Friday, February 10, 2012

Snowshoeing in the Pimbina Sector of Mont-Tremblant National Park

On January 28th, following a full day of rain and freezing rain from southern Ontario all the way up to the summit of Mont-Tremblant ski resort, we were lucky that 14 cm of fresh snow fell overnight in the Pimbina sector of the Mont-Tremblant National Park, north of the lovely municipality of St-Donat, QC, slightly North of Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, QC.

After an incredible evening at the Bistrot Les copins d'abord (highly recommended) at 804, rue de Saint-Jovite in Mont-Tremblant, we had plenty of reserves in our bodies to tackle this challenging climb in the park.

Our goal was to climb to the summit by trail R1 (named "L'Envol", 3.4 km, rated Intermediate) to the Geai-Bleu shelter, returning to the starting-point by trail R2 (named "Le Geai-Bleu", 2.4 km, rated "Easy"). See below for a close-up of the trails, see the following link for the full map.

The starting point is at 400m (1300 ft) of elevation, if you look closely enough at the contour lines on the map, the peak is around 740m (2405 ft), for a vertical rise of 340m (1100 ft). The area shaded in darker grey is a "free" zone where snowshoeing off the beaten path is allowed. While it looks deceptively small on the map, there is LOTS of room to roam around.

You don't get from the base to the peak without climbing and without sweating (unless you are dressed for some highly aerobic activities). The following picture give a sense of what it was like on the way up.

The first lookout provides a rewarding view to the North-East, towards Lac Provost and Lac Lajoie.

Continuing the climb over and across the summit leads to the second lookout with a truly spectacular view of the Laurentian mountains. I'm a bit puzzled by the 1680 ft marker at this point, that's a fair bit below the 2405 ft peak suggested by the trail map for the nearby summit.

Reaching the summit is half the challenge, the other half (before heading back) is to reach the shelter. As we head back into the snow-infested forest....

...there are some nice viewpoints along the way...

...including some nice downhill sections.

By the time we finally reach the Geai-Bleu (Blue-Jay) shelter, we're ready to dry-out, rest-up and eat-up before heading back!

The shelter includes a wood stove in the back corner, a set of tables from front to back and beds around the perimeter (for those with reservations after 4PM). An outhouse is located in the woods behind the shelter.

I made the mistake of stepping in the unpacked snow without my snowshoes and sank to my hips. Definitely more snow here than back home!

One unique experience at this shelter was seeing Grey Jays for the first time ever. I didn't even know such a bird existed and had never heard of its name beforehand. Note how I skillfully hide the full rations behind my thumb!

Heading back on R2 avoids much of the climbing encountered on R1. The scenery along this trail is more rustic than the wider R4.

Note the small Glacial Erratic rock in the next picture...

After a challenging and very satisfying snowshoe outing, it's always comforting to know there is a full-service visitor's center at the end of the trail.

Highly recommended destination for snowshoeing, a few hours away from Montreal and the Ottawa region.

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