Sens Unique M6+R, A1 200m – First Winter Ascent

Earlier this month Canadian climbers Yannick Girard and Louis Rousseau made their way to Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie Park, Charlevoix region in Québec to climb Sens Unique (M6+R, A1). Their goal was to make the first winter ascent. The duo climbed the route roundtrip in 48-hours. In the process they endured frostbite, hypothermia and climbed through temperatures as low as -19 degrees Fahrenheit. They sent the following story detailing their trip—Ed

sans unique quebec

[Photo] Ian Bergeron

Sens Unique (or One Way) is a particularly remote 5.10+, multi pitch route that follows an imposing aerial rock pillar in the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie Park. This Northeastern ice climbing destination is well known mostly because of a mega classic ice route named La Pomme d’or (WI 5+, 330m).


[Photo] Ian Bergeron

First climbed in 1974 by Quebec local climbing legend Claude Bérubé and his partner Stephan Frick, Sens Unique is rarely done during rock climbing season mostly because of the long, strenuous approach to get to the wall and the poor rock quality of the third pitch.


[Photo] Ian Bergeron

Yannick Girard and Louis Rousseau climbed it on February 7, in normal Northeastern winter conditions: high winds, spindrift snow, temperatures between -19C and -28C, temporary hypothermia and frostbitten finger tips and toes. These settings provided interesting challenges by filling much useful cracks with ice. The overall difficulty was increased by a 25km ski approach deep into the Vallée des Hautes-Gorges. The astonishing frozen scenery was decorated with traces of deer, moose, hare and huge gray wolfs tracks on the snow blocked road. The cross country skiing portion was followed by four hours of steep, icy gully climbing and dense bush fighting up to the base of the wall. The duo then climbed till dark and “slept” in an open bivy. The following morning they finished the route, rappelled and skied out to complete the adventure in a 48-hour roundtrip adventure.


[Photo] Ian Bergeron

Climbing Sens Unique for the first time in winter reveals once again that Quebec is not only a terrific hardcore training ground for endless adventures, but the difficulty levels, extreme cold factor, and remoteness make these grounds a world class climbing destination in itself. Yannick, Louis and other local climbers already knew that, for them it was another opportunity to fulfill their wild alpine dreams here on the gentle rolling hills of eastern Canada.


[Photo] Mathieu Leblanc

About the Authors:

Yannick Girard is a well-known Quebec climber. He has climbed alpine routes abroad like the Californian route on Fitz Roy in a single push of 34 hours and Gorretta Pillar.

Louis Rousseau is a Himalayan climber who opened a new route on Nanga Parbat (2009), summited Broad Peak (2007) and Gasherbrum II (2011). He also made the first winter attempt of Gasherbrum I via a new route on the south face (2011). He had been on K2 on two occasions reaching the highest point of 8365m above the bottleneck in 2009.


  • Rene Boisselle says:

    Hello I did the first free ascent of Sens Unique in late 70`ies. A great climb in a unique environment. René Boisselle

  • René Boisselle says:

    In summer conditions, the crux was the pitch following the belay on top of the pillar just below the overhangs. That particular belay is spectacular, a small flat platform topping the pillar and the final pitch is very exposed and not well protected at the start. Going over the lip of the overhanging section it was comitting but when poking above searching for holds, one is surprized to grab a thanks god huge pocket but pulling the rope was like climbing with heavy weights hanging around the waist, lots of friction. A must do route for the Eastern Alpinist.

  • René Boisselle says:

    Finally congratulations to both climbers for that great achievement.

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