Saturday, January 2, 2016

Long Range Traverse

Western Brook Pond to Gros Morne Mountain

Executive summary by darmansjah

Locals simply call this Montana-size island of serrated granite 20 miles off the coast of Quebec "The Rock." And with more than 10,000 miles of craggy coastline and only 12 people per square mile, The Rock, Canada's easternmost point, is a backpacker's dream. The best route is the five-day Long Range Traverse in 446,080-acre Gros Morne National Park (GMNP), where you'll encounter edge-of-the-world views of coastal fjords sparkling between 1,000-foot granite cliffs at every bend.

After a mandatory park orientation, drive 12 miles to the trailhead at Western Brook Pond. Load up and walk the easy two-mile trail to the shore of a freshwater fjord. Come with solid map-and-compass skills, because there isn't a single trail marker along this 20-mile route, which is packed with side trips and navigational puzzles. The meandering footpaths of caribou draw you away from the proper course. Fog cloaks the highlands in June and July. Five designated wilderness campsites, each a day's hike apart, line the traverse in spruce groves tucked between knolls of heather and bare-bone granite. For ocean views, side-hike to the cliffy edges of Ten Mile Pond and Baker Brook Pond; for views of everything else, summit the 2,644-foot crumbling granite dome of Gros Morne Mountain on your final day. Top out, then wind downhill southwest to sea level and the park visitor center.

Reserve up to three months in advance ($25CDN/group, plus an additional $85CDN/person for backcountry permits). (709) 458-2417;

National Topographic Series 12-H/12, ($12CDN,

Gros Morne Adventures offers a six-day traverse for $1,295CDN per person.
Round-Trip: 23 miles, 3 to 5 days

When to Go: Relatively low elevation means this route opens in June and can be hiked until late September. But come prepared: The Long Range Mountains are on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and take the brunt of some of the worst weather in the world. Go with a guide service if you’re not an expert navigator.

This off-trail traverse takes you from inland fjords lined with 2,000-foot-high granite cliffs draped with wispy waterfalls deep into Gros Morne National Park. The rugged seaside plateau is just one reason Newfoundland is the new mecca for adventure. The landscape here is as dramatic as it is remote: It was carved by glaciers from massive, uplifted blocks of granite that form the expansive plateau, a wild place still loaded with moose and caribou. Good skills with map, compass, and GPS are required here, as no marked or maintained trails penetrate this unique wilderness. So wild is this trek that the park wardens won’t give you a permit unless you carry a locator beacon (they call it a caribou collar). This ensures they won’t have to search the whole park if you fail to emerge on time.

Insider Tip: The impenetrable alpine krummholz vegetation (called tuckamore on Newfoundland) in Gros Morne is so dense it seriously complicates navigation. One useful technique is to follow “caribou leads,” trails carved through the tuck over centuries by moose and caribou. Then take a GPS waypoint and adjust your vector as required when you pop out the other side.

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