Rivière St. Pierre, Part III – Slips and Slides
Taking tumbles while following the subterranean slopes of Rivière St. Pierre
Picking up from the last entry, getting beyond the relatively small (yet steep and intimidating) slide of Double Ducker ended up requiring the use of some rope. It’s common for cities to add features like ladders, handrails or even stairs to allow workers to get up and down sloped sections like this, but I’ve yet to see anything like that here in Montreal.
So this time with nel58 and controleman along for the ride, we hammered a steel piton into the gap where two sections of concrete pipe met, attached a knotted rope and made our way down. Easy peasy, quick and easy.
After the three of us reached the bottom, we headed down around the bend through the four foot pipe. A few minutes later, we arrived at what we had expected this would lead to: the Cote St-Luc Collector (CSLC) sewer. Here, the flow of Double Ducker enters a junction chamber from the right-hand side. A larger conduit, the main section of the CSLC, sits on the left side, perched on top of a slide. The contents of the two sewers flow smoothly over the sloped floor of the chamber eventually emptying into a single ten foot high pipe.
Worth noting here is how you can see this same junction in the river on older maps where a smaller creek veers off towards the West. The sewer system has effectively reversed their roles, though. Now it’s this smaller arm that carries the majority of the river’s flow.
Like its official name implies, the CSLC carries the waste from the predominantly residential community of Cote St-Luc as well as the more industrial areas found towards the lower reaches in Lachine. By Montreal’s standards its a medium-sized sewer, no more than ten feet in height. It consists mainly of a horseshoe-shaped concrete pipe, perhaps put in place during the early 1960s to accommodate the increasing number of subdivisions being built at the time.
Not wanting to bother with yet another slide, we decided to take the easy route and head downstream first. After tip-toeing carefully down the sloped floor of the chamber, we began sloshing our way through the concrete pipe that lay before us.
A few minutes later we arrived at an impressive junction chamber which picks up the flow from two other pipes leading into it. One sitting at higher elevations gracefully spills over a ledge into the CSLC creating a tranquil waterfall. It kind of gives the chamber a bit of a Tiki lounge. Les Baxter’s music and drinks served in coconuts would fit in well here. Whenever I think of this section, I can’t help but think of the word Shangri-la.
Heading further downstream, it started to become clear that we’d be walking through relatively featureless concrete pipe for quite some time before seeing anything out of the ordinary. We decided to turn around, head back upstream to junction we came in through, and try to get up the slide on the left hand side.
Fortunately, this wasn’t going to require any rope to get up. Its edges were relatively dry and we were able to make it to the top and into the next section of concrete pipe.
Of course, a few hundred feet or so beyond this point, we encountered a much more formidable obstacle, and while it might not look like much in the photo below, it’s one of the more intense slides I’ve ever seen. It’s steep and unlike the other two slides encountered in this system, the water comes down violently, barreling down through two sections of RCB; a good sign that the sewer was sitting directly below a set of train tracks. If this was in Toronto then there would have been a nice railing or something to hold onto, but like I said, Montreal tends to lack such underground conveniences.
I stood at the bottom about twenty feet behind Controleman, who perhaps not realizing what he was about to get himself into, started climbing upwards. For a moment or two it actually looked as though we’d all be able to make it to the top of this thing. He made it about a third of the way up, but when he ventured from the dry shoulder of the slide and into the water, that’s when he lost control. He started sliding downwards a little, which would have been fine had his one foot not slipped out from underneath of him. Poor Controleman took a bit of a fall, then managred to get back up, at which point he started sliding again, straight towards me. Being a fair bit heavier than myself, I thought he was going to end up knocking me clear off my feet, but I was able to catch hold of him before the situation became any worse.
So now with Controleman thoroughly soaked (and maybe a little bit shaken up too), we decided it would probably be a good time to start heading back out. If we wanted to get past this particular section, it was going to require finding another way past it, perhaps through a manhole further upstream. We gathered up our stuff, climbed back up our rope and made our way towards the infall we entered.
Lessons learned: don’t step out into the middle of a slide, and when in doubt use a rope.
Finally, here’s a very aproximate path of both the Cote St-Luc collector (shown here in red) and the stretch of Double Ducker that leads into it. You can zoom out in order to see the full extent of the system.
Don’t worry, we’ll get through this thing eventually.