A freezing northeast wind blew relentlessly from the Gulf of St. Lawrence as we emerged from the trees and headed towards the northern summit of Mount Hog’s Back. Another half mile walk through a compacted snowfield, then a few snowshoes along a narrow rocky ridge with steep drops and we were on top of the 2,648ft summit.
In the single-digit temperatures that stung our pink numbers when the gloves were removed to take pictures and shoot video clips, there was little time to enjoy the view. But what a view it was from that, the heart of the Chic-Choc mountains of Quebec, a magnificent panorama of high snow-capped peaks and green valleys in all directions.
The Chic-Chocs (the name is thought to derive from the Mi’kmaq word “sigsog”, which means boulders or rocky mountains) are a natural extension of the Appalachians and extend in a narrow strip along the St.Lawrence River for nearly 60 miles. At least 32 mountains reach elevations above 3,000 feet.
From my icy position atop Mount Hog’s Back, the broad plateaus of the north and south peaks of Mount Albert dominated the northwest view. To the northeast, amid yet another tangle of snow-capped peaks, Mont Jacques-Cartier rose to 4,167 feet, the second highest peak in Quebec. The two mountains are crown jewels of the Gaspé National Park (Gaspé National Park).
Mount Hog’s Back is part of the adjacent Chic Chocs wildlife reserve, which surrounds the eastern third of Gaspé National Park. Together the two lands encompass a vast expanse of 770 square miles of mountain peaks, alpine tundra, dense forests, crystal-clear waters, and a multitude of wildlife, including a remnant of the woodland caribou herd.
I did my first report on the Gaspé seven years ago (December 29, 2012), after crossing the park for a week at the end of the summer via the International Appalachian Trail. The trek left an indelible mark on my outdoor psyche and I vowed to return to the Chic-Chocs, preferably in winter.
When an opportunity arose to join a contingent from the Maine section of the Appalachian Mountain Club on an “expedition” to the Gaspé in early January, well, I jumped at the chance.
Based in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, 24 miles north of Gaspé National Park, our small but hearty group spent a solid week on Nordic skis or snowshoes exploring as many vast winter trails as the weather and the weather. energy allowed it. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the possibilities.
The activity center of Parc national de Gaspé is the Discovery and Visitor Center on Route 299, where you can obtain information, trail maps and a park pass (less than $ 7 per day or about $ 34 for an annual pass), rent skis and snowshoes, and browse a good selection of outdoor gear, supplies and clothing. The neighboring hotel, the Gîte du Mont-Albert, is a perfect place for an after-adventure, with a fireplace, good meals and tall glasses of Canadian microbrewery.
The 18-kilometer round-trip skiing in the massive circus under Mount Xalibu that is home to Lac aux Américains (Lac des Américains) ranked at the top of our daily forays into the foreland. Two “shelters” or heated huts en route got the better of a grueling but satisfying journey on a dark, stormy day that dropped 6 inches of fluffy powder.
Snowshoeing in the shelter of the Serpentine in the huge bowl between the peaks of Mont Albert was another awesome trip, while the 19 km of skiing along the crystal-clear Sainte-Anne River to the The La Grande Fosse shelter and back were so much fun we did it twice. And the network of groomed and marked ski trails around the Discovery Center was always a delight.
A 5-day ski trip to the backcountry refuge system in the Mount Logan area, with equipment shuttles supported by rangers, is now in preparation for next winter. The refuge circuits around Lac Cascapédia and in Mines-Madeleine offer even more options for skiing and multi-day stays.
Long, cold and snowy winters combined with the incredible recreational infrastructure of nature in the Gaspé are more or less the guarantee of great outdoor adventures, large and small. Start your dream and planning by visiting sepaq.com/pq/gaz, and go to the menu to translate to English.
Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Hikes along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @ Carey Kish.