WRITTEN BY KRISTA BEAUVAIS
What’s it like to hike one of Canada’s most famous mountains? To hike for eight hours over dangerous scree into a climate of challenging proportions? And is it worth doing?
National Geographic describes Gros Morne as:
‘silent granite guardians whose tips stretch into endless sky to regularly converse with clouds’
I describe it as:
‘one soul-shredding, endurance-testing day that will seriously kick your butt – but make you proud of your accomplishment forever!’
Toward the end of our month of hiking and motorhoming through Newfoundland, we felt sufficiently prepared to tackle Gros Morne herself, the hike you must do in Newfoundland. In fact, one of the climbs you must do in all of Canada!
The drive from where we were camped took 40 minutes and felt like being in Scotland – just endless water and mountains. At the car park, dense trees surrounded us in all directions so I had no idea where the peak was, as I actually couldn’t see any! We got some pics at the sign and took a deep breath, not knowing what we were in for. Neither of us had done a full day hike in years!
Shortly after setting off, things were not looking positive for me. My blisters from the day before forced us to stop to adjust bandages and tie boots differently. I was still uncomfortable, but no longer in searing pain, so things were looking up. In fact, it was a slow and steady up for a very long way! I was feeling very winded and was thinking that actually, all of my hiking until now has prepared me for nothing at all! And this is the easy bit! I felt even worse when people ran past us jogging the trail!
We’re going to climb that? Now?
We rested at ‘base camp,’ as I like to think of it. Base camp is a platform with signs warning you about how long it will take you from this point. Warning you not to continue on if…if…if… The list was very long. I tried to point out all the reasons to abandon the rest of the hike. Erik was determined. We ate a little snack and continued on. But not before my nostrils were burned through by the acrid stench of the outhouse so kindly positioned near base camp.
I exaggerate not. The conditions were so bad that most chose not to use the outhouse, squatting instead outside, and so I had to wade through mounds of wafting toilet paper just to get in the door. Let’s just say that you hover (not sit), hold your breath, and do your business very quickly in instances like this. And it’s a good thing I did. It turned out that there was not a single place to take cover for a wee for about the next four hours! Advice to anyone who is going to hike Gros Morne: brave the smell and do your business here!
The pictures do not even begin to do our ascent on the side of this mountain any justice! I feel that I should now be wearing an ‘I climbed Gros Morne – so there!’ t-shirt as a trophy.
Picture a mountain having an enormous eruption millions of years ago where it spit out a river of rocks and boulders that all flowed down the side of the mountain and stayed there. A perfect river of rocks and boulders flowing down the side of the enormous mountain.
Well, the summit is 806 metres – so we’re not talking Nepal here…but you get the idea. Now picture people walking up this river of rocks and boulders. From base camp, these people look like ants. Ants! I’m not kidding. Well, I became one of those ants. For the next two hours! Yes, for two hours I climbed up a river of rocks. Some stayed put under my feet. Some slipped away. I almost died twice. Erik doesn’t believe me.
I made it to the top. We made it to the top. Erik was always in the lead, often turning around to offer a hand like the good fiancé he is. After all, it takes two to be a fiancé. It wouldn’t be much fun for him if I died. Which I almost did. Twice. Did I mention that?
To make a long story short, we made it to the top, but not before getting lost and wandering off the trail into uncharted territory that almost caused me to cry. At the top we discovered we weren’t really at the top – but we enjoyed the view anyway. It truly was impressive. We walked more – across a whole plate of rocks that stretched as far as we could see in every direction.
Oddly, the weather changed at this point. On the way up, we were in a crevice on the side of the mountain and must have been protected from the wind. Up there, we were struggling to stay on our feet.
Some smart person put yellow neon markers along the trail across the top of the mountain, which were invaluable as the whole place looked the same – just rocks all deposited there once upon a time – probably the ice age. Besides, there was always hair or a hood blowing into my eyes so seeing where I was going was a bit difficult. We eventually reached the summit sign – 806 metres.
We walked almost a kilometer up into the sky…but it took eight kilometres to do that. It was going to be another 8km to get back down again! Assuming we didn’t get blown off the top or side of the mountain first. We came across a moose. Again. And a little boy who was carrying a huge moose antler he had found. We ate a snack while we watched the moose. The boy and his dad continued on. By the time we passed them, it was the dad who was carrying the antler. I had called that one as I watched them walk away half an hour earlier.
Again, long story short – we made it back to the car alive, despite walking in rain for the last two hours of our trek. This felt like a major accomplishment in my life. Truly it did! I drove our two soggy, tired bodies 60km back to the bus. The only thing I’d been able to think about for the final two hours of our eight hour hike was pasta! Mom had read my mind!
For anyone wanting to hike Gros Morne, don’t do it on a bad weather day, because even if it’s a lovely day, it’s going to be frightfully windy and cold up there! This hike feels like you’ve accomplished something serious. At least it did for me! It was exhausting, but I was beaming on the inside.
ALSO SHARED BY KRISTA
- see her profile page for the full list
- Written, formatted and edited by: Krista Beauvais
- Photos: all photos courtesy of Krista Beauvais
- Experience date: August 2012