Cabin Weekend at Metcalfe Rock: Climbing in snow and other harsh realities / by Jessica Lee

We drove up to Metcalfe Rock, in Northern Ontario this weekend for an early April climbing trip but of course, we underestimated Canadian weather.

While most of the snow in Toronto had melted already and weather was in the positives, it was a different story up North.

Along the way, I found out that the "cottage weekend" I had in mind was not what was available.

I had packed shampoo and body wash thinking that our cottage would have plumbing- which is a reasonable thing to assume, given we live in the 21st century.

But as we drove towards our destination, my friend Hunter casually mentioned to the car, "by the way, there is no water or electricity at the cabin".


I took a deep breath and told myself I would get through it.

After two hours of driving through thick fog and an unlit road, we somehow managed to make our way to the cottage without proper GPS coordinates and no address. We came into a muddy road, then proceeded to hike up a steep trail in the snow towards the unknown. There were no surrounding lights so there was no way to gauge how far away the actual cottage was or if we were even heading in the right direction.

Thankfully, we arrived after 10 minutes of hiking.

The cabin smelled musty and we had to turn on the gas to light up the lamps- so very old school and "rustic".

Here are some photos I took of the cabin after we started a fire and lit the lamps:

It's a beautiful design when you can see where everything is.

We put some chicken in the oven and ate salad while we started a heated game of Cards Against Humanity.

We played until 1 am then settled in for the night. I slept beside the fire but since the building had no heating, I found I needed to wear my winter jacket inside my sleeping bag to keep warm. With no running water and having to run out to the outhouse (in the snow) for bathroom breaks, it wasn't exactly rough, but it reminded me of all the luxuries I had at home.

Throughout the trip, I would frequently pause before taking a drink to determine if I was really thirsty because the pain of running out to the cold in the dark to use the outhouse wasn't worth an extra cup of tea/juice.

In the morning, I woke up to seeing the air my breathing created in the cold air. I did not want to get out of my warm sleeping bag to make breakfast. But one of the guys volunteered to find the spring where we would get our water from and another said he would go with him. So I said I would make breakfast. We had bacon, mushroom tomato omelettes and potato hash.

After we cleaned up, I took some photos of the cottage. It was really cool to see what the cottage looked like when it was all lit up properly through natural lighting.

The guys decided since it was obviously too cold to go climbing (the original purpose of the trip), we would go cross-country skiing.

Here is Hunter trying to take a photo with his lens cap on:

It was my first time cross-country skiing, and the first time I was seeing huge amounts of snow in Canada this season, since I spent most of this Winter in Europe.

Cross-country skiing is different from downhill in that only the front part of your foot is attached to the ski so you have less control during slopes, but it's easier to glide forward.

It was a beautiful trek at 8 km. I don't normally go out for hikes in weather like this so I don't often get to see nature in the winter.

We finished the trip and by that time, the rest of our climbing companions had arrived at the cottage.

At 4 degrees, it was too cold to climb outdoors but we came up with some creative solutions, deciding to make up routes on the frame of our cabin.

Night rolled in again, and after some digging, we discovered a board game about climbing made in the 80s. It was a hilarious night.

On Sunday, it finally became warm enough to climb outdoors.

My fingers were freezing and I couldn't feel my tips for most of the climb, but life isn't perfect. After waiting for a whole weekend, I finally got to do what I came to do!

We climbed for a couple of hours, then packed it up and headed home.

More photos:

The cabin is owned by the University of Toronto Outings Club, but is available for private rental. UTOC offers very reasonable rates for private bookings of the cabin by both members and non-members. Many different groups have had great experiences at the UTOC cabin. Contact for more details.

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