Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Climbing Mont-Ham

The village of Saint-Joseph de Ham-Sud is located 10 miles north-east of the world renowned village of Saint-Camille QC.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Mont-Ham rises to an altitude of over 2300 feet to offer a panoramic 360 degree view of this beautiful corner of the Estrie county. A non-profit organization operates and maintains the network of trails, including the fully equipped visitor's centre and various camping accommodations (including log cabins and prospector tents) and activities including a frisbee golf course and snowshoe rentals.

On a particularly cool morning with scattered snow-showers, we decided to hike up the direct "Intrepid" route up to the summit (shown in red below).

The 1 mile hike is challenging, including the scaling of a"Wall" of rocks (much steeper than what's shown below).

The first summit that we reached was fully exposed to wind and made for a rather chilling experience.

The view was outstanding despite the limited visibility due to snow. Below is a picture of the Stoke mountains.

A short hike down then back up led to the adjoining peak of Mont-Ham with its sturdy metal cross.

Not wanting to waste any time to climb down to more comfortable temperatures, we headed back along the "Button" trail (shown in dark blue on the trail map).

Seeing the steep climb down then back up the next summit, we chose to turn around and head down the "Panoramic" trail instead (shown in light green), despite what I had read about that trail. The top part consists of rugged exposed outcrops of rocks, making for a challenging (and today chilling) hike. The trail then starts down the side of the mountain, leading to countless boulders of crushed rocks along the way. While the trail wasn't as steep as the "Intrepid" on the way up, it was a good test of endurance and balance most of the way back.

Curious to understand the unusual rock formations that we had seen, I read up on Mont-Ham's rather unique geology after our hike. I found this explanation on their web site, loosely translated as follows (with help from Google Translate):

"The rocks that form Mont Ham are almost identical to those found in the ocean. It is actually a piece of oceanic crust, lacking only the lower part called ultrabasic. Between 500 and 475 million years ago, during the Geological Ordovitien, the movement of continental plates were inverted and the plates got closer together. In this process, huge forces caused part of the oceanic crust (Mount Ham) to break, pushing it up to the surface, becoming an integral part of the continent. Subsequently other important movements of tectonic plates crushed these rocks to form mountains along part of the U.S. border. The majority of the rocks are volcanic rocks are called basalts and quartz."

The staff at the visitor's center were very friendly and helpful. The cost for a day pass was $8 per person. I would recommend this hike to anyone in the area looking for a challenging and rewarding hike.

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