Canyoneering in Quebec

Canyoneering

"Melanie Bisson, Canyoneering Guide (Photo: Steve Mullen)".

As I plunged into the abyss, one hand clinging to the rope, water cascaded over my head obscuring my vision as I desperately sought a reassuring word from my Canyoning-Quebec guide. Melanie Bisson was already helping the next climber down the last pitch from above after shouting, “Spiderwoman” at me and I couldn’t find Mathieu Bourassa below. I took a misty breath and remembered what to do—leave my left hand on my waist harness so it wouldn’t get in the way and let out some of the rope with my right. Before I knew it I could hear Mathieu calmly saying, “You’re almost down, keep coming.” I realized I’d been laughing all the way down from the sheer audacity of rappelling down a waterfall, defying the messages from my brain that it was not normal to be leaping off into space. My heart pounding, I reached solid ground and took stock of the waterfall—it didn’t look as far up as it had from the top but was still an accomplishment.

Canyoneering (known as Canyoning in Canada) is the sport of traveling through canyons, often involving technical descents. Canyoneering sites are frequently located in remote areas requiring navigational skills and ropes.

Canyoning-Quebec

Canyoneering

Inga, preparing for her first rappel down the waterfall (Photo: Steve Mullen)

Canyoning-Quebec operates in the Valee Bras-Du-Nord, an expansive and rugged park located about an hour from Quebec City. Half-day, 1- and 2-day guided canyoneering trips are offered, including equipment.

On an overcast September day we joined Melanie and Mathieu for a day at the park. Melanie, has been a rock climber for 10 years and is expert with the rope work. She said she loves guiding because she enjoys the psychology of getting people to trust the rope and themselves, so the more nervous the client the more she’s up for the challenge. She infuses the adventure with confidence, patience and good humor.

Canyoneering

Steve Mullen is a natural (Photo: Melanie Bisson)

We started off with a 30 minute climb through the trails of the Valee Bras-Du-Nord, crossing the Bras-Du-Nord River on a wiggly suspension bridge. We passed a hut along the way and learned from Mathieu that different styles of huts, some looking like substantial cabins, have been built every few miles so hikers and snowshoers can bring a minimum of equipment for a multi-day excursion.

Having gained some elevation we stopped at the top of the l’île de Pâques Falls to slip into our form fitting wetsuits (provided by Canyoning-Quebec) and receive rope instruction from Melanie. She demonstrated the technique for how to attach our harness to the rope, and the safety features of the equipment. Each person had to return the demonstration until she was satisfied that we were proficient. She slipped away while we were assembling our gear to set the ropes on the first pitch.

Taking the plunge

Canyoneering

Mathieu Bourassa in the waterfall (Photo: Steve Mullen)

Approaching the brink of the upper waterfall it initially looked like it fell away vertically, but as I peered over the edge I was reassured that it was a relatively low angle, which was perfect for the first pitch. I was all thumbs as we got started but with Melanie’s coaching I set the rope, leaned back and started “walking” down the slippery waterfall. I felt outside of my comfort zone, but my husband, Steve, scampered down the fall as if he did it every day. We did a second pitch and stopped to admire the expansive view of the valley below and enjoy a snack of cheese and crackers.

It was the third pitch that was the most challenging. We had to carefully set a safety rope to even get to the precarious starting point for the rappel. Melanie went first and helped each person unclip from the safety rope to the main rope. We had to blindly step down onto a small foothold, then “walk” a few steps while rappelling until there was no more rock to push off of. The waterfall cascaded over a large overhang and we hung free during the last part of the rappel, increasing the thrill factor significantly.

Not the usual tourist activity in Quebec

Valee Bras-Du-Nord

Valee Bras-Du-Nord Park (Photo: Steve Mullen)

Many people come to Quebec to enjoy the European-style walled city, sophisticated restaurants and modern amenities, but beyond the city a natural playground exists in the Vallee Bras-du-Nord, with canyoneering, canoeing, hiking and biking it the summer, and ice-climbing and snowshoeing in the winter.

Information:
Canyoning-Quebec
Phone: 418-998-3859 or 418-559-2783
E-mail: info@canyoning-quebec.com or melaniebisson12@gmail.com

The
cost is $94 for adults, $67 for students (1/2 day)
http://www.canyoning-quebec.blogspot.com/
(French only for now, but more up-to-date)

Valle-Bras-Du-Nord Park
1-800 321-4992
E-mail: valleebrasdunord@globetrotter.net

Getting There:
To reach the Vallee Bras-du-Nord from Quebec City (about an hour):

  • Take AUT 40 west
  • Take Rte 365 north to Saint-Raymond
  • Follow signs to Vallee Bras-du-Nord/Shannahan
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