Sunday, August 12, 2012

North Rim and Long Range Traverse

Here is the long overdue trip report for the North Rim and the Long Range Traverse In Gros Morne National Park.

This trip (honeymoon) was a combination of being a tourist and being a bit of a backcountry traveller. For this post I will keep it to just the few days we spent in the backcountry of Gros Morne National Park. We Arrived in the park on thursday afternoon after a long ferry ride from the mainland and we were slated to start our trek the next day. We both felt tired from the previous days driving from Quebec  City and the lack of sleep on the ferry due to absurdly loud snorers and screaming and crying children. We only had 2 earplugs between the two of us and we did 2hr shifts sharing them. On the ferry ride home we would be able to get a cabin on the ship!. If I did the trip via ferry again, I would most definitely book a cabin!

Due to our tired bodies and minds we decided to take the friday to chill in Rocky Harbour and rest up before we hit the north rim on the Saturday. It was a good call we made because come saturday we were both raring to go! We booked our taxi to pick us up at the Gros Morne mountain parking lot at 7am as a early start would be mandatory. Our cab driver was right on time and he got us safely to the parking lot for the Western Brook Pond trail by around 730am. We took two photos and hit the trail at 740am.

It was a quick 30min to the junction where we go north towards snug harbour.  We had a rather un-eventful walk into Snug except for two separate moose that we encountered. One was pretty close and the other was farther at around 50-60m. We made the roughly 8km into Snug in just under 2 hours. We had a quick snack and a pee and got ready for the long climb up to the top of the north rim. Now most people had warned us about the North Rim. Nobody had anything good to say about the route other then it was terrible and had tons of tuckmore, which is stunted balsam fir and spruce trees and that penetrating them is next to impossible. Think of it as trying to walk through a cedar hedge with a pack on...

Anyways we made our way up to the top of the rim in about 2 hours and had a quick lunch and a great view out into the Atlantic Ocean. We took a compass bearing and checked the gps to cross reference our intended route. I had opted for a different route then most other people have taken and I though it may avoid most of the horrendous tuck that everyone spoke about. We made quick time trekking across big open Alaska type terrain. We had very little tuck to navigate on the first day, with only about 1.5-2hrs of the nasty stuff. The rest of the first day was 5 star backcountry travel. No footprints, no people  just Eden, myself and our packs. That is until we crested a rocky hill at around 5pm. We popped over the top and about 40m away was a very large caribou! It was massive! He was most certainly the dominant male in the area as he was about double the size I envisioned a male would be! If I had to guess I would say his weight was around 1600-1800lbs or about the size of one our two year old bulls. ( I live on a farm).

He did not seem to mind that we were there and just kept eating grass. We watched him for about 5 min before we thought we better leave him be. We made our way around the top of the hill and went on our way. We had dinner around 630pm and put the new Jetboil stove to the test! It worked flawlessly and we enjoyed our backcountry pantry thai dinners. We walked about 4km after dinner until we found a good spot to make camp. We dropped the packs at 830pm and we soaking up the views that only a handful of people see each year. It was breathtaking! We did 27.2km the first day from the parking lot. 8km of that was on trail and the rest was cross country trekking. We only had about 4-5km tomorrow morning until we hit the back of western brook pond and the start of the Long Range Traverse.

We found a small cliff to hang the food and hit the hay satisfied with day one. We awoke early and had some quick oats and coffee/tea and were packed up and walking by 730am. The next 5km was completely unreal! It was very hilly and the steep slippery grass slopes made for fun navigating. We found some good moose trails around the last few lakes and hit the end of the North Rim and the start of the Long Range Traverse by 1130am. We had been told to expect to take minimum of 3 days to do just the North Rim and we did it in less then half of that. We didn't crush the speed, we just kept moving. The total length of the North Rim clocked in at 32.1km. We had a bite of lunch, snapped some photos of Western Brook Pond and got ready to hit the much more frequently traveled route ahead. We were technically only 32-35km from the car and therefor almost halfway done!

