Ascent of Montagne Brûlé on 2010-01-13

Climber: Gabriel C

Others in Party:Arnaud Guyomard
Date:Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Carpool
Peak:Montagne Brûlé
    Elevation:3576 ft / 1089 m

Ascent Trip Report

I planned this outing with someone I met through my website. This was supposed to be his first ascent of this summit he admired from afar and I proposed to accompany him.

This was my third ascent of the peak. I'm starting to know my way up there very well but conditions were different than on the two first hikes. These were made in late winter last year, when snow was packed hard and held very well under our weight. What we faced now was a good footing but on a powdery foot-deep surface layer. Temperature was very cold in early morning, probably close to -25 Celsius.

I had limited means of transportation to get from downtown Québec to the trailhead, so I decided to leave by bus and get dropped off at the stop in St-Tite-des-Caps. From there I had planned to follow the roads for about 10km until I reached the Abitibi-Price gate. I left the bus stop around 7pm on Tuesday night. Going down the streets, I came to the first intersection where I had to turn right. To my surprise, there was a marked snowmobile trail going straight ahead in a field and up the hill separating me from my goal. I made the bet that this trail should connect with the road I was aiming at to the north, so I started off on it. It was very stable and my snowshoes stayed strapped on the pack.

After a while, I ended up under the large 735kW power lines. The trail angled right following the electric cables. Soon, because of the crazy cold, my headlamp started fading. I stopped to change the batteries, which was hard with no light other than my GPS screen. When I got the light back to power, I looked around and saw a single snowmobile track branching off right where I was and going for the woods north. I decided to follow it and investigate. Indeed, when it reached the woods, it went in a clear trail where there were even snowshoe trails. I guess I'm that lucky! It went straight north for a while, until it branched off left and right. I went left, then backtracked to follow the right leg. When I saw it wasn't going to keep heading directly north, I decided to put the snowshoes on and bushwhack my way downhill towards rivière Sainte-Anne.

It was easy going, and I soon crossed another snowmobile trail, but it wasn't going in the right direction again. I kept bushwhacking into thicker spruce and firs. It was hard for a while, and I had to meander a lot to get where I wanted. The GPS was of no use here so I used the stars to keep Orion at my back, which was roughly south when I looked at it from the power lines. I ultimately ended up where I wanted on a jeep trail. I followed some lone snowshoe tracks until I got back on the plowed section near some cabins. I soon emerged on rang St-Léon, just right of the bridge over the river. Now all I needed was to walk along the road on rang St-Antoine until I was either tired or I got to the gate. I passed rivière St-Étienne, then the 435kW power lines, and when I was too tired, I decided to set camp. It was 9:30pm. I hadn't eaten since midday and I was frantic to get a meal ready.

I prepared everything as fast as I could because I was freezing in the rapidly dropping temperature. I had trouble with my stove and was only able to eat mildly heated that night. I then donned all my clothing and got in my sleeping bag. Even being a winter bag, I had some chilly moments than night in my snow pit. Logging trucks went in and out on the road all night so I was awakened about every half hour. I did sleep well though.

I got up at 4:00am, as my meeting was an hour later at the gate. It took me 45 minutes to pack things up and get ready to move. I ultimately got to the gate exactly on time and Arnaud was there. We moved his car on rang Sainte-Marie because of the traffic and got ready to head off. I unloaded some of my gear in his car, but I kept my sleeping bag and booties plus the down jacket in case of emergency. It was still a somewhat heavy pack to carry.

From there, we cut through the snowmobile trail that bypasses the Abitibi-Price gate. There was a lot of activity there and we would have been asked questions for sure. We soon rejoined the main road and split with the left branch after about a kilometer. From there on it was a 9km road walk until the river crossing. The road was unplowed from the branch to lac Janot and onwards and the only traffic we encountered was thus confirmed to be residents of the cabins in that area.

When we reached the river crossing, it was easy to find a good snow bridge. There were definite areas where animals crossed so we followed their example. The snow on the other side was just perfect. Firm enough to support our weight without breaking, but powdery enough to be light and not tire us plowing through it. The ascent in the treeline was uneventful. We skipped the lake completely passing off to the northwest and we followed the stream going up to the col between the main ridge and a shoulder. We angled up the col later than we should have and we faced a very tiring slog in loose powder on a steep incline. After this we saw the treeline though and we were ready to ascend the ridge.

The ridge was magnificent. The high exposure hardened the snow to a beautiful wind-shaped crust that was a breeze to walk on. There were rocks peeking out of the cover in various spots, but it was as easy to climb here as it was in the melting late winter last year. passing the first false summit, we encountered the same helicopter skid marks as in the past. But there was something more. A hiker had left a potential geocache in a small spruce shrub. Grinning at us was a small plastic monkey holding on to a branch. We noted the location on GPS and kept going. We could see some old snowshoe trails in some places, so that monkey might be a new addition.

We got to the summit around 11:40am, slower than I had expected. I blame this on my poorer fitness due to lack of cycling last summer and a generally lazy fall/winter. We took pictures and took shelter behind the summit rock, that doubles as a great sunbathing chair. We ate our snacks and relaxed for around 30 minutes until we decided we'd get more tired from the cold than from walking down.

The walk downhill was as easy as usual, following the creek towards the lake and angling west before we hit it. After and hour and 20 minutes we were back on the road. We started packing our gear and snowshoes on our back for the last 10 kilometers just as two snowmobiles showed up on the road coming from the north. Two older men greeted us and asked if we were okay. We answered the positive with a big smile but they still enquired of our destination. When we told them we were heading for the gate, they said they were heading there. It soon transformed into an invitation to hop on as they both had passenger seats and some straps to attach our packs on their machines.

What would have taken two hours took about 15 minutes. I was wearing nothing but heavyweight poly undergarment under soft-shell upper and lowers, so it was a cold ride, but the speed and relaxation was welcome. We unloaded our stuff and thanked the two men and headed off through the gate. All we had left to do was to walk a few hundred meters to the car and our day was done.

We headed back to Arnaud's place where we looked at some maps and prospective summits.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2742 ft / 835 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2021 ft / 615 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.9 mi / 24 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes, Bivouac
    Weather:Frigid, Windy, Clear
Clear day with very cold and dry conditions
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2742 ft / 835 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2493 ft / 759 m; Extra: 249 ft / 75m
    Loss on way in:249 ft / 75 m
    Distance:13 mi / 21 km
    Route:Abitibi-Price road
    Start Trailhead:Intercar bus stop, HWY 132  1083 ft / 330 m
    Time:8 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1772 ft / 540 m
    Distance:1.9 mi / 3 km
    Route:Bushwhack along stream
    End Trailhead:Rivière Brûlé, near bridge  1804 ft / 549 m
    Time:1 Hours 20 Minutes

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