Gros Morne Mountain is a popular hiking destination in the summer for good reason. It offers a challenging 16-kilometre hike with great scenery. And, you might see moose, caribou or other wildlife en route.
We have done the hike many times in the summer and early fall, but only once have we done the trip in the winter.
It was the spring of 1989 and it had been a snowy winter which meant the spring snowpack stayed around longer than it seems to now. We had always wanted to ski to the top of Gros Morne and we knew others that were also interested. So the plan was made that Walt Lemessurier and Keith would go one day and if the ski tour was successful, Heather and Judy May would follow our tracks the next day.
Our first obstacle was actually finding the hiking trail through the deep snow. We forgot that the easy to follow summer hiking trail was now covered with 50-100 centimetres of snow and we only knew we were on the right route when we saw staircases, signs and benches sticking out of the snow. We alternately used skins or carried our skis and we finally got to the base of the mountain. At this point the trail goes directly up a rock-filled gully in the summer, which was now filled with snow. We decided to try walking up the snowy gully, but since it faced south the snow was soft and we were sinking in it up to our knees. So we decided to strap our skis to our packs and we headed for the wind swept rocks that lined the gully which allowed us to reach the top. We then put our skis back on and strided across the flattish top of the mountain and took photos at the summit cairn before we started our long descent around the back of the mountain. The views of the snow and ice-covered 10 Mile Pond were spectacular and after we pushed off from that famous viewpoint we started our descent around the mountain. We were using light touring skis with metal edges which were great for skiing along the flats, but they were harder to handle on the steeper sections heading downhill.
Fortunately, the route down is not as steep as the steep rock gully we ascended and we began to zoom along the perfect-corn snow. In no time we had circled the mountain and were heading back to the base of the rock gully. However, ahead of us lay thinning snow and two south facing rocky sections where we dared not fall since the snow seemed to barely cover the rocks. Luckily we escaped over this section with just a couple of nicks in the bottom of our skis. Once we were at the base of the mountain we simply followed our tracks from the morning back down to our car.
The next day Judy and Heather repeated the trip and they had the advantage of being able to follow our ski tracks and foot prints from the previous day. But they also had to contend with even less snow on the rocky sections. But by carefully picking their route they were able to complete the 16-km ski tour of Gros Morne Mountain.
This winter has been one of the snowiest and coldest in quite awhile and this means that the spring ski touring season might be quite good.
Perhaps it is time for another winter ski tour of Gros Morne Mountain.
Contributors Keith and Heather Nicol live in Corner Brook and are avid explorers of Newfoundland. Keith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org