In the Adventure Stories series, we ask Wild Rock staff and contributors to share some of the most exciting outdoor experiences they've had lately.
Next up is Tori Silvera, Wild Rock's General Manager. Tori keeps the Wild Rock wheels turning and the adventures happening. She's an avid rock climber, a slow-speed cyclist, and has a penchant for sleeping in tents after walking a long way.
In this post, Tori shares some anecdotes from a memorable weekend in the Adirondacks.
WR: What adventure are you going to tell us about?
A trip to the Adirondacks with Justin (another Wild Rocker)! It was a couple years ago now, but I guess most far-away trips happened pre-pandemic. We went down for a weekend to climb, and ended up coming home with two outrageous stories.
On day 1 we went out for a chill afternoon of climbing. I headed up a mixed 5.11b (a climbing grade that lives somewhere just above intermediate in difficulty) and struggled to the crux, where I was met with an unwelcome reptilian face relaxing and enjoying the shade of the rest hold. I couldn’t convince the snake to move, so I tried to take an alternate route that led to a very, very big fall onto a 5mm piece of protective gear. I scraped through birch branches as I hurdled down, regretting my life choices. Justin yelped, I screamed, and we found ourselves swinging a few feet off the ground laughing with gratitude that my legs weren’t broken.
The next day, relatively unfazed, we woke up at 3:30 a.m. to head out on the trail to our first ever big-wall climb—an easy 800-foot cliff that stood 8 kilometers into the backcountry. 16 kilometers of hiking doesn’t seem bad for one day, but it sure felt like a slog with two full-sized ropes, lunch, water, and 20 or 30 pounds of life-saving metal on our backs. Add 8 hours of climbing and descending in the middle, and you’ve got a solid 16-hour day on your hands (and feet). We got back to our campsite and ate nachos with rehydrated chili under red lights while we got eaten alive, then slept like babies.
What was the most memorable part of the trip?
The snake is probably the most-repeated tale from that weekend, but we also remembered the shattering of Justin’s windshield for a long time, because he was reminded of it every time he drove anywhere. The short story is that I punched the windshield—much too passionately—in an attempt to kill a deer fly. That might also be the long version of the story.
What are your go-to foods for an adventure like this one?
Chili and chips all the way. If I’m eating beside the car, it’s all oatmeal for breakfast, veggie/hummus wraps for lunch (with hot sauce), and chili and nachos for dinner. Sometimes Tuna Mac n’ Cheese.
I also love hot sauce fish snacks – the ones in the tin – but you can’t eat those near your friends.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of trying a state-side climbing trip or their first ‘big-wall’ climb?
I’m not sure I should actually be giving advice, but if I were, hypothetically, advising someone, these would be my top tips:
- You don’t need as much time as you think. Driving 6 hours each way for a two- or three-day trip seems crazy in the planning stages, but if you jam some great climbing in there, and you’re pushing your limits in some way (climbing difficulty, style, or location), you may be exhausted and ready to come home after 2 days.
- No matter how prepared you feel, you’re not. Ropes get stuck, creatures interrupt, routes get confusing, gear gets jammed, weather changes, and friends decide to take a morning poop at the most inconvenient of times. Only start if you’re prepared to feel scared and unprepared.
- Never under-estimate a 5.9 (climbing grade).
- Minutes add up on big days. Ten minutes extra at each belay station can mean hours of extra time spent on the wall – practice the simple stuff and move fast.
- Don’t tell the border guard that you’re dirtbaggin’ it on a backroad.
Do you have a goal that you’re preparing/training for?
Does anyone? Haha, but seriously, I don’t. I had big plans this summer to climb a 5.13 (a hard climbing grade), but work was tough – hell, life was tough – and my self-discipline left much to be desired with regards to training. I read a lot of books, cooked, made crafts, and watched too much TV.
For better or worse, my relationship with climbing changed for a while and I’m (working on) accepting that. Each of us had to find a balance between our hustle and our gentleness these past 2 years.
Is there one person or story that changed you as a climber?
That’s tough, and the answer is a bit dysfunctional, but I’ll tell you!
About 5 years ago, I went through this awful period of my life that rocked me. I experienced a trifecta of terribleness in which I went through a horrible, manipulative breakup, my little sister died of an overdose, and my mother and I had a dreadful falling-out. It all happened in one week. I was totally wrecked. I was living out of my friend’s car and then out of a Rubbermaid bin in my boss’s (Scott’s) spare room.
Looking back, I know that I was so lucky to have the people I did, and still feel grateful for them every day. We all have stories and tragedies, but we don’t all have people to pick us back up.
After a couple months of depression, I started climbing in the gym, and it became my lifeline. I threw myself into it because it was something I could control and that allowed me to escape.
My other boss and friend, Kieran, gave me his old trad rack from the 80s, and I wrangled some friends to come outside and learn to climb with me. I watched videos of Nina Williams and Hazel Findlay climbing amazing cliffs, and Kieran regaled me with stories of big mountains and scary moments. It all worked together to heal me and deepen my love for climbing.
Is there a favourite climb or climbing experience you have in Ontario?
One of my favourite trad (traditional) climbs in Ontario is “Jonny Be Good,” also called “Jenga,” at Bancroft. It’s a beautiful 5.9 line with a little bit of everything. Another favourite is “Man Overboard” at Lion’s Head, or “Showered with Gifts” at Metcalfe Rock, though that route has started falling apart in the last couple years. “Horrendous Overhanding Offwidth Crack” at Metcalfe Rock. “Swan Song” at Mt. Nemo. I was supposed to pick one but I can’t.
Is there a place where people can learn about your regular adventures?
You can check out my Instagram account. I’m not great at posting regularly, but if I do anything especially reckless, I’ll announce it there: @tori.silvera
All of the photos shared here were taken by Justin Ross, check him out on Instagram: @justinross71