Saturday, 17 December 2011

Gros Morne Peak

Summit Walk
After a fine breakfast of eggs and sausages we agreed that we would do the hike to the summit of Gros Morne. I’d been hankering for a couple of days that we should do it, but of course if the consensus was that we should do something else then we would. It’s a fair hike of about 16km up to a height of 806m and I estimated it would take about 7 hours.

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Carolyn will drop us at the trail-head and spend the day with Bebbie who cannot hike so far. Instead they will drive around to the Tablelands part of the Gros Morne National Park and do a shorter walk there. We were dropped off at the trail-head at 9.12am. Carolyn said she’d be back in the car-park from 4pm this afternoon. Me and Ian and Bill and Janice are ready to go, we have some lunch with us, some water and our rain-gear. It’s bright and clear now but it looks like it might rain later. The trail starts at an elevation of 36m and rises to 806m. The book describes it as ‘gruelling We will discover if this is mere hyperbole or not. Gros Morne (Big Lonely Mountain) is the second highest peak in Newfoundland.

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I am astonished to discover that the trail is named after James Callaghan, the former British Prime Minister from the 1970’s. Their is a sign at the first bridge, Cow Gulch Bridge, but it is not clear what his connection is to Newfoundland.

The trail is easy at first as it gently rises affording views out towards the sea and inland across the forests. It takes us one and a half hours to reach the Bridge Ponds. We are directly below the mountain now and at the point where the loop trail starts. We will climb up the gulch in front of us, go over the top, admire the views over Ten-Mile Pond, and the descend back down to this point before taking the trail back out. We take a short break and consider out options, but decide that going the normal way, up the steep gulch first is probably best. It’s a very rocky gulch covered in huge scree (talus) and large rocks. Of we go then.

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It’s a bit unfortunate that we have caught up with a butch of walkers from Germany. They are a noisy lot. I suppose they are enjoying themselves but it’s difficult to shake them off and get out of ear-shot. Our progress up the gulch is fairly slow and we take a break at several points. The trail flattens out at one place and gives us some respite but then it climbs steeply again until finally we are on the flat top of the mountain. The way at the top is marked by cairns with fluorescent markers. This is not exactly wild-walking. It destroys the illusion of being far away from it all. I guess the crowd of people taking photographs of each other at the summit do add to this effect. The summit itself is a bit nondescript and although the weather is still fairly clear the views from here are not great. I hang around waiting for the others to arrive and to wait for the crowd to dissipate too! It’s taken us 3 hours 15 minutes to get to the summit so we are in plenty of time.

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After walking across the featureless desert top for a mile or so we come to the edge where we can look down onto Ten-Mile Pond and it’s famous hanging valleys. Unfortunately visibility is getting worse as it begins to cloud over and then drizzle. I still take a few shots though. Then we sit down and have our lunch of bread and cheese and sausage. We also have oranges and chocolate. As we eat the clouds roll in, it gets colder and the rain starts. On goes the rain gear for the descent. Janice apparently trips over her trouser leg as she puts on her rain pants. I miss the entertainment. It’s good she didn’t hurt herself too much.

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Ian disappears into the mist as we follow the trail down to a pond and the primitive camp-sites. at one point we descend a whole series of wooden steps. Again, not something you would expect on a hike. After we have descended about 200m the weather clears, it stops raining and it becomes warmer again. Off comes the rain gear.

We take a break here at the pond thinking that we are almost down to the Bridge Ponds. In fact it’s a long slow descent down a trail which is often slippery in places. Half-way down we come across two lads standing just off the trail taking photographs. What is it? Then I can see a Moose and her calf standing about 15m away. I’m amazed. Finally I’m close to a Moose. I spend the next ten minutes taking photographs as she browses on the bushes. The calf is not really visible behind some other bushes. The Cow Moose seems unperturbed by us and our cameras. I’m not getting any closer though. It’s a huge animal. Even without the giant antlers that a Bull Moose would have.

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Further down the slope I see one more Moose as we scramble over a scree slope. This one is a lot further away though. Finally we return to the Bridge Ponds. It’s been 2 hours and 15 minutes since we started our descent. Much further than we anticipated.

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After all the effort of getting up and down Gros Morne and after all the thrills this last bit of the trail as we returned to the trail-head was a bit dull. I rushed it as fast as possible and got down in about an hour to arrive at 4.15. The others arrived shortly and we celebrated our day as Carolyn and Debbie had kindly brought beer and brownies. Everyone was tired but glad that we’d made the effort to do the hike.

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Debbie and Carolyn had been out to Woody Point during the day and had seen Minke Whales swimming in the South Arm of Bonne Bay. Do Whales trump Moose?

We returned to the B&B for a quick turnaround and drove back around to Woody Point for dinner. It’s about an hours drive. We had dinner at ‘The Loft’ where I had a seafood plate with poutine. This latter is a mess of chips (fries) with gravy and cheese curds. It looks a mess and tastes great.

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After dinner we went to the Legion Club next door. Home from home this as my village at home has a British Legion. Inside us tourists were expected to succumb to being inaugurated as Honorary Newfoundlanders by participating in the ‘Screech’. This involves a lot of palaver, singing and joking as well as the ubiquitous ‘Kissing the Cod’, a swallow of cod-liver oil and a shot of rum. Needless to say I didn’t partake myself but merely sat at the back drinking my own glass of rum.