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Dawn Patrol

March 11, 2009

One of the advantages of living in Thunder Bay is the sheer accessibility of the climbing, and the variety of climbs to pick from, many within the city limits or within a very short drive of most of the residential areas. As spring approaches and the days get longer (and the mornings and evenings warmer!), one of my favorite things to do is wake up an hour or two earlier than I have to and sneak a few quick ice pitches in before work. It’s also a great way to give the pooch maximum bang for his buck on his morning walk. On those lazy days when I don’t feel like getting up early, heading out in the evening is a great way to reset the gears after a long day at the office.

One of my favourite venues for this is the area known to climbers as “The Bowl”, in the valley mouth between Mounts Rose and Godfrey, just behind Mount McKay. The area is home to about half a dozen routes, many with several distinct variations, offering plenty of different lines of varying difficulty, depending on my mood and the conditions on a given morning.

I can literally be at the base of a route a little over a half hour after rolling out of my bed, quicker if I’m motivated to really get after it and snow conditions on the approach trails are cooperative. I usually head up one of the classic moderates like Ice Stud or White Lightning. Looking back on my log from last season, I can see I got up these climbs, or a combination of them, no less than 23 times. More than half of those were morning tours.

Dawn patroller's breakfast: GU and espresso shots - guaranteed to get you going in a hurry!

Dawn patroller's breakfast: GU and espresso shots - guaranteed to get you going in a hurry!

This morning was no different than most, perfect nonetheless. Staggering into my climbing clothes and fumbling with my contacts, I nearly killed myself trying to walk downstairs and put socks on at the same time (and I was on my way to go climbing…). Seconds later I was sneaking out the house with the dog, trying not to creak the floors in our hundred-year-old house too much and wake up Jenn, a despairingly light sleeper. The drive went quick, as nearly no cars are on the streets at 5 a.m. – a good thing as I was a bit distracted, coughing from choking down some GU and espresso to get that morning buzz going.

A cooler-than-forecast morning and plenty of new snow left things a bit crisp and crunchy on the way in. Fortunately, these moderates see ridiculous amounts of traffic, and so are pretty beat out, which makes for secure climbing even when the ice is quite brittle. High winds and plenty of spindrift made for a quick wake-up, and I fumbled with numb fingers trying to pull my thin rap line out of my tiny pack before zipping back down to a waiting puppy. Kuma’s great that way – doesn’t matter if I’m gone for a week or 10 minutes up a short route – he’s always super excited to see me when I get back. It makes the smile on my face even bigger after a good pitch or two.

A quick glissade and jog back down the now-broken trail had us back to the car just as the first rays of dawn were breaking over the Sleeping Giant, a sunrise I’ll never tire of seeing. Less than 10 minutes later we were home to begin our respective days, Kuma to his breakfast and then the couch for his morning nap, and me to the shower and then work.

A tired dog is a good dog!

A tired dog is a good dog!

A perfect morning, and made even better when I was sitting at work all charged up from already having earned my breakfast calories, in stark contrast to my bleary-eyed coworkers staggering in and grumpily crowding the coffee machine.

I smiled smugly to myself, knowing I’d be doing it again soon.

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