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Farewell to Legendary Quebec Climber Claude Bérubé

He was one of Canada's top all-round climbers of the past 50 years with countless big climbs in remote regions, and historic first ascents close to home

Photo by: (of) Jean Sylvain and Claude Berube by Chic Scott

Claude Bérubé was looked up to by many across generations for his world-class contributions, bold routes, impressive style and approach, especially in his home province of Quebec. He leaves behind a legacy of memorable accomplishments, close friends and family.

Many have heard of the famous La Pomme d’Or on Mont de l’Equerre in Hautes-gorges de la rivière Malbaie. However, the real gem of the crag for mixed alpinists is the 350-metre La Loutre M5+ WI5+ first climbed by Bérubé and Régis Richard with the help of Jacques Lemay back in 1977, three years before the FA of La Pomme d’Or. It took two days, and they bivied behind the massive pillar near the top of the climb. It’s rarely repeated. The great American ice climber Jeff Lowe mentioned Bérubé in his book Ice World: Techniques and Experiences of Modern Ice Climbing, saying: “In Quebec, Claude Bérubé and Regis Richard climbed the 1,000-foot Le Loutre (IV, WI5) in 1977 completely free, signaling the beginning of a Canadian dominance of waterfall ice.”

Veteran winter climber Louis Rousseau said, “Here in the east, he was like our Barry Blanchard.” Bérubé’s list of ascents is second to none, and includes landmark lines like the first ascent of the Southwest Pillar of Mount Thor on Baffin Island in the mid-1990s with Francois-Guy Thivierge. He also climbed the east ridge of Mount Mjolnir on Baffin Island. Also in the north, Bérubé climbed Denali and Mount Steele in the Yukon.

“I didn’t know Claude very well, but always looked up to him as one of climbing Canadian pioneers,” said top Quebec climbed Jean-Pierre Ouellet. “On the handful of times I had the pleasure to chat with him he always seem have the fire within still burning for climbing even after all those years.”

Closer to home, Bérubé established a number of climbs in Grands Jardins, the Palisades and Hautes Gorges, such as Hallsunbienbruch 5.8 on Gros Bras, and the classic 320-metre Les Grands Galets on Cap Trinité 5.9 A2 with Léopold Nadeau. And in January 1976, he made the first winter ascent of the steep Cap Trinité with Alain Hénault and Régis Richard.

Claude Bérubé climbed in the Himalayas, Alps, Patagonia, Yosemite and many other of the world’s great ranges. We’ll have an in-depth look at his contributions to the world of climbing in the Feb./March issue of 2022.

Our deepest condolences to Bérubé’s family and friends. He’s a legendary Canadian alpinist, an icon of a Quebec’s golden age of climbing and will continue to inspire climbers for years to come.

Le Pilier de Cristal

A 1978 documentary that follows a number of ice climbers on Le Pilier de Cristal, an ice line up Montmorency Falls. The film was made by Marc Beaudet and features legendary Quebec ice climbers Claude Bérubé, Monique Saint-Martin and the climbers of the Quebec Mountain Federation.

Montmorency Falls is a large waterfall on the Montmorency River. The falls are located on the boundary between the borough of Beauport, and Boischatel, about 12 km from the heart of old Quebec City. The area surrounding the falls is protected within the Montmorency Falls Park. The falls are at the mouth of the Montmorency River where it drops over the cliff shore into the Saint Lawrence River.

The falls, at 84 metres high and 46 metres wide, are the highest in the province of Quebec. They are 30 metres higher than Niagara Falls. They were named in 1613 by Samuel de Champlain. He named them in honour of Henri II, duc de Montmorency, who served as viceroy of New France from 1620 until 1625. Bérubé had climbed it several times.

Lead photo: (of) Jean Sylvain and Claude Berube by Chic Scott