Overlooking Burridge’s Gulch
On Friday, February 26th, 2010 our Gros Morne backcountry ski group circumnavigated Burridge’s Gulch, a spectacular hanging valley located in Gros Morne National Park’s Long Range Mountains.
Our starting point was at the top of the Southeast Hills on route 430. Our route took us across Southeast Pond and up a valley just to the south of Burridge’s Gulch. Access to the high country plateau was through fairly dense forest requiring a fair bit of maneuvering back and forth.
Within an hour of climbing the landscape changed to open forest, stunted trees and finally snow-covered barrens, rolling hills, and frozen ponds. It is common to see rock ptarmigan in this area. Arctic hare also live on these hills however seeing them is a little less common. Camouflaged in all white, the ptarmigan and hare blend in so well with the landscape you often unknowingly ski right by them.
None of us had skied to the end of Burridge’s Gulch following the south rim before so we were a little unsure of how easy this would be as the topographic maps indicated some pretty rugged terrain. It turned out to be no problem and there were a number of routes that we could have selected.
I would describe our traverse as a combination of kick and glide skiing on the long stretches of flat and rolling terrain and snowplowing, side slipping and telemark turning down the steep short descents. Conditions were generally hard packed. In valleys open to the sun all day the snow was wet and heavy. In the shaded areas we encountered powder snow and in some places ice. With the varied snow conditions and terrain we found that our waxless skis, heavy leather boots and sturdy bindings were ideal.
Once we reached the end of Burridge’s Gulch we were in familiar territory as this area has been a favourite day trip destination for us for many of years. We followed a valley that paralleled Burridge’s Gulch and soon connected with our well travelled route and enjoyed the 3km gentle run down an open forested valley to the old cutline.
From a lookout point at the cutline you can see route 430 and the remainder of the route back to the highway. This last section is a steep but short descent through thick forest and along a narrow streambed to a pond. Once on the pond it is a short ski over flat terrain to the highway. In a good snow year, this decent can be skied however it requires a good snowplow and lots of side slipping. This year the snowpack was marginal so to be safe most of us walked this section.
The entire route was over 20km and took us from 9:30am to 4:430pm to complete. Snow conditions were hard packed and fast for the most part allowing us to travel at a comfortable pace and take time to stop numerous times to enjoy the surroundings. If you plan to do this route, be sure to check the ice conditions on both Southeast Pond and Southeast Brook as you must cross both to complete this trip. Since your start and finish are in two different locations, it is a good idea to have two vehicles. Climbing skins are necessary on this route as the ascent is steep and through thick forest, leaving no room to traverse. As with all wilderness travel, be prepared with proper clothing, emergency equipment, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back, and take a map and compass and know how to use it.