The Long Range Traverse
Our adventure started with an easy 3km walk to Western Brook Pond Fjord, arriving at the boat dock just in time for the 10am boat tour. The ride up the pond, which by the way is 16km long, takes just over an hour. The fjord is quite impressive with 700m sheer granite walls and numerous waterfalls that plunge hundreds of meters to the fjord’s deep, cool waters. Shortly after 11am the tour boat pulled up to a small dock, the deckhand secured the rope and we stepped off. Within minutes the tour boat was out of site and we were on our own.
The route up through the fjord is unmarked. It’s a matter of staying in the valley, travelling on animal trails and following stream beds. We passed through a meadow, navigated through a birch forest and alders, scrambled over rocks and blow downs and eventually reached a waterfall. Just at the top of the waterfall we broke out above treeline and onto a rock ledge. It was a great place to stop, not only to catch our breath, but to enjoy the amazing view. For me, this part of the trek was the most difficult as our packs were heavy with food and we had to ascend 700m in very rough terrain.
We continued up the rock outcrop to almost the top of the canyon and then swung south onto more open terrain which made travelling easier. By 4pm we arrived at camp. The designated campsites all have tent platforms, a very primitive outhouse and a bear proof box for food storage.
The route across the Long Range Plateau is a series of hills and deep valleys with a mix of low shrubs, bog, rock outcrops, streams and lakes. An unexpected challenge for most trekkers is negotiating around bands of Tuckamore, thick clumps of stunted spruce and fir trees that are virtually impenetrable, often forcing you off your desired route.
There is no marked trail to get you from Western Brook Pond Fjord to Gros Morne Mountain, just a series of animal paths made by moose and caribou. We picked ones that led us in the direction we needed to travel and followed them, always referring to our map and compass to ensure that we were staying on course.
Weather can be extreme at any time of year in the Long Range Mountains. In preparation for this trip we had tents that could withstand high winds and heavy rain. In choosing a sleeping bag we kept in mind that temperatures in early September could drop to 5C. As for personal gear, hiking boots offering some waterproofness is preferable. Gaiters offer extra protection when crossing brooks and walking in bogs. Quick dry clothing, good rain pants and rain jacket, insulating layers, a hat and gloves made up the rest of our kit. Black flies and mosquitoes can be extremely annoying throughout the entire summer and fall so we did pack a bug net however the cool evening and morning temperatures that we experienced in September did keep most bugs away.
Another unusual feature of hiking the Long Range is the amount of fresh water. There are plenty of bogs which most people expect. What is surprising is the number of ponds and brooks. It is quite beautiful however navigating can be a challenge because every body of water looks the same and distinguishing one pond or lake from another on a topographic map can be difficult.
We left Little Island Pond campsite and headed for Green Island Pond. Knowing the route quite well and having good visibility we reached Harding’s Pond Campsite by late morning. We decided to push on beyond the Harding’s Pond valley to the top of the hill for lunch. This put us in a good position to reach Green Island Pond campsite by late afternoon.
For me, the trickiest section to navigate was across Middle Barrens, between Harding’s Pond and Green Island Pond. It is a treeless, barren section often shrouded in low lying cloud or fog with numerous indistinguishable ponds and streams. We were much slower on this section, always checking our map and compass to ensure that were taking the right route. We crossed the barrens with no problems and it wasn’t long before we saw the tent platforms far below us at Green Island Pond.
With rain in the forecast, we decided to get an early morning start from the Green Island Pond campsite. We packed all our gear while it was still dry, walked slightly upstream from the campsite and found a suitable place to cross the brook. In no time we could see Gros Morne Mountain and Ten Mile Pond Fjord. The rain held off which made navigating this section much easier and also made it worthwhile to take a side hike to a great viewpoint to overlook Ten Mile Pond fjord.
In preparation for our steep descent off the Long Range plateau into Ferry Gulch, we decided to break for an hour, enjoy the view and have a snack. On previous trips we have camped in this area and in the morning hiked to the summit of Gros Morne Mountain to look for rock ptarmigan and Arctic hare.
We ascended the steep section to Beaver Pond and connected to the Gros Morne Trail. We took another break at the primitive campsite at Ferry Gulch and chatted with a few day hikers coming down from Gros Morne’s summit. They were intrigued by our adventure. They soon left and we put on our packs for the last time and started the final two hour walk to the Gros Morne Parking lot.
Descent from the Long Range Plateau to Ferry GulchInterested in doing the Long Range Traverse? Gros Morne Adventures offers fully outfitted and guided trips.If you are an experienced wilderness traveler and would like to do this trek on your own, you can find out more information on the Gros Morne National Park website: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/index.aspx.For details on the boat tour on Western Brook Pond Fjord, visit: www.bontours.ca