didn’t last very long, and Jake and I had to do a bunch of the work. So make your own decision as to what’s a priority for you, but if you’ve got the time and the money, it’s worth a stop in the winter.
How we got there: Jake and I rented a car for our entire time in Quebec. We rented from Avis in New York City, specifically because their corporate office had told us that we could switch to a car with snow tires while we were in Quebec. Snow tires are mandatory for Quebec residents in the winter, and we knew we were headed off the beaten path and wanted to be prepared. Unfortunately, when we went to swap the car out at the Quebec airport, we were told the information we had been given was false. Apparently Avis’ corporate office has told this to a lot of people who show up expecting to be able to exchange their rental cars. After many choice words with them, they refunded us the majority of the cost of the rental car, which was nice. While the LGA Avis office was great, I wouldn’t recommend renting with Avis due to this entire experience.
Where we stayed: We were actually in between destinations, as we decided to head up to Saguenay for an evening in a yurt! Because I probably won’t get to post about that experience anywhere else, have a photo of us in front of our little yurt.
It was actually quite spacious, and was heated by a pellet stove. We were bonafide glamping with a composting toilet and no running water, but we enjoyed ourselves for the evening and could have stayed longer. We were quite a ways away from Quebec City, about three hours, so English speakers were more rare up here.