Sometimes you don’t need to go far to get that true adventure feeling…
Ecstatic, I join my adventure partner Charles in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, located in the Gaspésie region of the province of Quebec. On the agenda, 6 days of backcountry adventure skiing in the Chic Chocs mountains to discover the magestic Mont Logan (1150m) and its beautiful surroundings.
The SEPAQ park offers the Logan circuit which leaves from Saint-Octave de l’Avenir, in the small village of Grande-Nature. Not too many people explore this part of the park as it takes 2 days (26km) before actually reaching Mont Logan and it’s phenomenal playground. To truly enjoy the backcountry Mont Logan has to offer, you need minimum 5 days to complete the circuit .
March 17-22, 2019
The night prior to starting our journey, we opt to stay at the Village Grande-Nature Chic Chocs lodge which is conveniently located as the gateway into the Gaspésie National Park. This is also where you leave your bags in the morning as a baggage transport service is made available between huts to facilitate movement for a little extra cost.
Sunday morning doesn’t come quick enough though I’m a bit skeptical as to what the snow conditions will be in the mountain, having had a huge downpour the entire day on Friday…
After filling our tummies with a delicious breakfast at the lodge, we get all our gear ready in the basement. The lodge conveniently has a room in the basement for adventurers to get prepped as well a a shower which is greatly appreciated upon our return to civilization.
Day 1. Village Grande-Nature in St-Octave to Le Huard hut – 13km
Backpacks and skis on and off we venture into the wilderness. The winds are blowing hard with overcast clouds and a light snowfall. Slowly we start to see the beautiful chain of mountains unfold before our eyes. Even though I’m already in pain from blisters caused by my new boot liners which unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to wear in before this trip, I’m simply in awe. The views of the mountains, the fresh air, the light snow falling, disconnecting from my phone to fully immerse in nature. The first 10km is mostly flat terrain and then the last 3km are uphill with an elevation gain +170m. Excited upon seeing Le Huard hut appear at the end of the day, as I can’t wait to remove my ski boots and rest. To our surprise, we are the only two people at the hut that evening even though this hut can easily accommodate 18 people. I take advantage of the beautiful setting and do a little yoga session to stretch all the sore muscles.
Day 2. Le Huard hut to La Nyctale hut – 13km
Beautiful sunny morning, overlooking Thibault Lake which we start the day off by crossing over. The weather is just perfect and I’m simply content skinning in a majestic scenary. The first part of the journey is relatively easy going. As we gain elevation, the decor just keeps getting prettier with more snow covering the evergreens. We quickly have lunch at La Croisée halt as we need all the energy we can to then face the climb up the snowmobile trail with an elevation gain of +459m. Once we reach the summit of Mont Louis-Marie Lalonde, the reward is truly breathtaking. A great view of the mountains and beautiful Mont Logan. Our home for the next two nights, La Nyctale hut (1015m) and right beside is La Chouette hut which we’ll spend the following night. We meet our fellow roommates, some energetic and others interesting. We’re quickly introduced to exploding kittens, a very amusing card game which I look forward to playing again with Andrew and Robert.
Day 3. Lac des Iles
Overcast sky and light snowfall, we set out towards Lac des Iles, roughly 2.5km from the hut bringing us thru a picturesque scenery. After a mellow climb to the summit (960m) comes the first transition from walking into ski mode. What seems to take me forever as I’m still relatively new to the sport, I finally have my skins off, helmet on and ready do some freshies. I take a moment to soak up the good. Be in the moment. First turns are a bit sketchy as there’s a crust of ice underneath the new fluffy snow. We cautiously make our way down. Once at the bottom, I’m simply in an euphoric state. I’ve truly earned my turns and felt the freedom of going down a mountain making fresh tracks. No lifts, no groomers, no problems. We quickly start the climb back up as I want more, I can’t get enough.
The whole climb up, I’m simply overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. Being in such a majestic, untouched raw environment and all the snow falling, has me emotional. Realizing that my decisions no longer need to be based on chasing highs but simply generating true happiness. At that moment, I’ve reached my limit of always pushing myself more and more to simply see how high or far I can go… I’m simply content being on the mountain and enjoy doing what I love most, skiing.