We found a well used game/foot path and put some solid km's behind us. The views we out of this world! I have done lots of neat backcountry trips and this one definitely rivalled anything else. We met a group of three hikers at the campsite on Little Island Pond and chatted for 5 mins. Their packs were big any heavy and they were drooling over our minimalist loads. "You guys did what yesterday"??? "NO way!". We said our goodbye's and hit the trail. We aimed to get another big day in before making camp at Middle Barrens(or beyond) and hoped we made smart decisions in the navigating department. We found many game trails with fresh footprints going in every direction! It was very confusing with all the tracks leading in different directions. I decided to opt for my own route and disregard the human footprints. We made our way down to the abandoned ranger station at Hardings Pond and over to the camp platform at Middle Barrens. We found a party of 3 already set up there and we chatted for a quick 45 min... We had some snacks and realized it was only 445pm. Well we have tons of time to log more km's before making camp, so we decided we were going to try to push on to Green Island Pond before dark.

We left the 3 amigos at around 5pm and walked out of camp on what seemed to be a very well travelled trail. We walked up to the top of the big hill after the camp and decided that at around 6pm we would call it a early night and make camp. We found a great spot on top of the hill and had a nice pond close by. We had noticed earlier that day that the weather was turning from gorgeous sunny skies to grey and was getting worse by the hour. When we left civilization 2 days ago the weather looked good for about five days. Clearly things were about to change. We did about 23km the 2nd day and were at 50km total. We were now roughly 18-20km from the car we left as few days ago. We had nowhere to store our food for the night and since I had seen almost no bear signs, we opted to let the food bag stay in the fly of the tent. That made for a great nights sleep! I almost always am able to find a spot to hang food and with no big cliffs or trees taller then 8ft it was impossible to find a good spot.

We had light rain throughout the evening and into the night and awoke to grey skies and light mist. It was however looking like it was going to keep building throughout the day. After a quick Breakfast we were on the go by 7am and found day 3 to be equally as good as the first 2 days!. Eden was the wildlife spotter for the day. She spotted a big bull moose on top of one of the hills close by and she also spotted a lone caribou which ended up being a entire herd of caribou! We watched them for a few min as the equally did the same before they had decided that they had seen enough of us and wandered off. We had the rain slowly building and the terrain was getting quite slick and getting out to the car today would make life much more enjoyable as we both were excited to go up to the north end of the island and see Icebergs!

We went up one hill down a valley and then up the other side. We would get to the top of the next ridge or viewpoint and scope the next decent and climb. That went on for the majority of the day. The views are so stunning that it would be very hard to put into words. I took many photos and hope that the images help me remember what a special place this is. We finally made it to the last somewhat technical decent into ferry gulch which was made even more fun with the rain and mud. We hit the marked trail at around 1pm and snacked quickly before we headed off into the final leg of the day, 8km of marked trail to our car and dry clothes! I had contemplated a quick run up to the top of Gros Morne mountain but given the fog and the rain I opted out of that idea. I knew I would be able to come back in a few days and make a quick run up the peak.

We hit the car at 3pm soaking wet and ready to to go get some food and a shower. All Eden and I could do is think about the 2 parties of 3 people that were far behind us. We wished them the best to whatever this weather would bring. We went to the park office to drop off the PLD (SPOT) and chatted to the rangers for a bit, as they were amazed that we did both routes in about 1/3 the time it takes most parties. We also learned that the weather was here for the next 4 or 5 days and it looked as if we made the right decision to try and get out on day 3. We Checked into the hotel and had a shower and started to unpack. We laid out all the wet gear and relaxed! It was a trip that I had wanted to do for quite some time now and I very happy and excited that Eden not only joined me on this epic honeymoon adventure but that she crushed it! She matched me stride for stride and over the 69.95km.

After a visit up to St Anthony and Lans Aux Meadows we made our way back to the park and I did go for a run up Gros Morne Peak. I ran the 16km loop car to car in just under 2hrs in a time of 1hr57mins. It was Awesome!

1 comment:

Phil Sweet said...

Hi Eric, would you have a GPS track of your route that I could download.
I'm very interested in your route since it avoided most tuckamore on the north rim section.
I'm planning on doing the trip the last week in September.