Orient Bay Ice
Orient bay is one of the best iceclimbing areas in eastern North America. Outside of Lake Willoughby, it is probably the best in the East. Better than more well known areas like the Adirondacks and New Hampshire area, it remains relatively unknown, probably due to its distance from large urban centers. This is actually an advantage since a visitor is assured of few people around and climbs without the pock marked deterioration caused by too much traffic. On a late season visit we saw about 10 cars in a fifteen-mile stretch parked on the highway on the most crowded day of our visit. The locals said that this was incredibly crowded. Apparently on most weekends two cars is the norm. Local boys from Thunder Bay along with  Michigan climbers are the most frequent visitors to the area.

Near Nipigon Ontario, Orient bay is about a fifteen hour drive from Toronto. Nipigon has all amenities including the Normandie Hotel operated by Gunther. Gunther is an excellent chef and is the best bet for food. 
 

Relection Wall, a classic grade five.

The climbs are accessed from various points along a fifteen-mile stretch of highway. Approaches are pretty easy, five minute to twenty-minute slogs, the climb in sight,  with a short uphill section to most routes. Snowfalls can be heavy, so approaches can be difficult after a storm. A climber cannot depend on others to blaze a trail due to the small numbers of climbers here. Snowshoes would be useful at these times.

In mid winter, this area can be very cold although the locals seem to not notice. They also enjoy teasing visitors caught shivering. Ice can be quite brittle due to the cold. March is probably a good time to visit, with temperatures more tolerable for Southerners.

There are climbs that face both North and South, allowing climbers to select climbs according to the conditions. In the late spring we climbed some climbs with a northern exposure and had great conditions even when the southern facing climbs were soft and dangerous.

The area is beautiful, overlooking a lake, with a remote feel. Lots of wildlife can be seen around the area. The only negative is the noise from trucks passing below on the highway. This however, can be tolerated since the same road allows easy access.
 
 

Orient Bay on the left and a Otter heading for safety on the right.

Lots of huge icefalls were visible all over the place, up to two pitches and about 200 feet in height. There are many routes in the grade three to grade four range. This is a world class ice area with huge volumes of ice, a high concentration of routes, classic lines, beautiful area, easy access and no crowds.
 

The popular Cascade falls, easy access and lots of ice.

In addition to Orient Bay, other areas with excellent climbs but not as extensive are close by. Kama Bay is also impressive with some harder climbs. Ice Station Superior and the Thunder Bay area offer many other climbs, all less than 1 hour drive from Nipigon. Shaun Parent's recent guidebook, Superior Ice, documents all of these areas.

Bob Bennell
April 2002


 
Table of Contents

 
Ice Climbing Gallery

 
Top