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Epic Ontario Enchainment

In what can only be described as one of the most audacious single-day enchainments in Ontario climbing history, Colin Lipowitz recently climbed 20 routes ranging from 5.14 to 5.11 (at least one route at each grade) at two different cliffs via a sea kayak approach.
We caught up with Colin and discussed what motivated him to attempt such a challenge, what preparation was necessary to accomplish such a feat, and his future climbing plans.
  •  Epic Ontario Enchainment Photo: Ben Iseman

    Epic Ontario Enchainment Photo: Ben Iseman

Congratulations on this impressive accomplishment. When the heck did you get the idea to attempt such an audacious feat?
Colin: Well, I've always liked the idea of combining a day of climbing between the two crags and doing it all human-powered. So several years ago, I mentioned the idea to a friend who is a competitive swimmer and asked if it would be possible to swim across. He thought it might be possible, so I came up with the idea to do five pitches at Lions Head, swim across, and do five more pitches at White Bluff. And that challenge was for him, not me, because there's no way I could possibly swim across that bay, but the idea was there. So it's been on my mind for a while, and in the last year, I came up with the idea to kayak instead of swim, which I figured I could actually do. This past winter, during the many hours I spent hanging off of things in my basement, I actually put a plan together and made the list.
  •  Ontario Epic Enchainment

    Ontario Epic Enchainment

I assume you put in some training to prepare for the day.  Care to describe what you did?
Colin: Anyone who's met me at any of our crags has probably seen me doing my most significant training for this type of thing. I've got all kinds of circuits I do at various crags, which involve doing laps on certain routes or just big circuits of four, five or more pitches in a row without resting at the highest difficulty possible. I don't have too many projects left in Ontario; I've climbed almost everything I'll be able to do, so I've really enjoy doing big enduro days and repeating a lot of the hard stuff I've done before. Besides that, I just do typical training in the gym during the winter like everyone else.
Most people have not heard of you.  Can you tell us a bit about yourself? In particular, your age, what you do for a living and how long you’ve been climbing?
Colin: I'll be 45 in about a month. I'm an airline pilot (I'm a captain at Air Canada). I've been climbing for about 23 years. In terms of climbing, at home, I generally sport climb, but I also do a lot of trad, multi-pitch, and big wall climbing. I've spent a lot of time climbing in Yosemite and Red Rocks and a bit in Zion, doing a lot of big routes. I've climbed El Cap a bunch of times, including doing the nose in a day (16 hours), the Salathe in a day (22 hours), and many other big routes in the Valley.
So I think the biggest hurdle was a mental one, with having to do Titan a second time and knowing if I fell again, the day was done.
Colin: I really love packing as much climbing into a day as I can. I've always been drawn to that, so naturally, doing big routes "in a day" really appealed to me. It's funny, even with single-pitch sport climbing, I'm always drawn to the longest, full-value routes. I want to climb continuously for as long as I can. It's part of the reason I love Kentucky so much. That also gave me the idea for a big link-up I did last year in Lions Head. It goes up the first half of Lions Head Express, then joins the second half of My Curse (the route Joe Skopec did last year), and from that anchor, I traversed into Batman in the roof and took that to the end. It was pretty sweet, basically doing two 13d routes in a row. I always say the only thing better than rock climbing is more rock climbing.
  •  Ontario Epic Enchainment -  Colin Lipowitz and Aaron Wood (left to right)

    Ontario Epic Enchainment - Colin Lipowitz and Aaron Wood (left to right)

What was the hardest part of the day?
Colin: It's hard to say what the hardest part of the day was. I knew that Titan would be the crux because it's the only route on the list that I don't consistently send every time I get on it. As fate would have it, I did fall up high, in a place I've never fallen before. So I think the biggest hurdle was a mental one, with having to do Titan a second time and knowing if I fell again, the day was done. That wouldn't have been a big deal, but my partner Aaron and I were having a lot of trouble lining up our schedules, and then we also needed a good weather day with not too much wind. So the stars really aligned on that day, which was great, but it added a lot of pressure.
And what went easier than you expected?
Colin: The kayaking was surprisingly easier than I expected, which was great. I have basically zero kayaking experience, and I hadn't tried it before the day, so the whole kayaking portion was done completely onsight. That was kind of risky because I had no idea what to expect, but I liked the added adventure, and it certainly added to the challenge.
  •  Ontario Epic Enchainment - Aaron Wood and Colin Lipowitz (left to right)

    Ontario Epic Enchainment - Aaron Wood and Colin Lipowitz (left to right)

Behind every good climber, there’s a good belayer. Who did you wrangle to accompany you on this adventure?
Colin: My friend Aaron Wood volunteered for the job. In fact, he was really psyched to be part of it. He likes a good adventure and doesn't mind suffering, so I didn't hesitate to ask him.
  •  Ontario Epic Enchainment

    Ontario Epic Enchainment

How did you feel when you were done?
Colin: I felt great at the end. I even did an extra victory lap on the last 11, on top rope to clean my gear. I could have just kept climbing, and I was kind of bummed it was over. Even the final leg of kayaking, which was the longest, felt great.
And how did you feel the next day?
Colin: I felt good the next day; my skin was a bit sore, but otherwise, pretty good. I was actually going to climb the next day, but it ended up raining all day, so I got some forced rest.
  •  Ontario Epic Enchainment 6

    Ontario Epic Enchainment 6

Any upcoming climbing plans?
Colin: No big plans in the works right now. I am just hoping to go to Kentucky in the fall to do a few routes I've tried before. This challenge was, in part, training to get my endurance where it needs to be for that trip.
I'm already thinking about version 2.0. I'd like to do the challenge again but make it harder. I know I can do it better. I'm not sure if there's time this season, but it might be something for next year.
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Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 35 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid-80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.