Last week, the ice climber Stas Beskin made stomach-turning ascents of a a series of three pencil-thin pillars in Cap-à-l’Aigle, Quebec. Using what he describes to Rock and Ice as a “new technique” that will “redefine hard ice climbing” and allow “one to climb stuff that was considered suicidal before,” he soloed each of the delicate pillars one after the other. (Beskin has not elaborated on this new technique yet, but promised he will reveal more information soon.)
Beskin had all but resigned himself to hanging up ice his tools for the season, when a friend sent him a picture of the sea-cliff pillars. “I told my buddy, ‘We have to change the plans and go check these things,'” Beskin says. “These things looked insane!”
While the pillars looked insane, the truly insane thing is to think that someone would willingly climb them. Protection on such features is impossible, and the margin for error is all but nonexistent. Yet they are precisely the kind of features that Beskin pines for all year long: “I’ve been hunting this kind of stuff the whole winter. Went to Alberta and other places. It’s very unique, very rare, to find things like this.”
Beskin knew the pillars had been top-roped very recently, so was optimistic that they’d still be in climbable conditions when he got there. But climbable conditions in Beskin’s view would likely be the opposite for most any other climber. The pillars are located right on the ocean and receive all-day sun. “When the tide is high,” Beskin says, “they are literally coming straight out of the water.” When he arrived he inspected the first formation as best he could: “I tapped on it—I felt it of course shaking, but you know….”
Even with his new tehnique, Beskin admits that the climbing was uniquely scary. He explains, “The climbs were very, very thin at the base. Even with my technique I could feel them shaking.” But once he was a few meters up each one, he began to feel more and more solid.
The video above is of the third pillar of the day. The first one was the highest.