The second run down is simply mind blowing, champagne powder kinda day with roughly 35cm of fresh pow! Stoked! Totally worth making a stop on the way down to enjoy the views. To finish off such an epic day, once we got back to the hut, we witness a gorgeous sunset accompanied with our new roommates.
Day 4. Mont Logan
Another gorgeous sunny day ahead. We start the day by skinning 3.3km up to the summit of Mont Logan (1150m) So many ghost trees surrounding us yet they aren’t spooky with all that sunshine. The view is stunning! Enjoying clear views of Mont Albert and Mont Jacques-Cartier as well as the St-Lawrence river and the Côte-Nord far in the horizon. The winds are strong at the summit and with the rain from the previous days, the conditions are very icy, somewhat dangerous a little. We decide to go on the south side of the mountain at la cuve de la lune, where the conditions don’t seem icy . Stoked, we go down la pleine, a gorgeous run with some nice fresh snow, admiring the view. What an epic morning! The joy of tree skiing is beyond compare. At the bottom, we enjoy a bite to eat. I’m fully content, in total gratitude of simply being in such a beautiful setting with an inspiring person. Every so often you meet someone who pushes you beyond your comfort zone and Charles is definitely doing just that and so effortlessly. I’m grateful to be living such an unforgettable experience thanks to my adventure partner. His authenticity, calmness, guidance, silence and carefree spirit is greatly appreciated.
The climb back up is steep with an elevation gain of 240m. Trying to so graceful do an uphill kick turn which I just can’t seem to quite manoeuvre just yet. The climb up is steep and at one point I freeze, I can’t seem to just go up a patch of ice and keep sliding down. In full honesty, I’m a little scared. I gather the courage to ask Charles for help which he immediately finds a solution and helps me out. This adventure has making thinking how I need to learn how to ask for help more often , just another self-realization.
Second run down, la demi, which is just as exhilarating as the first run. The freedom, powder turns and blue skies all day, it simply doesn’t get better then this. I say this till we have to climb back to the summit, where once again I’m faced with a few obstacles. Not use to climbing up such a steep hill on skins, I’m skidding back. At one point, the skis come off and I walk a section. I’m exhausted. And the sun is so hot, it’s making the snow stick under my skins. Happy once I finally reach the summit, I call it a day and make my way back to the hut where I meet up with Carole and Paul. A fun and energetic couple we cross paths with and whom we’re sharing the hut with for the following 3 nights. We share our adventure stories of the day while enjoying a nice hot drink.
Day 5. La Nyctale hut to La Carouge hut
Another day unlike the one before, we head out to explore Mont Dodge (1078m) before heading to La Carouge hut. Awesome run down with a clear opening in the trees. Fresh tracks. Climb back up to the summit to then make our way around. The scenery is gorgeous and so are the snow conditions. We do a quick transition to remove the skins and ski down to Lac des Iles. We then opt to venture thru nature, exploring unknown territory and enjoy some fresh untracked powder. Blue sky, shinning sun which is quickly changing the snow conditions, making the snow stick underneath our skins. Spring like conditions. Quick stop to put wax on our skins but that doesn’t last for more then 5min. Adding another challenge to my day. I just kept telling myself “You’re almost there” and this little mental trick helps me reach my goal.
The reward when finally reaching La Carouge hut is another stunning scenery as the hut is located beside a lake. As the sun sets over the mountain, we take pleasure by being outside with Carole and Paul. Embracing winter and the people whom I feel blessed to have met on this adventure, we built a snowman while sharing some good laughs. What a perfect way to end such an epic week playing outdoors! Letting the mountains humble us and they became even more magical. At that moment I realize I’ve fallen in love…with the Chic Chocs mountains.
Day 6. La Carouge hut to Village Grande-Nature 19km
Sadly, it’s already time to head back to civilization. A 19km journey back to Village Grande-Nature but luckily there’s vertical drop of -385m, where we remove our skins and happily let ourselves ski down the mountain. Every so often I look back at those mountains, which are so open and raw and have made me vulnerable this past week, I find peace.
“Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are” – Brene Brow